To the ranks of same-sex marriage, tax cuts and illegal immigration, add this to the list of polarizing political issues of Election 2012: the Stop Online Piracy Act.
The hot-button anti-piracy legislation that sparked a revolt online is starting to become a political liability for some of SOPA’s major backers. Fueled by Web activists and online fundraising tools, challengers are using the bill to tag its congressional supporters as backers of Big Government — and raise campaign cash while they’re at it.
Among the fattest targets: SOPA’s lead author, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and two of its most vocal co-sponsors, Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has also felt the wrath of SOPA opponents.
Even GOP presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were asked by voters recently to weigh in on the bill (neither gave definitive answers, though activists have interpreted Santorum’s response as more sympathetic to SOPA than Romney’s).
It’s a stretch to think SOPA will cost any of the longtime incumbents backing the bill their seats. The legislation would give government new powers to shutter websites that peddle counterfeit products and pirated copies of movies and music.
But there are signs the issue, long the domain of think tanks and intellectual property lawyers, could become a real factor in some races.
Prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson, for one, has promised to make life miserable for any GOP lawmaker who gets behind the bill. His first target: Blackburn.
“I love Marsha Blackburn. She is a delightful lady and a solidly conservative member of Congress,” Erickson wrote on his widely read blog, Red State. But “I am pledging right now that I will do everything in my power to defeat her in her 2012 re-election bid.”