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Grassroots Internet-based PAC targets Rep. Lamar Smith

Posted on: March 16th, 2012 by Mary Tuma

For U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, online piracy has given birth to online warfare. His sponsorship of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA–ultimately failed legislation that vocal critics saw as a form of Web censorship– has led to an Internet-based campaign to unseat him.

First established by a community of volunteers on Reddit, the grassroots Test PAC Please Ignore “aims to support legislation and candidates fighting for electoral reform, individual liberties, and the Internet community.” Supporters of the political action committee say it is based on the ideals of democracy and the rejection of concentrated wealth dictating the electoral process.

“One aspect of the Internet is helping give everyone equal footing. We are trying to apply that to the political arena,” said PAC treasurer Andy Posterick. “It’s usually the person with the most money who makes the biggest impact. By crowd sourcing a PAC, we are building a political committee that’s based on democracy–one where everyone has an equal say.”

Formed earlier this year, the PAC has taken aim at for the domain hosting site’s initial support for SOPA and is also pressuring Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to reconsider his allegiance to the Act.

Using an online poll, the PAC voted to invest its energy and time into helping unseat SOPA author Texas Rep. Smith, now seeking reelection.The group argues that Smith wrote, “poorly worded legislation,” that ran counter to maintaining a free and open Internet–all at the behest of the corporate entertainment industry.

In February, the organization began its “Operation: Mr. Smith Comes Back from Washington” campaign, a three-step strategy that includes an online education drive through Facebook and Twitter, the creation of videos highlighting how Smith’s policies promote censorship and eliminate jobs and thirdly, using fliers, door hangers and guerrilla marketing to reach potential new members. The group is also seeking donations.

The PAC has raised more than $7,000 with the majority of contributions coming in at less than $25. Some of those funds will go toward a TV commercial that is now in production. Another donation fund is financing a San Antonio-based billboard advocating for Smith’s defeat in the May primary. Posterick says the billboard should be up by the end of March. In the spirit of the group, its exact location will be voted on collectively by its members.

For those that criticize the group for attacking a Republican candidate, Posterick says the aim has nothing to do with partisanship, rather corporate influence in lawmaking. In a vote, more than half of the PAC’s members decided to single out Smith for what they said is his pandering to the entertainment industry.

“It’s clear that a big part of the reason Smith supported SOPA was due to extensive lobbying by Hollywood,” said Posterick. “The Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America gave him $62,000 in campaign funds. That’s a breakdown of democracy. When you see lobbying that expensive and that extreme, it completely contradicts what Republicans stand for.”

The Texas Independent previously reported on Smith’s backing by the entertainment industry. Hollywood, which led the charge to push SOPA through, was Smith’s top contributor in the 2011-2012 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Congressman is also listed as the top House recipient of donations from commercial TV and radio stations.

(Image of Texas Rep. Lamar Smith: Wikimedia Commons)