Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Public and Private Lobbyists Worked to Kill Speed Camera Reform

Speed Camera Contractor Xerox Corporation Spent $118,718 on lobbyists opposing Speed Camera Reform legislation during the 6 months from November 2012-April 2013, according to documents on the State Ethics Commission website.

The records show that Xerox for the 6 months from November 2012-May2013, Xerox paid a team of 7 lobbyists from Alexander & Cleaver, PA a total of $42,318, and $60,000 to a team of 5 lobbyists from firm Harriet Jones & Malone LLC.  Harriet Jones & Malone is a particularly well connected group: the mayor of Baltimore City officiated the wedding of the two lobbyists in Las Vegas this year.

According to the state ethics commission annual report, Xerox Corp spent $182,941.93 on lobbying in 2012, ranking the company as #46 out of 302 firms listed.  For the most recent 6 month from November 2012-April 2013 Xerox was ranked the #43 spender.

Other speed camera contractors were participating as well.  Sigma Space Corporation (Optotraffic) paid Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, LLC $35,983.64 to oppose the bills in this six month period.  American Traffic Solutions spent an additional $25,000, and RedFlex paid another $12,500.00 during the half year.

However the biggest spenders in opposition to the speed camera reform legislation was apparently the counties which profit from existing speed camera programs, acting both through the Maryland Association of Counties(MACO), and public employees working on the taxpayer dime.  The Montgomery County Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which according to a statement by Ike Leggett "represents County interests, policy, and priorities in Annapolis", has an annual taxpayer-funded budget of $895,582.  This year the office's activities included opposing changes to the law which would have banned paying speed camera contractors based on the number of tickets they issued, and requiring speed camera citations to display timestamps detailed enough to include evidence of speed.

Montgomery County paid MACO $250,000 to represent their interests on legislative matters.  MaCo's activities this year included testifying against the most credible speed camera reform bills (including SB 207 and House Bill 421) which would have helped to protect the legal rights of motorists by requiring citation images to provide secondary evidence of speed.  Documents obtained by the Maryland Drivers Alliance show how MACO worked with Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Baltimore County, and Howard County as well as Baltimore City opposing these bills.  MaCo is supposed to represent all Maryland counties in legislative matters, including rural counties where there is often local opposition to speed cameras.  However in the MaCo emails discussing this issue which we obtained, representatives of other counties where photo enforcement is not currently widespread were not included in the distribution list.