The results from Test PAC’s first poll are in, and members have chosen to target congressman Lamar Smith for his involvement in the sponsoring and advancement of the Stop Online Piracy Act.
About Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith is a Republican congressman from Texas’ 21st district. Smith, a graduate of Yale and the Southern Methodist University Law School, has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1987. Since his election victory in 1987, Smith has won reelection by impressive margins, ranging in the area of 62-73% at the lowest.
In 2004, Smith came under heavy criticism for his introduction of a bill that would expand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which included provisions for the wiretapping in investigations of copyright crimes, the increasing of copyright infringement penalties from a maximum of 5 years in prison to 10 years, the destruction of equipment seized in copyright related crimes, and the impediment of records, including logs of user downloads.
In 2011, Lamar Smith was back again with internet-based legislation, this time introducing the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act. The proposed bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against any website that facilitates or enables copyright infringement. The DoJ and copyright holder would be able to take legal action against a site if it were deemed to have “only limited purpose or use other than infringement,” and would demand that search engines, social media sites, and domain name services block access to the site.
As a result of Smith’s introduction of SOPA, websites around the world rallied in protest to the restrictive nature of the bill. On January 17th, internet companies including Google, Reddit, and Wikipedia joined in solidarity against SOPA, and together blacked out all or portions of their sites in protest to the legislation.
Why Lamar Smith?
While Lamar Smith has effectively shelved SOPA due to public pressure, the return of the legislation in not out of question. What we aim to do is make an example out of Lamar Smith and anyone else who threatens to undermine the constitutional freedoms enjoyed by individuals who engage in creating and sharing ideas and content in the digital age. Through his support of legislation like DMCA and SOPA, Smith has demonstrated his opposition to a free and unrestricted internet, and responsibility now falls on us to make sure the congressman is not given a chance in the future to side with corporate interest and limit online activity once more.
Lamar Smith’s Campaign Finances
The following is a breakdown of Lamar Smith’s 2011-2012 campaign finances (see more information at www.opensecrets.org). As outlined below, Smith has raised just shy of $1 million during the past year, and currently has $1.3 million on hand.
What is perhaps more revealing is the top contributors to Lamar Smith. The congressman has received large contributions from CC Media Holdings, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, National Association of Broadcasters, and National Cable and Telecommunication Association. All of these companies support the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Adding these corporate interests together, it becomes clear that Lamar Smith has benefited greatly from the entertainment industry. Smith has received $60,800 in the past year from groups associated with the TV, film and music industry. It remains his largest industry contributor.
How to Defeat Lamar Smith
What we aim to do is a bit unorthodox: use Texas’ semi-open primary system to edge Smith out in favor of another Republican candidate. When voters identify themselves to the election officials, they must request a party’s specific ballot. As explained on Wikipedia:
Only one ballot is cast by each voter. In many states with semi-open primaries, election officials or poll workers from their respective parties record each voter’s choice of party and provide access to this information. The primary difference between a semi-open and open primary system is the use of a party-specific ballot. In a semi-open primary, a public declaration in front of the election judges is made and a party-specific ballot given to the voter to cast.
This means that Republicans, Independents and Democrats can participate in the choosing of either party’s candidate in the primary election. While Democrats who choose to participate in the Republican primaries are exempt from also voting for their own party’s candidate, it is important to note that their actions would speak volumes in regards to changing the political landscape in their district. Keeping in mind the fact that Smith has enjoyed comfortable margins of victory over the years in a district that heavily favors Republican candidates, a vote for another candidate in Texas’ open primary would possibly have a greater effect than simply voting in the Democratic primary and ultimately losing the race.
How You Can Help
Test PAC will rely on two things to make this work: (1) your advice and insight, and (2) your donations. We truly believe that information is more important than money in a democracy, so if you can’t afford to donate, please lend us your advice and ideas in our subreddit, /r/testpac. We don’t like asking for money, but it’s also important. If you think you can donate, your money won’t be squandered. Test PAC has operated with less than 3.5% overhead (the EFF brags about their 10%) since we formally started in January, and we plan to keep it that way. Additionally, officers receive no compensation for their work. Donations can be made to Operation: Mr. Smith Comes Back From Washington on the campaign’s official donation page or on the Test PAC Website. Your contribution will go towards video production costs and paying actual Redditors in /r/design and other subreddits to help design our campaign materials.
Live in Texas’ 21st District?
Texas Primary (tentative): May 29th, 2012
Voter Registration Deadline: March 5th, 2012
The TX-21 district includes parts of San Antonio and Austin, including UT Austin. The district may be redrawn between now and the primary, which is tentatively scheduled for April 17th. If you live in Texas’ 21st Congressional District, please help Test PAC spread the word. Talk to friends and neighbors, contact local clubs and organizations, and volunteer to hand out information regarding our mission. We will rely heavily on the people on the ground to gain support for our cause. If you have any questions, feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.