Monday, December 2, 2013

Camera Firms Continue Lobbying

The state legislature may not be in session for the moment, but speed camera firms continue spending on lobbying activities even in the off season.

Speed Camera company Xerox Corporation has spent the largest amount, reporting a total of $176,000 on lobbying in the one year period ending November 2013 according to documents on the State Ethics Commission website.

Xerox paid the firm Alexander & Cleaver fees totaling $58,000 in the six month period since May, even though the legislature was out of session.  This brought the total amount which Xerox paid the lobbying firm to $114,000 for the one year period.

In addition to doing lobbying on speed camera issues, Alexander & Cleaver also represents local governments on a variety of issues, and specifically list "Traffic photo enforcement" as one of their specialty areas on the firm's website.  Editor's note and disclosure: Alexander & Cleaver is the law firm of the Town of Morningside's attorney; We are currently in a dispute over that town's failure to provide calibration records in response to a Maryland's Public Information Act request. 

Xerox also paid the lobbying firm Harris Jones & Malone a fee of $60,000 over the past year.

According to Ethics commission reports Sigma Space (the parent company of Optotraffic) paid $35,983 to the law firm Rifkin, Weiner, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, LLC during the last year.  Photo enforcement company American Traffic Solutions paid $43,000 over the last year to a lobbying company, and camera company Redflex has also hired a lobbying firm as well.

These private company activities are in addition to lobbying performed by local government employees and their proxies such as the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League, who have argued for expanded photo enforcement and against new protections for motorist rights at taxpayer expense.  Montgomery County alone paid MaCo $250,000 to lobby on their behalf on issues last year, and spends $895,000 per year of taxpayer money on the "Office of Intergovernment Relations" which lobbies at taxpayer expense on this and other issues, as well as paying members of their speed camera program to testify on legislative matters at public expense.  Precisely what percentage of this money goes towards lobbying on speed camera issues is unclear.  However it was reported to us that in response to a public information request placed by one Montgomery County taxpayer to the Montgomery County Department of Intergovernment Relations for correspondence pertaining to last year's speed camera legislation, the office responded by stating that they had "banker boxes" full of such documents and that it would cost the requester $750 to see them.  When the requester tried to narrow their request, the county responded by RAISING the fee to over $1215 instead of lowering the fee.