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Texas: Traffic Camera Firm Boosts Anti-Referendum Spending
American Traffic Solutions spends 125 percent more against camera referendum in Baytown, Texas than it in College Station.

ATS General Counsel George Hittner
Red light camera operator American Traffic Solutions (ATS) dramatically increased spending on an effort to thwart a November 2 referendum that would outlaw the use of photo enforcement in Baytown, Texas. After losing a similar referendum vote in College Station last year, the company is not taking chances and has boosted spending on its front group, Safety Cameras for a Safer Baytown, by 125 percent over what was spent in College Station, a city of about equal size.

In its prior effort, ATS had used subcontractors and business associates to contribute a total of $71,240 to the Keep College Station Safe political action committee, which was run by the company. This time, ATS has dropped the pretense of others being interested in supporting the use of red light cameras. ATS listed itself as the sole donor of $160,000 to the effort to save red light cameras in Baytown in a campaign disclosure document filed last week.

Before the November 2009 election, ATS was confident that by significantly outspending the shoestring-budget effort of residents opposed to cameras it would emerge victorious.

"In a scientific opinion survey conducted by a reputable Texas research firm, we learned that the overwhelming majority of registered voters in College Station support the use of red-light cameras in Aggieland," ATS General Counsel George Hittner boasted in an open letter to city residents a month before the vote. "Red-light camera opponents have garnered a lot of attention, but the fact remains that they are a vocal minority."

The vocal minority turned out to be an electoral majority. This time, the firm spent the majority of the cash, $137,657.01 on "legal services" -- primarily the unsuccessful effort to block the vote in court by labeling opponents of automated ticketing machines as racists. The rest of the cash went to accountants and the lobbying firm Begala McGrath. A total of $8,356.32 went to the Baytown Sun newspaper.

Early voting on Proposition 1 begins next Monday. A copy of the latest financial disclosure is available in a 650k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Specific Purpose Committee Campaign Finance Report (Safety Cameras for a Safer Baytown PAC, 10/4/2010)

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