10 Investigates: Florida's leading red light camera company, ATS, spending big on politics

8:39 PM, Jan 13, 2014   |    comments
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As efforts to reform Florida's red light camera laws picked up momentum in 2013, one of the largest red light camera companies pumped more than a quarter-million dollars into political coffers.

Scouring state campaign records, 10 Investigates found private company American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and its subsidiaries made 56 donations to candidates, parties, and political action committees at the state level. The $258,000 in contributions do not include separate contributions to city- and county-level candidates.

While 39 of state-level contributions came in the form of $500 donations to legislative campaigns, the majority of the cash went to the Republican Party of Florida ($130,000) and the Florida Democratic Party ($55,000). All of the Democratic money came in 2013's final months, while almost all of the Republican Party's donations came in the first half of the year, prior to increased efforts by conservative lawmakers to repeal the technology.

ATS also donated more than $50,000 to various political committees, such as: $10,000 to the Florida Leadership Committee, a PAC run by State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater; and $10,000 to Innovate Florida, a PAC run by former State Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa.

READ: Entire list of ATS 2014 state-level contributions

Latvala was also among the 39 candidates who received direct donations from ATS. The majority are Democratic and moderate Republicans who support the use of red light camera technology in Florida.

"We believe it is important to participate in the public policy arena in Florida and across the nation," said Charles Territo, spokesman for ATS, in an e-mail.  "(We) will continue to support candidates and elected officials that support all manner of road safety programs."

In 2013, red light cameras generated more than $100 million in fines in Florida.  ATS is also very active lobbying in Tallahassee, spending more than $1 million in recent years to spread its message.

Contact 10 Investigates reporter Noah Pransky via Facebook or through his updates on Twitter.

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