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Test PAC Organizes For Internet Freedom

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, April 20 2012

When House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith sponsored a job fair last week at the University of Texas at Austin he probably didn't expect any help with his own resume.

But "help" he did receive from first year law student Stephen Saltarelli, who showed up to mock Smith for his sponsorship of the Stop Online Piracy Act, the controversial anti-piracy legislation that was stopped in its tracks in January when millions of members of the Internet community like Salterelli participated in wide-scale protests against it. Salterelli showed up last Tuesday to provide Smith a template for a resume that he had found on the Internet -- the implication being that Smith would soon be out of work.

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Saltarelli is a member of Test PAC, a new political action committee that was formed by Redditors earlier this year. They had initially banded together on the social news sharing site Reddit to take action against members of congress who supported SOPA and the National Defense Authorization Act. The PAC's initial successful action was to fundraise for a Democrat running against Wisconsin House incumbent Paul Ryan, who is a Republican. Even though Ryan never expressed support for SOPA, the Redditors' successful fundraising efforts for his challenger Rob Zerban seemed to convince Ryan to issue a statement on the issue. A spokesman at the time issued a statement clarifying that Ryan never supported SOPA and was "committed" to focusing on policies that advance free speech and innovation.

In the wake of its success, six members of the Reddit community have formed Test PAC, which is dedicated to pushing for Internet freedom. Its first task is to unseat Smith, or at least to make him uncomfortable even if his rivals in the May 29 Texas Republican primary look like longshots.

"Finding a suitable alternative for Smith is not necessarily our only goal for this election," writes Andy Posterick, Test PAC's treasurer. "Another goal is to send a message to Washington that if you fight the Internet, we'll fight back, and Smith doesn't necessarily need to lose to accomplish that goal."

"He has one of the safest seats in Congress, winning over 69% of the votes in the last election," Posterick adds. "If we can capture a significant number of those votes and turn them into votes for [Richard] Morgan or [Richard] Mack in the May 29 primary, we'd be showing lawmakers in some of the less safe seats that we are a serious force to consider."

Mostly attracting support from Reddit, the group has already raised just under $12,000 since it got started in January. Most of that support comes from the tech hubs of Austin, San Francisco and Seattle. The group has used some of that money to create online videos and an anti-Smith billboard in San Antonio. It also runs a Facebook page and UnseatLamar.com.

The group's latest video and blog post concern H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which the group said in Friday blog post would "effectively take the door off the hinge of every household in America, but lacks the tools necessary to distinguish whether there is a criminal hiding in the attic."

TechPresident asked the Test PAC organizers: If they're against Lamar Smith, then what are the for?

"The PAC definitely supports things," Posterick said in an e-mail. "But we focus on one election at a time, and have only one campaign at this time (opposing Lamar Smith.) When the primaries finish and the November elections come closer, our members will decide whether to endorse or oppose new candidates(s). It is not unreasonable to predict that the issue we decide this over will be CISPA."

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