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SOPA author Lamar Smith set for reelection, despite Reddit’s TestPAC
Reddit’s grassroots political action committee raised more than $35,000 to unseat Smith, but that was no match for the Texas Republican.
You win some, you lose some. And if you’re an opponent of Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican responsible for introducing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) into Congress, you lost one Tuesday.
SOPA was seen by many as a threat to the Internet’s very existence, and Smith drew netizens’ ire when he dismissed SOPA’s critics as a “vocal minority.” Nevertheless, the bill was stalled indefinitely after Reddit led an Internet strike against it.
TestPAC, a political action committee funded and run by redditors, campaigned directly against Smith since January to both punish him for SOPA and to warn other American politicians that threatening the Internet could hurt their political careers. They raised more than $35,000, which they used for anti-Smith billboards, TV spots, and mailing campaigns.
Those efforts weren’t enough, though, and Smith handedly won the Republican primary to run for representative of Texas’s 21st district, a position he’s held since 1987, with 76.7 percent of the vote. The 21st district is a heavily conservative area, and it’s thought Smith’s only chance of losing his election would be to falter in the primary.
While TestPAC’s ads were strong criticisms of the incumbent, linking him with Hollywood lobbyists who campaigned for SOPA, they didn’t offer voters much of an alternative.
As effective as TestPAC’s grassroots fundraising was, it didn’t compare to Smith’s own efforts. He raised nearly $50,000 in May alone. Recent breakdowns are unavailable, but he received more than $130,000 in lobbyist donations from the entertainment industry for a two-year period ending in 2011, according to MapLight.org. He barely received half that from any other industry.
Both of Smith’s opponents, Richard Morgan and Richard Mack, courted Reddit’s favor by participating in question-and-answer sessions with users. Smith didn’t appear on Reddit, but he did blog and editorialize the opinion that SOPA wasn’t as dangerous as its critics claimed.
Morgan conceded by Twitter Tuesday evening. Mack continued opposing Smith in defeat. “What worries me the most is that Mr. Smith will take this as an endorsement of what he’s doing,” Mack said.
“Wanted to thank all of our supporters/members for joining the fight to defend #netfreedom,” TestPAC’s official Twitter account posted Wednesday morning. “The fight for #rights and #privacy will continue.”
For Smith and his Reddit opponents, the score seems to be one to one. And the date of the next battle might be set: Lobbyists have already indicated that SOPA will return in early 2013.
Photo via @lamarsmithtx21
A former senior politics reporter for the Daily Dot, Kevin Collier focuses on privacy, cybersecurity, and issues of importance to the open internet. Since leaving the Daily Dot in March 2016, he has served as a reporter for Vocativ and a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed.