10/8/2009Texas: ATS and Allies Behind Anti Referendum Group
Allies of the photo enforcement industry bankroll front group to fight referendum on red light camera use in College Station, Texas.
Insiders are bankrolling the lone group that supports red light cameras in College Station, Texas. Last month, the Keep College Station Safe Political Action Committee (PAC) formed "to give a voice to local residents who support the significant safety benefits of the city's red-light camera program." Financial disclosure reports filed on Monday show that no College Station resident has actually supported the effort.
The PAC reported collecting $19,000 in political donations, of which $10,000 was provided by ATS. Another $6,500 was provided as an in-kind donation from Questmark Information Management Inc, a company that holds a contract for printing toll road statements and tickets for Harris County. ATS happens to run the cameras that generate the citations for Harris County toll roads. The only other contribution listed was a $2500 contribution from a Houston firm, REM Services, Inc.
On the other side of the issue, College Station resident Jim Ash led the effort to gather the voter signatures required to place the referendum on the November 3 ballot. He told TheNewspaper that he was proud that his $4300 in donations came from College Station residents, with the exception of support from Houston attorney Paul Kubosh -- a high-profile opponent of automated enforcement in Texas.
According to Ash's disclosure form, the money raised so far has been spent on requests for public records from the city, sign-making materials, bumperstickers and a radio commercial advertising a public event in July (listen to commercial, 500k MP3). In contrast to Ash's grassroots activism, the ATS PAC spent nearly all of its money on insider consultants.
The pro-camera PAC paid Jessica Colon $8817 to represent photo enforcement on television. Hill Research Consultants were paid $8389 to conduct a push poll survey of residents with questions specially designed to elicit a response favorable to the cameras. The same firm has conducted other surveys on behalf of ATS in the past. Another $4994 went to FLS Connect, a Minnesota-based political telemarketing firm. A Houston company was paid $2000 to create a website that has not been updated in the past two weeks, even though the election is less than a month away.
ATS is concerned about the possible outcome of the vote, as photo enforcement has never survived a test at the ballot box. In April, a stunning 86 percent of voters ordered the camera program in Sulphur, Louisiana to be shut down.
View the ATS PAC's financial disclosure in a 1.5mb PDF file at the source link below.