We are Jeromie (jeromiewhalen), Andy (ajpos), and Scott (masstermind), and we started TestPAC (/r/testpac). We are a federally registered political action committee whose* major decisions are voted on by Redditors. Our first campaign is to unseat SOPA co-sponsor Lamar Smith in the GOP Primary, or in a potential subsequent runoff election.

Here is our first :30 second TV spot

We also recently put up a billboard on I-10 in San Antonio

AusA about starting your own PAC, TestPAC, SOPA, the difference between a super pac and what we are, Lamar Smith, the TX-21 race, our operating systems (I run windows 7... I know.), or whatever!

*edited specially for Trapped_in_Reddit

Comments: 276 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

rmt9254 karma

I love the commercial, but doesn't censoring the name on the billboard defeat the purpose of getting him elected? I'm assuming that's the candidate that is supported. Also, I do get the joke.

masstermind56 karma

First, this is a digital billboard, so we can change it at any time. We are currently gathering ideas for improvements in /r/testpac.

There are two candidates running against Smith... Richard M(organ) and Richard M(ack)...

imatworkprobably25 karma

You need to throw your support behind one or the other.... Supporting both helps Smith by fragmenting the anti-Smith vote.

masstermind12 karma

The goal is to force a runoff.

imatworkprobably10 karma

How would forcing a runoff benefit you better than beating Smith in the original primary, or is that not the goal in the first place?

masstermind13 karma

The thing is, that there are two alternative candidates in this race, and we can't change that. So, the "anti-Smith" vote is going to be somewhat split regardless. With that in mind, it makes more sense to lift both candidates as alternatives to Smith, to try to get them over the 50% hump combined.

devils0508107 karma

You guys really need to study political science, this strategy does not work. People have a strong personal bias towards the front runner - especially when he's up by a lot. By splitting it, you are just insuring that Smith will be up by a lot going into the run-off, which will make low information voters support him.

Also, you have to realize people political maps aren't equal to you. Most people, despite your efforts, won't give a shit about SOPA and all that. My parents can barely use email, they don't care about internet freedom. Because of this, some of the people who originally supported one of Smith's opponents, may very well support Smith in a run-off if their candidate is knocked out.

Also, your billboard is really ineffectual. Name Recognition is super important, probably one of the most important things, to get candidate support. By not making your guys name the center of the billboard, makes it a complete waste (or even makes things WORSE because it increases the name recognition of your opponent)

Listen I want to donate money, but this has to get more professionalized. I'm not going to burn money on witty, but completely ineffective, billboards

TL;DR: Pick ONE an alternative candidate. Get a better billboard. Find a political consultant. There's tons of marketing/psychology research on this.

P.S. I'd get rid of the reddit symbol. If this takes off, it'll take Smith about 5 minutes to tie Reddit to jailbat and misogyny subreddits. "Smith opponents are supported by pedophile"

masstermind6 karma

Great feedback. Thank you for this. In regards to the billboard, what would you suggest? One of the provisions is that the billboard can't be overtly negative of factually ambiguous. If you could give us some ideas over at /r/testpac that would be awesome.

Vark6751 karma

Oh shit, is that billboard off I-10 by the 410 exchange?

masstermind1 karma


altobase23 karma

How frustrating was it for you guys when you received the less-than-stellar community reaction to the billboard? (I personally thought it was okay, btw)

masstermind20 karma

It was a little frustrating, but like I said in another post, there will always be detractors, and sometimes you can learn from them. They are also usually the loudest. That thread got over 1500 upvotes and was on the front page of Reddit before the /r/politics mods took it down (that's another story...). So, needless to say, alot more people liked it than disliked it.

stamatt4511 karma

I'm curious as to why the /r/politics mods took it down.

Can you explain why?

masstermind11 karma

They claim it was removed because it was a just picture and wasn't substantive. Quite frankly I thought it was BS. They removed it only after 9 hours and it hit the front page.

***I a word

ryannayr1404 karma

I think it was removed because they are asking for donations.

masstermind1 karma

Nah we weren't asking for donations.

Slaeke22 karma

Hows does the PAC work on an operational level? And what are the goals that testPAC hopes to achieve?

masstermind27 karma

Great questions.

  1. Aside from me, jeromie, and andy, the PAC has other officers for communications, graphic design, and media production. We have conference calls 2-3 times per week. We also have an IRC chat session weekly or bi-weekly (IRC channel & info is in /r/testpac sidebar

  2. TestPAC will be whatever the internet wants it to be. Our goal is to be the voice of the internet in American Politics, more or less.

MessageAnxiety2 karma

How many of the officers are women?

masstermind1 karma

We've had two women involved with the PAC. Originally, our PR officer was female, but she got a new job and had to step down a few weeks ago. Currently, we have one female who helps with communications / social media. We'd love to have more women involved too!

YouTubeCommentsOnly1 karma

Out of how many people total?

Also, how many are white?

masstermind2 karma

There are 5-7 of us usually on conference calls. One hispanic, the rest white... I think... honestly most of us have never met so there are a couple people that I'm unsure of their race.

cobainbc159 karma

What has been the most eye-opening part of the political process that you've uncovered through doing this? Anything we should know that we might not already...

masstermind8 karma

Two things jump out:

  1. It takes alot of time to do this right. If you're going to start a PAC, make sure you have enough time on your hands for the planning, organization, fundraising, promoting, and paperwork.

  2. No matter what you do in politics, there will always be detractors. Sometimes, they have legitimate criticisms which you can learn from, so it's important to react in a balanced manner. Don't overreact, but don't disregard their criticisms just because they're negative.

Keystoner9 karma

What are your plans following the primaries? They're over in what, June? Do you dissolve or start fundraising for the next election?

masstermind14 karma

Great question. So, TestPAC was not formed for the sole purpose of ousting Smith. Our goal is to be the voice of the internet in American politics. Ousting Smith was merely the first objective voted on by our members. After the primary (or run off), we'll have a vote on what to do next.

ServerGeek8 karma

I've always wondered.. How much do billboards cost?

masstermind10 karma

Well, this one was $4,500 for 4 weeks, and it's a rotating digital billboard. The ad will get 410,000k impressions per week. It's at one of the busiests intersections in San Antonio.

I'm sure prices vary quite a bit based on a number of factors though.

eggsofamerica863 karma

Billboards are an incredibly ineffective communication tool.

masstermind2 karma

They're great at generating publicity locally and online... and we've already begun to benefit from that.

eggsofamerica861 karma

TV is even better.

masstermind1 karma

That's coming next!

pencilsalesman7 karma

Your url needs an http.

masstermind11 karma

You couldn't find a picture of my dog doing that?

masstermind8 karma

fixed... I think.

RedalAndrew7 karma

Why did you feel a PAC was the way to go? Did you consider other avenues? And why did you pick Lamar smith first, didn't others write the bill too?

masstermind14 karma

Great questions.

  1. A PAC was the way to go because if you spend over $1,000 in an election, you have to register as a PAC. There is also alot of transparency in PACs, as everything must be reported tot he FEC. We thought that this was especially important since this is an online organization.

  2. The only other avenue possible would be a 501c4, which is regulated by the IRS and, in my opinion, 501c4's getting involved in elections is part of the problem in this country.

  3. The choice of Lamar Smith was actually voted on by TestPAC members (virtually anyone with a Reddit account can become a member by visiting [www.testpac.org](www.testpac.org)). Our major decisions are voted on by members.

Thisapparatus5 karma

canadian here:

what happens if you guys raise a bunch of money, air the ads and get attention? let's say you get donations from 1000000 unique users. what happens when only 3000 were americans and the rest were canadians sending money to help support your cause, but are not eligible to vote in any election? i haven't gone over any of your material or information yet, and will shortly.

masstermind12 karma

Well, unfortunately, PACs can only accept donations from American Citizens.

YourLogicAgainstYou4 karma

Did any of you actually read the draft SOPA text in its entirety? Just curious.

masstermind6 karma

I have... but that's a complicated questions because the there have been many drafts of SOPA.

[deleted]3 karma

Just a quick note: You'll get more sympathizers if you say he tried to censor "free expression" or something like that instead of "the internet." A lot of people know just as much shit about the internet as they give about it, so you're best bet would be to use a broader term.

EDIT: Trollface... you sneaky motherfuckers.

masstermind2 karma

I like that term, free expression...

Chuzzles3 karma

This is a really interesting idea and regardless of complaints as to your specific methods or design layouts, the fact that you are spending your time to make substantive change is a praiseworthy feat. If only a quarter of the population was as ambitious, the country would be a different place.

masstermind2 karma

Thanks I really appreciate that comment.

[deleted]3 karma

Whats the plan regarding building towards the primary?

masstermind4 karma

Right now the #1 goal is to get this ad on TV as much as possible. We also have plans for a ground campaign, direct mailing targeted to GOP primary voters, and a 2nd TV ad. How much we can accomplish depends significantly on fundraising though.

[deleted]3 karma

That sounds like a great lineup.

I do have a followup question though - what would the ground campaign entail? I gather it would be difficult to organize as I assume most of the TestPAC members aren't from central Texas.

masstermind3 karma

Andy (ajpos) can speak to this better than I can... definitely his brainchild.

PablanoPato2 karma

Hey I'm a San Antonio native graduating this May. I'll be moving back to SA for a while after graduation. How can I help and get involved?

masstermind1 karma

Hey man - please PM me your email address!

Malvicus2 karma

Out of curiousity... what were the rates for the billboard? Did they sell that space on a weekly basis or monthly? Or some other timetable?

masstermind1 karma

$4,500 per 4 weeks... 410k impressions per week.

and1813771 karma

What are your rules for donations? Do you guys go by the rules set forth before citizens united? I hope their is donation limits.

masstermind1 karma

The donation limit for a non-connected PAC like ours is $5,000 per person. However, we self-imposed a $999 limit, as we don't think anyone should be allowed to donate $1,000 or more.

calfman1 karma

i live in san antonio and i personally know lamar smith. thought he was a good congressmen until SOPA. Normally he would not do something the people are so strongly against but this is all obviously lobbyist backed, and now im fine if he is out of office.

masstermind1 karma

Would you be willing to help in a ground campaign against him (ie going door to door)? If so, please PM me your email address!

toadkiller1 karma

How do you regulate voting? What would you do if a bunch of trolls started skewing your votes to do ridiculous things?

masstermind1 karma

In our bylaws, we have some minimal requirements of karma/time being a redditor, in order to register... but this hasn't been a problem yet.

christofian1 karma


masstermind1 karma

tallandskinnyguy1 karma

Who did you hire to produce/create that ad?

masstermind1 karma

Eddie Belaval, our Media Production Coordinator, did most of it. He did it free.

holey_moley1 karma

What if Redditors vote to persue an issue that is contradicts your fundamental political ideology? Are you prepared to go against your personal opinions and advocate the will of the community? To be extreme, if Reddit overwhelmingly voted that they wanted you to support Rick Santorum, would you honor that?

masstermind2 karma

This is a great question. First, I really don't see this situation arising. But, let's say it does...

Like all things in life, there are shades of grey. Would I support Santorum, or something else I am strongly opposed to? No... I'd say that this community has become something that I can't support, and I'd step down. But, if it was an issue that I was indifferent to or had mixed feelings about, I'd probably be okay with it.

This all being said, I think Reddit is a smart, educated community that generally will make the right call on issues.

MongoloidEsquire1 karma

So you basically want to be "the voice of the internet" so long as it aligns with your opinions?

Great start guys.

masstermind2 karma

That's... not what I said at all.

[deleted]1 karma

I'm going to overseas during that time frame. How do I vote? Yes, I register to vote.

masstermind1 karma

Get an absentee ballot!

testdex1 karma

I feel really ambivalent about this. Despite the fact that Lamar Smith might well deserve an unseating, I dislike PACs and how they empower people with money (and friends with money) in elections. When I see a mud slinging/ anti-gay/ anti-evolution/ whatever nasty thing PAC doing its work, I can hardly think "yay for democracy". I guess it's a dirty game, but I'm not keen to be a dirty player.

masstermind1 karma

Don't lump all PACs together. There is a big difference betweena PAC like ours and a "Super PAC".