Rep. Lamar Smith, the Republican representative for Texas’ 21st congressional district, has managed to raise quite a national profile by crafting two over-reaching internet bills—Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and H.R. 1981.
SOPA would, in the interest of limiting online piracy, allow copyright holders such as movie studios to force ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to blockade websites suspected of enabling the exchange of pirated content. H.R. 1981, or Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, would force ISPs to collect internet user data, creating a monolithic database accessible to the government. Both are sensible as far as addressing crimes, but the potential for abuse of these bills would likely prove similar to the abuses of the Patriot Act’s powers.
As the chief architect of these bills, Rep. Smith has incurred the wrath of tech companies, civil liberties groups, hackers, internet denizens, as well as people half way around the globe, with his plans to reshape the internet.
A few weeks ago I mused whether Reddit, which has shown its collective power in applying pressure to former SOPA supporters GoDaddy and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), could help unseat Smith. It would be an incredibly difficult proposition, as Smith is well-burrowed into the legislative-lobbying complex, and will surely see a deluge of donations from the MPAA, RIAA and any number of other copyright holders. Nevertheless, the fight, even if it’s a long-shot, is worth it if only to raise more awareness about SOPA, H.R. 1981 and Smith’s preeminent role in both bills.
Smith is being challenged in the GOP primary for the 21st congressional district of Texas by former Sheriff Richard Mack.
Based on Mack’s website, it seems that the Sheriff is a Libertarian and vocal opponent of SOPA (no word yet on whether he opposes H.R. 1981), and has stated that “the federal government is not our boss.” Through the Oath Keepers, Mack is also a strong advocate for police and military forces fulfilling their constitutional oaths through training.
Mack is also a States Rights proponent, opposing federal funding of pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood, even though they also provide vital health services such as mammograms, birth control and STD testing.
This past Saturday Reddit organized a Q&A session with Sheriff Mack, and while he was short on details and ducked questions on his pro-life stance, it did prove that Mack is willing to engage with the internet community, not to mention those who would challenge his views on federal and state government.
Replying to a query about SOPA, Mack wrote:
Government doesn’t have the authority to tell me what I can do on the internet or anywhere else. The last thing I want is for the Federal government to control the internet… I specifically heard about SOPA some two or 3 months ago I thought it was a joke at first.
The Sheriff also questioned the integrity of a political system that has been corrupted by corporate lobbying:
Any citizen has the right to lobby a representative… What I have a problem with is the extreme amounts of money that flow to our congressmen. The biggest problem I have is that huge corporations donate to both parties corrupting the system. If our politicians had an ounce of integrity, they would stop that sort of thing. I intend to work towards that.
Where Mack is a bit more troubling is in the suggestion that the U.S. Constitution is “divinely inspired,” though there is much to like in his advocacy for congressional pay cuts and a path to citizenship for immigrants. Mack could perhaps gain even more supporters if he questioned the sanity of a $700 billion defense budget (which doesn’t include the “Black Budget” and other secret military expenditures), but maybe he will elaborate on where he would make cuts in federal spending outside of the usual Libertarian boogymen issues of healthcare and welfare services.
Learn more about Sheriff Richard Mack on the issues at SheriffMackforCongress.com.