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Maryland: Lawmakers Given Steak Dinners by Camera Lobbyist
ACS lobbyists buy steak dinners to convince Maryland state legislators to approve speed cameras statewide.

Ruths Chris
Photo enforcement lobbyists wined and dined key Maryland state lawmakers before a vote to expand speed cameras statewide earlier this year. The Annapolis lobby firm Alexander and Cleaver arranged a $3,700 event to wine and dine the House and Senate committee members responsible for delivering the legislation to the floor of each chamber. The Washington Post reported on the event after analyzing the ethics disclosure reports for each of the state's 188 lawmakers.

"If people went in agnostic about how they were going to vote on the bill, they probably had their questions answered," state Delegate Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery), who participated at the event, told the Post.

Expanding the speed camera program statewide would be a boon to Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), which operates automated ticketing services in a limited number of Maryland jurisdictions in return for a significant cut of the revenue generated. ACS hired Alexander and Cleaver to throw the party for lawmakers at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse where entrees range in price up to $80 each. Although both the House and Senate adopted the speed camera legislation, a conference committee stalled over how to split the revenue from the program. The bill will return in the next session.

Photo enforcement lobbying efforts often reach beyond state legislators to the local level. Between 2000 and 2004, ACS spent nearly $500,000 on the lobbyists responsible for handing the company the no-bid contract it once had to operate red light cameras in Washington, DC. Prize cities like Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia created expensive lobbying battles between companies vying for the multimillion dollar payout.

Even the unelected have enjoyed the benefits of the lobbying effort. In Kansas City, Missouri a German speed camera company offered a lucrative job to a city traffic engineer in return for his endorsement of the speed camera program. Police officers in Edmonton, Canada took sporting tickets, travel and escort services from ACS in return for their support of a no-bid ticketing contract. One officer involved faces charges of taking a bribe for filing a "fraudulent" memo on behalf of ACS.

Source: Lobbyists Still Buying Meals for Md. Legislators (Washington Post, 5/27/2008)

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