By on June 22, 2015

It’s the kind of disgraceful corruption that would have seen its perpetrators swinging from a tree in a more forthright age: an alleged $2 million bribery program that has already seen a Redflex consultant plead guilty to charges of delivering over $570,000 in cash and other bribes to Chicago’s former managing deputy commissioner of transportation. (Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who was long, ahem, a tireless ally of Redflex before reluctantly ending the city contract with the firm when all the evidence on the issue because too obvious to be ignored any further, was re-elected in a runoff election recently.)

But the blood-soaked hands of Redflex, whose cameras often increase accidents at the intersections where they are making money for the company, have been putting money in other pockets outside Chicagoland.

Karen Finley, the former CEO of Redflex, has been implicated in the $2M Chicago bribery case, but she’s already pleaded guilty to charges that she funneled tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party in Ohio and its candidates. One of those Democrats, Columbus City Council chair and mayoral candidate Andrew Ginther, apparently flat-out solicited a $20,000 bribe, according to federal prosecutors.

Insofar as anybody with two eyes and a functioning cerebrum has been able to figure out for a long time just how corrupt the red-light-camera business is, the various disclaimers from the Democratic Party of Ohio and Redflex itself make for fascinating, almost hilarious, reading.

Quoth Redflex spokes-critter Tilden Katz: “The government’s actions are not a reflection of today’s Redflex, they are a reflection on the company’s past — a past that the company moved beyond over two years ago by taking specific, strong steps to improve compliance.” It was, like, totally about two years ago! The distant past! Mistakes were made! Just censure us and let’s move on!

Now for quotes from Mr. Ginther and the Party:

“I had absolutely no knowledge of these activities and did not take part in them,” Ginther said in a statement released by his campaign. “While I am not a subject of this inquiry, I have been asked to provide records that may help the investigation into Redflex. I’ve fully cooperated and will continue to assist in bringing these people to justice.”

Federal investigators also asked for state Democratic Party records.

“A few days ago, the Ohio Democratic Party was asked to produce documents going back a number of years, and we are in the process of complying with that request,” spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis said in a statement.

You do that, Andy G! You bring these people to justice! You’re a regular Bobby Kennedy!

We can give the last word to a member of the loyal opposition, quoted in the Columbus Dispatch:

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican and vocal opponent of red-light cameras, called on cities using the devices to immediately end their lawsuit against the state, apologize to the General Assembly and refund fines to drivers. One of those drivers would be Seitz, fined for running a red light in Columbus.

“We always knew it wasn’t about public safety. It was about money; we just didn’t know it was about shady money,” Seitz said in a statement.

“(Friday’s) criminal case proves how right I was, even though I never dreamed that municipal officials would take bribes to fleece their own taxpayers.”

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54 Comments on “The Redflex Bribery Scandal Reaches Ohio...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    Um, you must have not received your RNC talking points. As you know Redflex is a person and as such has every right to make unlimited contributions to political campaigns.

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      Any defense to offer, or simply a desire to change the subject?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Defense of what? According to my talking points this behavior is to be lauded.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          To be fair, companies are permitted to donate bazillions to campaigns but there cannot be any specific quid pro quo tied to the money.

          Trading cash for specific favors crosses the line. One who wishes to play the game has to donate large sums of money and then hope that his generosity is rewarded.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Of course a candidate won’t feel any pressure to reward those favors, since he will want more money at the next election.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    The cities are already screaming after the state law was passed that required use of a real live policeman stationed at each camera for legal operation – several are currently fighting the law citing “Home Rule” provisions. Some judge in Toledo has already blocked implementation of the law to keep the dollars flowing. And now, this. The whole bribery flap will probably be signed off as a “cash advance in consideration of future revenue collections” paid by the vendor to expedite system installation/revenue generation. The amount of revenue from these devices is very seductive to cities in my State of Ohio and I foresee more and more litigation (on my dime) to keep it flowing.

    • 0 avatar
      JK43123

      The idiot paper here in Columbus recently had an editorial defending the cameras for safety. So I had to laugh when the paper’s headline Saturday was “Bribery in Columbus.” Huh, I thought it was about safety? Now the state legislature is talking about deducting a dollar from state funding for each dollar a local government makes on a red light scamera. Works for me!

      And Ginther cares so much about the community.

      John

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Was recently nailed in Toledo by one of these godawful things, after the po-po law was passed, but after that a$$hat judge blocked it!

      Hopefully that’ll be refunded someday after that judge is told to shove it, but I’m not holding my breath!

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    These are shocking allegations.

    That the Democrat Party anywhere would accept, or worse, solicit bribes is unthinkable. The bastions of truth, righteousness and the American way surely wouldn’t do those things.

    But even more worrisome is a Republican who says “even though I never dreamed that municipal officials would take bribes to fleece their own taxpayers.”

    Really? REALLY? You couldn’t even DREAM such a thing?

    Sounds like business as usual to me.

  • avatar

    Let’s not forget our Republican Governor (trying to run for President, conveniently now cares about “the poors”), STEALING 6.8 BILLION of our future state liquor tax TO HIS FRIENDS ON WALL STREET for a mere $1.5 B. To fund his “jobs board” a private entity that isn’t subject to public record laws, to try to lure companies to locate their businesses in Ohio. http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/03/22/152208/kasich-jobs-plan-booze/

    The problem is, Redflex didn’t go big enough, if they were donating hundreds of millions to Democratic SuperPACs *cough*cough*like*KOCH*sucker*BROTHERS*ToTheRepublicans*cough* which don’t have to disclose their donor lists, they might have gotten away with it, and we’d have red light and speed cameras everywhere to the point where they would fine you for walking out of your house to your car too quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      How does it feel having George Soros’ hand so far up your colon that he can move your lips like that?

      • 0 avatar
        runs_on_h8raide

        CJ, he probably loves the taste of those decrepit Nazi fingers.

      • 0 avatar
        nrcote

        CJinSD, we know you like to bend over for the Koch brothers, don’t make them waiting

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          Dont make them waiting? The cleverness of your jab is lost when you jumble words. Or, perhaps it wasnt that clever to begin with. You couldve said ” I know you are, but what am I?” to the same effect.

          I love how you libtards start pointing fingers at everyone else when members of your party are shown to be as corrupt as they are. “Oh yeah? Obama lied eleventybillion times by telling Americans ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan’? Oh well G. W. Bush had a DUI 30 years ago! Take that! Obviously that erases all of obummer’s f’ups!”

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “…by taking specific, strong steps to improve compliance.”

    Oh, THAT was the problem!

    Here I was, laboring under the impression that red light cameras were violations of the principle of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and other uniquely American philosophies, when the real outrage was that THEY WEREN’T FOLLOWING THE RULES CLOSELY ENOUGH!

    Boy, is my face red!

    I see so clearly now! It wasn’t that the system was fundamentally immoral, dishonest and predatory – it’s that the system wasn’t being officious enough!

    You know, maybe it’s us. We call it bribery and declare it a crime. The rest of the world just looks at it and says, “that’s how things get done.”

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    The USA is far more corrupt than any one cares to admit. Our government is ossified and ineffective largely due to $$$$$$$$$$$$

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      I’ve lived in enough places in the US to know that political party has absolutely nothing to do with the level of local corruption, and similarly find it hilarious that people think that Chicago is somehow far more corrupt than any other large city.

      It sure is convenient to blame the other political party for all the problems though. Doesn’t help fix anything, but who cares about that?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Oh I’m getting some popcorn for this one. If a couple of usual suspects from the B&B show up to this click bait and start bashing each other, it is going to be awesome.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Only bad people blow red lights so this don’t confront me none.

    • 0 avatar

      Usually when redflex installs the cameras, the municipality shortens the yellow lights’ duration so that they nail more people. This is a major part of the scandal.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Yellow has always meant “stop” to me unless I’m committed to a left turn.

        • 0 avatar

          Yellow is a warning that the light is going to go red. It’s a signal to stop if you can–if you haven’ gotten so close to the intersection that trying to stop means ending up in the middle of it. There are plenty of times when any good, law abiding driver will keep going for a yellow.

          But when redflex cameras go up, muniicpalities often cut the yellow from 4.5 to 3.5 seconds. In these cases, the cameras are about raising money for the municipality, and not about public health.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Here, the preponderance of derp is on the drivers’ part. Slow down, dumbclucks.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            No, that’s even worse – if you are going too slow through the intersection and can’t clear it by the time the light turns red, BAM, ticket for you!

            Trust me, as I drive through one of these intersections daily – it’s 35mph posted, but often traffic is moving at 20mph and you can’t clear the intersection on a yellow light at that speed.

            So I drive through that intersection as fast as I can – yessir, it’s all about safety!

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “you can’t clear the intersection on a yellow light at that speed.”

            Yeah, that’s why I treat a yellow as a red.

          • 0 avatar
            SunnyvaleCA

            I suspect Illinois (unlike California) requires the vehicle to be clear of the intersection before the light turns red. In this case, the time needed to traverse the intersection subtracts from your reaction and breaking time.

            Suppose you have a road with 2 standard 12-foot-wide lanes in each direction, 2 4-foot-wide bicycle lanes, and a pair of extra left-hand-turn lanes at the intersection. Crossing this road means you need to travel 4*12 + 2*12 + 2*4 = 80 feet. But wait, there’s also a pair of 6-foot-wide pedestrian crosswalks that you need to clear, so we’re really talking about 96 feet.

            Let’s run some numbers… If you are driving at the speed limit in a school zone (25 MPH) you can only cover 37 feet in a second, so you need 2.6 seconds of yellow _after_ entering the intersection. If the yellow lights are reduced from 4.5 down to 3.5 you have a reaction time reduced from 1.9 to 0.9—times cut in half!

            If actual speed of travel is 18.5 MPH (as it might well be in a busy city) then you can’t actually clear the intersection even if you entered the intersection when the light is green!

            In this case you could stop before the intersection, wait for the intersection to clear, and then accelerate briskly (but not so briskly as to trigger “show of speed”—another violation). Hmmm… at 0.5 G acceleration (i.e.: 16 ft/s^2) it would take nearly 3.5 seconds to get across. Unfortunately, you would be going about 38 MPH. No red-light ticket, but a whopper of school zone speed infraction.

            Now let’s try 1 G acceleration up to the speed limit followed by constant speed limit speed for the rest of the time… 32 ft/s^2 acceleration for 1.156 seconds gets you to 37 ft/second (25 MPH). You will have traveled 0.5*32*1.156^2 = 21.4 feet in that 1.156 seconds, so you only have 96-21.4=74.6 feet to go, which takes almost exactly 2 seconds. So there you have it: drive a Tesla Model S so you can achieve 1 G acceleration without “show of speed” engine revving or wheels slipping and you can just barely make it through intersections like this!

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          Know your states laws. Most have permissive yellow, but about a dozen have restrictive yellow rules on the books. My take is restrictive yellow rules give too much room for LEO interpretation that results in unequal protection (ticket if you’re not white).

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        And the shorter yellow light forces some people to slam on the brakes at the last minute, catching the next car off guard and causing a collision.

        Or if you dare to complete the turn, you get to see a picture of yourself still in the intersection when the light turns red, even though there isn’t enough time to clear the intersection before the light turns.

        I would have thought that this would be obvious, but perhaps not if you are oblivious to the ways of the world, specifically politicians, and if you have no concept of the physics of driving through an intersection.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “Only bad people blow red lights so this don’t confront me none.”

      It should bother you some, because what they did was illegal; that is, tampering the time for the yellow light. According to this:

      http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-red-light-camera-yellow-light-1012-20141012-story.html#page=1

      the city reduced the 3 second yellow, required by law, to 2.9 seconds. It doesn’t sound like much and could be disguised as a margin of error, but that created 77,000 tickets in 6 months and generated $8 million dollars in revenue. Something was clearly very wrong.

      So who are the bad people again?
      .

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Whatever shenanigans the grafters are up to is remote. They’re not the ones blowing through red lights and trying to t-bone me.

        • 0 avatar
          slow kills

          If you really believe that there exist people deliberately blowing through occupied intersections with suicidal/murderous intent…do you think a camera will stop them?

          BTW, I’ve known several people that thought they had this moral high ground. They all changed their tune when their ticket came.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        The bad people are the bus drivers that continually blow the stop light at Hollywood and Sheridan by my house. On a daily basis they’ve been shown to show serious disregard for the kids on board as well as pedestrians walking in the neighborhood.

        Until the public coming off Lake Shore Drive learns that the area is heavily populated, I applaud having a camera at that intersection.

        BTW every redlight camera that I’ve come across has a cross walk countdown off to the side. 9 times out of 10 when you’re down to 1 second you’re not going to make it. People need to slow the hell down.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      So, approaching an intersection and seeing the light youre about to go under turn yellow leads you to slam on brakes and cause people to rear end you all because yellow and red mean the same thing? So, why even have yellow lights, right? Just go from green to red. Then all the “bad people” will include you as well.

      The majority of the “bad people” whove recieved tickets from these cash cams DID NOT enter the intersection when the light was red, they were about to clear the intersection when it turned red. So, unless YOU ran the opposing red light, there is no danger whatsoever of you being T-boned by these “bad people”. Im sure youve noticed a second or two delay in between one light turning red and the other turning green, as well as the few seconds it takes to remove your foot from the brake pedal and accelerate into the intersection. Plenty of time for a car already moving through the intersection to clear it before there is a danger of it hitting you.

      Pretending youre better than everyone else sometimes works. Today, it backfired for you. Yellow means if you can safely stop, do so (as in youre far enough away that you wont risk being rear ended, coming to a stop within the intersection, or locking up the brakes on a car without ABS), otherwise keep going if youre too close to safely stop. Shortening the yellow is done for the sole purpose of increasing the revenue generated by the camera. Sticking by your claim that yellow means STOP AT ALL COSTS is incredibly obtuse, and I hope you recieve a red light ticket as a result. Perhaps then youll sing a different tune.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Maybe there should be some mention of what the heck “redflex” is???

  • avatar
    cartunez

    Government being corrupt is hardly news. The news story is how people still manage to be shocked by it.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It’s not so much corruption but inter-government competition for “revenue”. Just 60-70 years ago, municipalities had property tax revenue that was greater than state revenue. Now it’s reversed, with states like California taking the majority of city property taxes for schools, and leaving the cities with barely enough for street lights. Cities and towns are responsible for most of the facilities people see every day, but with states taking a bigger share of tax receipts, they can barely maintain those facilities.

      In Cali, cities approve strip malls and retail over housing, because they get a bigger cut of sales taxes, and businesses pay for their own trash removal, lighting, and streetscaping that cities would have to provide for homes. Cities also used to have sewer and water facilities provide funding for non-related public works, but state legislatures have passed laws limiting such revenue to sewer and water delivery system maintenance and improvement only.

      States have become voracious grabbers of public purse revenue to finance transfer payments that get state officials re-elected, leaving local government to finance the stuff you see every day – local roads, parks, libraries, fire stations – on a shoestring budget.

      • 0 avatar
        JK43123

        Like here in Ohio where Gov. Kasuck balanced the state budget by cutting the hell out of local government revenue share, then has the audacity to say he is mad about local govts putting levies on the ballot. Gee, roads, parks, cops and libraries do need money to run!

        John

  • avatar
    El Hombre

    This is a tax on the population that the Dems didn’t have to vote on and become part of their record; which is the best kind of tax in the opinion of most Dems…

    When they analyze red light accidents, it’s not just a second or so into the red that is causing the accidents. It’s 4-5 seconds after it turned red; they weren’t paying attention and didn’t see the red. If you think about it, most traffic waiting for the green light isn’t right at red line revs and dumping the clutch as it turns green. They sit there, looking at everything but the light, and only start to move when they decide to actually look at the light and see green. Which takes time to do; I always seem to be right behind these cretins.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      …and (as unstated above) most of the tickets are issued for misjudging the yellow by a few tenths of a second, something utterly immaterial to safety but essential to revenue.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I’m really happy these programs are being investigated on the corruption side. The various camera vendors have been prettymuch openly shopping for local politicians for quite a while now, redflex is in no way unique in this. They have a politically unpopular product that has a questionable at best public safety claim and that requires some pretty fantastic and legally questionable means to implement. Of course personal payments are involved in its implementation, otherwise no politician would consider the risk to their job security worth it.

    I would love to see an investigation of nyc’s recent camera expansion. It came right on the heels of our first truly contested election in four our five terms.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      And I’d add that democrats better get used to the big “D” showing up next to these scandals. They control a lot of the urban markets that are the prime targets of these companies and in many of them local politicians are protected by uninformed party line voters. That’s the recipe for corruption regardless of party.

      A smart party move for either side would be opposing them on a national party platform level and then playing that into a slightly less corrupt overall image.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “They have a politically unpopular product that has a questionable at best public safety claim”

      Hey, I agree with you about the public safety argument (and most of the B&B does too), but as for politically unpopular, I think you’re underestimating the clout of the “Think of the children!!”* crowd. These are the same people that get a speed zone AND two traffic lights AND a pedestrian bridge for a school, and they are probably in charge of a homeowner’s association near you.

      * With all due respect to Helen Lovejoy

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    Chicago is so goddamn corrupt it is disgusting. The tolls are another bastion of corruption. Anyway, the lights in Chicago turn from yellow to red noticeably faster than in other places which I am sure is to aid in the whole red light ticketing scam. Sometimes when I see people say liberals shouldn’t run cities I look at Chicago and silently and begrudgingly agree.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      0.1 second faster, so no not “noticeably” honestly.

      On how dumb people drive the city just loves the extra income. I see violators of the speed cameras all the time with clearly marked zones; people just blow through there. I do welcome some cameras in certain intersections; the one near my house has school buses, cabs, and CTA vehicles driving through RED (not yellow) lights all the time.

      Want to get rid of the cameras? 1. Drive smarter. 2. Get out there and vote in the elections.

      • 0 avatar
        VenomV12

        BS, it is much faster than that. I travel all over and have homes in multiple states and Chicago’s lights are much much faster to turn from yellow to red. In the past month alone I have been in Michigan, Chicago, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Ohio driving and Chicago’s are faster than anyone else’s by a mile.

  • avatar
    baconpope

    1984 played conservative and arrived 31 years late. Everyone has to admit that it is the cameras’ fault. Of course, a State senator couldn’t be at fault. In fact, the lights themselves must have been to blame for all previous accidents. Studies have shown that there are NO accidents at lights where lights do not exist. All of us with cerebrums know that if traffic were completely unregulated and not monitored, there would be absolutely ZERO recorded accidents. How perfect would that be?

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    Read Jack’s post again.

    This is a story about political corruption and human greed. The fact that the corruption and greed affects everyday normal motorists lands the story on this website. As it should.

    I do believe that the greed and corruption is not the divine providence of a single party. Regardless of party, it’s our problem to fix. Yours and mine. All of us.

    A good start would be if we all really cared who runs for school board in our communities. Sounds silly you say? Not really.

    A school board seat is the entry level position for a politician. These are the people that end up running for city council. Those people become Mayors, State Representatives, State Senators, and so on, and so on.

    We just don't care who is sitting on our school boards. My neighbors, friends and family are always presenting me with pitches for people they know. "He/She is my neighbor, I'd appreciate it if you'd vote for them." Well, that's fine, as far as it goes. Do we know if any of those people are NRA members? Anti-gun people? Religious? Haters? Greedy? Ambitious without principle? Do we care? No. We don't. We elect all sorts of people to these low-level positions without even going to meet them. They end up later in positions of power and then we can't believe what they've done. Shame on us.

    One of the more notorious political leaders of our time once quipped that "All politics is local." He was SO right, but for all the wrong reasons. In his world you took that as gospel to hook up every kind of corruptible person at the entry level so you could manipulate them later. Tip O'Neal was his name. Was that philosophy successful? You bet it was. Was he right? You bet he was. And knowing that, we all need to pay more attention to these entry-level political races.

    We wouldn't be talking about Redflex now if we were more diligent about who we're electing to school boards in years past. We are not electing honest people. At any level.

    Please, go forth and be more diligent.

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