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The "Internet" plays politics with Lamar Smith

by: Joe Deshotel

Sun May 27, 2012 at 00:30 PM CDT

Internet users are a sleeping giant when it comes to changing public discourse and even less engaged when it comes to individual politicians. They have the advantage of freely spreading content across personal and public networks and some viral campaigns have proven the ability to genuinely raise awareness of an issue. But, notoriously short attention spans and the inability to harness those virtual connections, make manifesting online outcry into electoral success harder to come by. An unlikely set of coalitions brought together by their love of internet “freedom”, are trying to change that by targeting Republican Congressmen Lamar Smith. College students, Tea Party Activists, tech companies and “the internet” have focused their ire on the author of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a controversial bill that pits corporations and content owners like Sony and ESPN against media sharing platforms and technology developers like Reddit and Google.

The umbrella group Alliance for Internet Freedom started as a one stop fundraising apparatus for tech companies concerned about SOPA's unintended consequences on the internet but has become a magnate for those who oppose Smith for a wide variety of mainstream issues. The Alliance’s most vocal group and the bill’s most prominent foe, Test PAC, was reddit users’ answer to what they see as an attack on creativity and the freedom of information available on the internet. Their efforts were effective in getting the bill tabled but they have pledged to oust Smith over trusting that the bill won’t find its way to the House floor. Even with anti-incumbent sentiment still looming large in most conservative corners of the country replacing a well-funded politician in a safe district is proving much more difficult than defeating a simple piece of legislation. The biggest obstacle is finding a credible challenger to coalesce these efforts around. The district only includes parts of liberal Austin so despite mounting opposition from the left the best odds of defeating the 25 year incumbent is in the Republican primary on May 29th.

That brings us to his primary challengers. Both are attacking the incumbent from the right though neither has the type of funds necessary to mount a real challenge on the airwaves or reach the rural conservative voters who may be sympathetic to their message. According to Opensecrets.org Lamar Smith has raised more than 5 times his closest competitor Richard Mack. Mack is a former Sheriff from Arizona with strong Libertarian sympathies and Tea Party credentials. His younger less experienced challenger Richard Morgan is a software engineer using SOPA to frame Smith as a "big-government Republican" threatening "individual liberty and discourag[ing] job growth and free enterprise in America,”.

The oft-progressive technology industry has chosen a more politically savvy route of attacking Smith by portraying him as aligned with big Hollywood entertainment over “the people” who elected him. The finance reports back their claim. Opensecrets.org reveals Smith’s top donors come from the entertainment industry followed closely by the computer and Internet industries. The Alliance has a goal of raising over $500,000 to discourage Smith’s base from turning out on his behalf May 29th.

Its unclear but likely these groups will continue their assault on Lamar after Tuesday. If he sails past his primary without a run-off he will likely face an underfunded challenge in November. It will also challenge the internet community to remain a sustained force in electoral politics and not just an angry political flash mob.


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The internet! (3.00 / 1)
Thanks for this article.  But the internet is something else! Google Romney and Hispanics. All you get are "crickets".
Regards to BOR.

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