The connection between money and legislation is often worth exploring.
A Web site that says it examines automotive issues from a political perspective has done just that, after the Maryland General Assembly adopted a statewide speed camera program earlier this month.
The results are intriguing – but also a bit misleading.
The site has compiled campaign contributions and lobbying expenses of four companies it says are in the automated camera business. It concluded that American Traffic Solutions of Arizona; Affiliated Computer Services of Texas; Sigma Apace of Maryland and Traffipax of Germany made $183,780 in Maryland campaign donations between 1999 and 2009.
Those four companies also dished out $213,055 during the same period to lobbyists representing their interests in the State House. (Receiving the most: Alexander and Cleaver, at $79,285)
Thenewspaper then adds the money that Nationwide, Geico and State Farm spent on campaign contributions, and concludes that the special interest money spent to get the speed camera bill passed was nearly $700,000.
Here's why the figures are a bit misleading. Most of the campaign contributions came from one company: ACS. A ten-year frame of reference is awfully broad; it works out to less than $5,000 per company per year in donations. Plus, insurance companies are heavily regulated by the state, and have a broad range of interests – not just speed cameras.
Still, the report illustrates an unassailable truth: Some company or companies will make a lot of money when speed cameras come to Maryland. And to do business with the state, a company needs to pay to make sure its back is covered.
The report came to our attention from a posting on the Baltimore Sun's message board by poster abrahamhlincoln, who found it on the Web site thetruthaboutcars.com. For those outraged at the speed camera program, the figures will only add to the fury.