The political action committee Test PAC has its sights set on unseating Rep. Lamar Smith R-Texas using Internet-based tactics, while seeking to differentiate themselves from mainstream politics.
Smith represents the 21st District, which includes the UT campus and areas of west Austin.
Test PAC announced their first campaign “Operation: Mr. Smith Comes Back From Washington” on Feb. 10 on social media websites after the group’s members voted in a poll to decide which congressman their resources would be focused on defeating in the 2012 election.
According to Test PAC’s Facebook page, Smith was chosen for his sponsorship of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which has since been removed from Congress’ agenda.
Test PAC treasurer Andy Posterick said Test PAC was founded to balance the influence of money in politics with the goal in preserving democratic values.
“We operate on the idea that in a democracy, ideas are more important than money,” Posterick said. “The problem is, politics is so heavily structured around the concept that money buys change, but it doesn’t, and we tried to build a PAC that reflects that.”
Posterick said some of the founding members of Test PAC were involved with previous Internet campaigns to boycott or blackout websites in order to raise awareness of the SOPA bill.
“The website blackout from a few weeks ago, for example, was an idea that our members helped bring to fruition,” Posterick said. “We also pressured Rep. Paul Ryan R-Wisconsin to change his stance on SOPA before most congresspeople had even heard of it.”
According to Test PAC’s Reddit announcement, the group hopes to achieve its goal using social media as well as offline methods, including promoting their cause at UT.
“The information blitz [on Facebook and Twitter] will appeal to Internet users who may have heard of SOPA, but do not fully understand its implications,” the post said. “We have reached out to political leaders on the UT Austin campus.”
Posterick said Smith is the target for the first Test PAC campaign for his sponsorship of SOPA and his connections with the entertainment industry.
“He introduced SOPA, and he was the only congressman still defending it after it was universally admonished by the American people,” Posterick said. “He is heavily lobbied by the [Motion Picture Association of America] and the [Recording Industry Association of America], who are buying legislation that, quite frankly, holds new technology in handcuffs.”
The main goal of the PAC is to protect Internet freedom and members of the online community who are fighting against Internet regulation, Posterick said.
“This campaign, if we get any significant number of votes in April, is also our way of telling Washington that the Internet can now stand up for itself if you try to legislate us,” Posterick said.
Mike Asmus, campaign manager for Smith, said Smith welcomes any challenges to his incumbency and uses his congressional record as evidence for his support of District 21.
“Congressman Smith enjoys a successful history of keeping the trust and support of the people of the 21st District,” Asmus said. “He responds to this and all challenges by running on his record.”
Regarding Smith’s sponsorship of the SOPA bill, Asmus said Smith has since reversed his support for the bill.
“Smith last month formally suspended further committee consideration of the [SOPA] proposal until and unless wider consensus can be reached on how to best crack down on illegal activity conducted on foreign websites,” Asmus said.
Printed on Monday, February 13, 2012 as: Lamar Smith denounced by Test PAC committee