Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) took some heat earlier this year when a popular online uprising helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) he championed, but Smith’s effort to push the bill through Congress has still had an apparent payoff for the longtime incumbent. Smith easily won a primary victory in his Texas district this week after significantly out fundraising both of his opponents with the help of the same industry groups and media conglomerates that lobbied for SOPA.
Smith won 76 percent of the primary votes and raised $1.3 million, about 21 times the amount of cash that opponents Richard Morgan and Richard Mack raised combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). Smith’s major donors included the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the media conglomerates Comcast, Time Warner and Clear Channel, all of which actively lobbied for SOPA.
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SOPA and its Senate companion PIPA were aimed at cracking down on foreign counterfeiting and the illegal distribution of copyrighted material online, but critics said the bills were an unprecedented threat to Internet freedom that would have allowed the government and big corporations to crush independent web sites that may unknowingly host copyrighted material.
Massive online protests and a one-day blackout strike by popular sites like Wikipedia and Reddit eroded support for both bills in Congress, and the defeat of SOPA and PIPA earlier this year marked a big victory for Internet freedom advocates.
Smith Raked In Cash From SOPA Supporters
Among Smith’s major donors were top executives of the Clear Channel Communications conglomerate, who donated $18,300 to Smith’s campaign. Clear Channel hired Joseph Gibson, Representative Smith’s former chief of staff, to lobby for SOPA, the CRP reported. Smith also received $10,363 in individual donations from employees of Express Scripts, a health services company that also hired Gibson to lobby for SOPA. The company’s political action committee (PAC) contributed another $10,000.
Comcast and Time Warner, which lobbied heavily on SOPA and PIPA, donated $5,000 and $6,000 to Smith’s campaign respectively. Smith received a combined $10,000 from the RRIA and the National Association of Broadcasters.
A PAC formed by SOPA opponents and Reddit.com users to weaken Smith’s re-election campaign raised $18,500 to pay for mailers, television ads and a billboard near San Antonio.
The CRP called the fundraising disparity between Smith and his Republican primary opponents “the latest display of the benefits of incumbency” and reported that current House members have raised an average of $1 million while their opponents have raised an average about $140,000.