Internet PAC Goes After Lamar Smith

Posted March 22, 2012 at 12:26pm

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) became the unofficial enemy of the Internet after he introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Now, donors to a new Reddit-based PAC have picked him as their first target.

Unseating a 13-term Congressman is a difficult undertaking for a startup, but Test PAC’s crowdsourcing strategy holds the potential to dramatically change the way political contributors interact with outside groups.

A month ago Test PAC, a new political action committee with dreams of becoming “the voice of the Internet,” asked its donors to choose where their funds should be spent.

Anyone with an account on the social news website Reddit could suggest potential goals and two frontrunners emerged — campaign finance reform and Smith’s ouster. The first voting pool was modest — just more than 100 members weighed in, 63 percent of whom voted to punish Smith for introducing the controversial piracy bill.

Unlike most PACS, which set a specific mission and look for interested donors, Test PAC, the brainchild of a law-school-bound salesman living in Boston, solicits the members of its online community for direction.

So far, Test PAC has raised almost $10,000. Richard Mack, a tea party
activist and former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., is challenging Smith
in the May 29 Republican primary and has cited SOPA as one of the primary
reasons for getting in the race.

The PAC is based on Reddit but is not affiliated with the company or any of the other websites that all but killed the legislation with a 24-hour blackout earlier this year.

Technology industry insiders say that the idea is unlikely to resurface this year, but Scott Bloomberg, the PAC’s lead adviser, said Test PAC’s campaign could serve as an important warning shot to future attempts to regulate the Internet.

“The people of Texas’s 21st district have an opportunity to more or less make an example out of Lamar Smith,” Bloomberg said. He noted that a child pornography bill, also introduced by Smith, raises privacy concerns and is opposed by civil liberties organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

Test PAC is preparing its first ad buy — a 14-by-40-foot billboard to hang over a major highway in San Antonio — and is again soliciting its members for design ideas.

Correction: March 22, 2012

An earlier version of this story indicated that Test PAC was supporting Richard Mack’s primary challenge against Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). It is not supporting any specific challengers.