It was previously exposed by Patch.com that a marketing firm hired by speed camera contractor ACS State and Local Solutions created a phony "grass Roots" campaign (a practice commonly called "Astroturfing") to promote the expansion of Baltimore County's speed camera program. That effort ultimately proved successful when the county voted to expand the program and renew ACS's profitable contract without a competitive bid. It turns out that ACS has been conducting a similar artificial-turf effort in Howard County for some time.
The Inside Charm City blog discovered a FaceBook page in February,shortly after the Baltimore County site was exposed, which was similar to the one created in Baltimore County maintained by the CEO of KO Public Affairs. The story in Inside Charm City stated that the "Slow Down For Howard County Schools" FaceBook page had "no name, no email address, no website, or no other contact information listed."
As of today the "Slow Down For Howard County Schools" FaceBook page (now that it is public knowledge) does in fact disclose that it is being "supported by ACS State and Local Solutions". The same disclosure is NOW made on the Baltimore County site as well. The first posting on the Howard County site was dated September 14, 2010, so it appears that ACS was using this site to promote their agenda in Howard County for some time before the disclosure was made. The site lists over 1200 'likes', but the names of the 'likes' are concealed. The fact that an official of KO Public Affairs was listed in the 'Likes' of the Baltimore County site was one of the things which revealed ACS's involvement, and that feature has been turned off on that site as well (it would also potentially reveal whether 'likes' were in fact coming from 'like farms', a tactic used to artificially inflate the apparent popularity of sites).
The creation of Astroturf sites by speed camera companies has become a widespread tactic, and some photo enforcement companies even hire people to comment on speed camera stories online to create the impression of public support.
While it is noble that ACS now admits to running these Astroturf sites, one wonders how many other "grass roots" campaigns they are supporting in the state to improve their bottom line? StopBigBrotherMD previously reported on ACS's extensive lobbying activities, even buying steak dinners for state lawmakers (first exposed by the Washington Post). We also previously reported on the massive PR campaign ACS was conducting in Montgomery County, which included planting favorable stories in the media. ACS presumably hired KO Public Affairs because of their many connections both in the state government and in major media outlets. For example, Howard Libit, the KO Public Affairs official who ran the Baltimore County Astroturfing campaign, is also a former editor of the Baltimore Sun, which often publishes stories strongly supporting photo enforcement. The Sun did not disclose its former relationship with Libit when they published their own story on the Astroturf campaign.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has introduced a plan to add speed cameras to that county. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for April 20th. ACS's current efforts include not only expanding the use of speed cameras to other parts of Maryland but also gaining authorization for new types of photo enforcement.
StopBigBrotherMD.org is maintained entirely by volunteer efforts and receives no support or funding from any corporate interest.
- ► 2015 (24)
- ► 2014 (83)
- ► 2013 (102)
- ► 2012 (66)
- Baltimore County Unable to Answer Questions About ...
- Are You Fighting a Scamera Ticket? Help Us Help Y...
- Hyattsville Council Approves Speed Camera Program
- ACS Created Astroturf Site To Promote Howard Count...
- ICC Tolling System Forshadows Tracking of Drivers,...
- Baltimore County Cameras May Not Meet Certificatio...
- PG County Writes Speed Cameras into Budget
- Ulman To Unveil Howard County Speed Camera Plan
- Citation Images May Provide Indications of Errors
- ▼ March 2011 (9)
- ► 2010 (69)
- ► 2009 (58)
Our Top Stories
- How Two-Faced Triple-A Gave Maryland Speed Cameras
- "Secret" Baltimore Speed Camera Audit Found 10% Error Rate
- Speed Camera Reform Act Just a Big Fat Lie
- Court Rules Against Morningside on Public Records Access
- Speed Camera Company Celebrates "Bounty System" Loophole
- Montgomery County Steals Lanes for Expensive Bus Program
- Wicomico County Teachers Say Camera is Not Accurate
- Montgomery Council President Rice Racked Up Tickets
- Circuit Court Rules Innocence is a Defense, Rejects "Snitch" Requirement
- Baltimore Ends Camera Contract, Moves to Hides Records
- Montgomery Scamera Boss Lies About Red Light Camera "Warning Flashes"
- Montgomery County Camera Boss Blocks Public From Secret Meeting
- Salisbury Records Show Calibration Lapses, Sorry No Refunds!!
- Speed Camera Accuracy Questioned in Morningside
- Attorny General Gansler Depicted as "Reckless Passenger"
- Morningside Deployed Cameras Despite County Denial
- Morningside Admits Maintaining No Calibration Records, Doesn't Operate Own Cameras
- ACLU Documents Mass Tracking of Motorists By License Plate Scannrs
- Brekford Demands Tribute to See Calibration Records
- Access To Brekford Calibration Records Stalled in Salisbury, Morningside
- Public and Private Lobbyists Worked to Kill Speed Camera Reform
- Montgomery County Speed Camera Transforms Toyota into Dodge
- Montgomery County Boasts Error Rate "Under Ten Percent"
- Speed Camera Company Collects Dirt on Competitors
- Woman Gets 3 Tickets from DC Without Going There
- Legislature Raises Gas Tax
- Laurel, Hagerstown Circumvent Calibration Requirement
- Speed Camera Calibration Fails To Ensure Accuracy
- Speed Camera Programs Flout Sunshine Law
- Xerox Admits 5% Error Rate For Speed Camera Tickets
- Baltimore Cites Motionless Car For Speeding
- O'Malley Says Speed Camera Bounties Are Illegal
- Baltimore Ticketed Innocent Delivery Vehicle: Documents Prove Speed Camera Error
- Rockville Sees Huge Surge in Red Light Violations
- Trucking Company Challenges Accuracy of Baltimore Citations: Videos Prove Speed Camera Errors
- Speed Camera Salesman Caught Speeding AGAIN
- Riverdale Park Defends Forgery of Police Signatures
- High Court Rules Local Governments Above the Law
- Riverdale Park Allowed Civilians to Forge Police Approvals
- Baltimore Speed Camera Issues Ticket to the Dead
- Statewide Speed Cameras Now a $77Million Per Year Industry
- PG County Court Presumes All Defendants Guilty
- Town Releases Documents Proving Errors With Optotraffic Cameras
- Man arrested for asserting innocence in speed camera hearing
- Optotraffic Representative Caught Speeding
- Driver Uses Carchip to Challenge Optotraffic Camera
- Deceased Baltimore Cop Signs 2000 Citations
- Montgomery County Denies Right To Face Camera Operator In Court
- ACS Buys Steak Dinners For Lawmakers
- Baltimore City Issues Hundreds of Tickets in Error
- Baltimore Writes Speed Camera Revenues Into Budget Before Cameras Approved
- Camera Mistakenly Accuses Driver of 100mph Rampage
- Montgomery County Scamera Contract Includes Massive PR Campaign
- Optotraffic Investigates Possible Speed Camera Errors
- Speed Camera Legislation Attracts Lobbyists
- Sykesville Voters Overturn Speed Cameras in Referendum
- Traffic Engineering Techniques Out-perform Speed Cameras
- Transportation Planning Board Unveils Plan to Track and Tax Drivers