The notion of “the Baptist and the Bootlegger,” promulgated by Bruce Yandle, is that while regulations often have a public-good face (a minister during prohibition), the driving force is often a company that profits from the regulation.

Local governments tell us red-light cameras make us safer. Of course they fill local government coffers. But they also enrich private industry, too — private industry that fights for more cameras. The Dallas Morning News reports:

Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., one of the nation’s leading red-light camera companies, has spent as much as $230,000 on lobbying activities in Austin since 2007, state records show. Another leading company, American Traffic Solutions Inc., also based in Arizona, has spent up to $20,000. Exact state figures are not available since dollar amounts are reported in ranges, but Redflex spent a minimum of $100,000. Those amounts do not include money that the companies may have spent on lobbying efforts in cities such as College Station and Houston, which have grappled with local ballot initiatives related to red-light cameras…. State Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., D-Corpus Christi, who co-sponsored the measure, said lobbyists affiliated with red-light camera companies “were out in full force” last year. “You could see them all over the Capitol,” Ortiz said.

Let this be a lesson in how to follow “public-interest” legislation. Ask yourself who’s getting rich off the bill, and then look for their fingerprints.