4/13/2012Missouri: Traffic Camera Company Invests in Attorney General
Red light camera company gives more money to Missouri attorney general.
Arizona-based red light camera firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS) handed another $5000 check to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster on March 29. Such donations are key because the Show Me State remains one of the last jurisdictions where automated ticketing machines are in use without the sanction of the legislature. That has put the systems in a precarious legal position.
In February, Circuit Judge Mark H. Neill ruled that the St. Louis city ordinance granting ATS the franchise to issue traffic tickets was "void" because cities do not have police power unless it is granted to them by the state (view ruling). Neill clarified that once his decision is finalized, ATS will not be able to operate in the city.
Attorney general opinions on such disputed matters are key because municipalities interested in whether or not they can install red light cameras look to the office for legal advice. Koster's predecessor, then-Attorney General Jay Nixon stated when the city of Arnold started using red light cameras in 2005 that he believed tickets sent in the mail were not valid. Koster officially reversed that stance last year.
Since taking office in January 2009 Koster, has kept a cozy relationship with the automated ticketing industry. ATS has a dozen registered lobbyists working Missouri lawmakers, and special attention has been given to Koster. On January 10 this year, ATS lobbyist Jorgen Schlemeier bought Koster breakfast. In September 2010, he took Koster golfing -- just three days before ATS formally registered as Schlemeier's client. ATS Lobbyist William A. Gamble wined and dined Koster in June 2009. On March 28, 2012, ATS lobbyist Jane Dueker handed Koster a $1000 check.
Ed Martin, the Republican candidate for attorney general, believes the connections between companies like ATS and Koster are unethical.
"Whether it's trial lawyers seeking no-bid contracts to represent Missourians or campaign supporters selling a czar-like job, Chris Koster has made it clear: like the Obama administration, Koster believes in pay-to-play corruption" Ed Martin told TheNewspaper. "So it comes as no surprise that red-light camera supporters know the way to get Koster's attention -- and approval -- is to shower him with campaign contributions. This is the exact type of Obama-like corruption we need to stop."
Martin, an attorney, was chief of staff to former Governor Matt Blunt (R). He also co-founded the group Missourians Against Red Light Cameras.