Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Alex Mayyasi reports that in the parking lots of Silicon Valley's venture capital firms, expensive cars gleam in the California sun and a closer look reveals that the cars share a mysterious detail: they nearly all have a custom license plate frame that reads, 'Member. 11-99 Foundation.' Are the Bay Area's wealthy all part of some sort of illuminati group that identifies each other by license plate instead of secret handshakes? The answer is the state highway patrol — the men and women that most people interact with only when getting ticketed for speeding. A number of the frames read 'CHP 11-99 Foundation,' which is the full name of a charitable organization that supports California Highway Patrol officers and their families in times of crisis. Donors receive one license plate as part of a $2,500 'Classic' level donation, or two as part of a bronze, silver, or gold level donation of $5,000, $10,000, or $25,000. Rumor has it, according to Mayyasi, that the license plate frames come with a lucrative return on investment. As one member of a Mercedes-Benz owners community wrote online back in 2002: 'I have the ultimate speeding ticket solution. I paid $1800 for a lifetime membership into the 11-99 foundation. My only goal was to get the infamous 'get out of jail' free license plate frame.'
The 11-99 Foundation has sold license plate frames for most of its 32 year existence, and drivers have been aware of the potential benefits since at least the late 1990s. But attention to the issue in 2006-2008 led the foundation to stop giving out the frames. An article in the LA Times asked 'Can Drivers Buy CHP Leniency?' and began by describing a young man zipping around traffic — including a police cruiser — and telling the Times that he believed his 11-99 frames kept him from receiving a ticket. But the decision was almost irrelevant to another thriving market: the production and sale of fake 11-99 license plate frames. But wait — the CHP 11-99 Foundation also gives out membership cards to big donors. 'Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you,' says one cop, 'no love will be shown.'"