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Can Reddit help unseat SOPA creator Lamar Smith in 2012?

Jan 27, 2012

 Can Reddit help unseat SOPA creator Lamar Smith in 2012?

On December 15th, 2011, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chief sponsor and cheerleader of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), filed papers to run for re-election in the 21st District of Texas.

Smith was named 2011 “Policymaker of the Year” by Politico for his efforts in technology, specifically in passing the “America Invents Act”, or H.R. 1249, which updated the U.S. patents system.

Smith has become a lightning rod of criticism for SOPA and its Senate companion bill Protect IP Act, and rightly so—he is a legislator with no history in technology, yet he is attempting to fundamentally change the way the internet operates. SOPA, while intended to fight online piracy, has great potential for abuse in matters of free speech, and H.R. 1981, The “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011,” will create a massive, nationwide data retention database, that will collect all manner of information on internet users.

SOPA was at least temporarily derailed last week, but it is most certainly not dead, and Smith is keen to pass H.R. 1981. And the raising of his national profile definitely creates a great opportunity to unseat the Texas legislator, and replace him with someone who will not dictate the manner in which we experience the internet.

Redditors have launched a campaign to unseat Smith, writing:

Not only is Smith the one who introduced SOPA; he’s also the one who blocked the Frank-Paul marijuana legalization bill from ever reaching the House floor.

His opponent, Sheriff Richard Mack, isn’t exactly the kind of candidate that reddit would normally support. However, this is a very conservative Texas district, so it’s not like we have much choice. What’s important is that this will get Smith off the judiciary committee and demonstrate that we will not tolerate bills like SOPA. Plus, Mack does have a bit of a libertarian streak and opposes the War on Drugs.

His district is heavily gerrymandered, so it won’t be easy to get rid of him. We’re in for an uphill battle here.

The subreddit for Sheriff Mack’s campaign: http://www.reddit.com/r/SheriffMack4Congress/

Smith is heavily entrenched in various committee assignments, which makes him an asset to the GOP, who will undoubtedly support Smith if he faces a stiff election battle. He’s also popular with the MPAA, RIAA, patent holders, copyright holders and pretty much anyone else with lucrative intellectual property, so his campaign war chest will runneth over after his various internet-related efforts in 2011.

Reddit, however, has a way of mobilizing political inertia, so it’s possible that he could go through a rather bruising campaign. And, at the very least, his name will remain in the news, associated with internet censorship and data retention policy, which will make fighting SOPA, PIPA and H.R. 1981 much easier.

We shall see if the campaign gains steam, though.

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