February 6th, 2014
05:54 PM ET
4 years ago

National Republican Congressional Campaign using fake Democrat websites to lure voters

(CNN) - A warning this election season: If you are searching the Web for information on Democratic congressional candidates, read the fine print.

At least 15 websites that appear to be official campaign sites for Democratic candidates, are actually the handiwork of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

In an effort to improve their online efforts this election season, the NRCC’s digital team came up with what the group believes is a great idea: get out the Republican message through fake Democrat sites.

“The idea is people who are looking for information on the candidate, one of the places we all go now is online and so this is a way for folks to find out more about the candidates and information they may not find on the candidate’s own site,” said Daniel Scarpinato, the NRCC's press secretary.

The NRCC bought up hundreds of URLs on potential weak Democratic candidates and created sites that mimic the real ones.

It may sound deceiving, but Scarpinato insists the well-thought out, well-planned program is pure genius.

”Well, we are very proud of this program.”

Montana Democratic congressional candidate John Lewis has a different opinion.

Lewis is one of the Democrats who Republicans have targeted with their own site called JohnLewis4congress.com.

”I have seen a lot of unfortunate uses of deception in the last few elections,” Lewis told CNN. “This is just another in a long list of that.”

Lewis said Montana voters will be able to “see right through a website that is based on deception.” Still he bemoans what he calls outside interests backed by “dark money” trying to trick voters in his state.

Scarpinato at the NRCC says there are no tricks at all and disputes anyone’s claim that the sites are deceptive.

“I think that sites are clear in terms of the disclosure and the content where were coming from,” Scarpinato said. “And I also think it’s important for voters to get all the perspectives on the candidates. So just as a candidate is going to put information out about themselves, we’re going to put out information about the candidate that they are not putting out that we think is important for voters to know.”

And to do that, the National Republican Congressional Campaign says it will expand its building of fake sites.

Do Democrats do it, too?

The NRCC press secretary told us the Republican strategy is cleverer, but that Democrats have done the same thing.

One day after CNN’s interview Scarpinato directed CNN to a site mocking a Republican built by the Florida State Democratic Party, which the national Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee insists it had nothing to do with.

In a statement to CNN, the DCCC wrote, “It is not the DCCC’s practice to make websites that could be confused with the opponents site.”

Undeterred, the National Republican Congressional Committee thinks it has a winner and will create more fake websites as the 2014 midterm elections draw near.


Filed under: DCCC • NRCC
soundoff (1,426 Responses)
  1. HereticX

    No surprise here. GOP is always about deception and misinformation. Par for the course.

    February 6, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  2. Kg

    For every underhanded tactic the GOPs use, the Dem have at least 10 in their bag of tricks to get elected,

    February 6, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  3. eqgold

    Well, this is no surprise really. The republican playbook has most recently relied on deception, voter suppression, misinformation, misdirection etc. The goal is to win. Integrity, ethics and such are for wimps.

    February 6, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  4. Tara

    Do they not think that American voters deserve to be treated with respect? What happened to ethics and integrity?

    February 6, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  5. tpobrienjr

    Another reason for me to remain an ex-Republican. I think the KKK would be proud.

    February 6, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  6. never will vote gop

    Typical. We have no ideas worth voting for. Solution – let's trick people into voting for us. We dont want you voting for us because we have the best platform but rather because we can be the most underhanded. I am so proud of our GOP of today.

    February 6, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  7. Scott L

    Seriously, only in the most corrupt societies are the politicians allowed to mis-represent themselves online, hide campaign contributions, hide supporters behind fake names and no one even questions the morality of it.

    February 6, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  8. Leftcoastrocky

    Wow, the GOP is taking a page out of Tricky Dick's playbook.

    February 6, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  9. John Christopher

    Mr. Scarpinato seems awfully proud of himself. I suspect that the sites will be forced to be removed once the FTC steps in. Creating these sites is deceptive and the NRCC might even get sued or at least fined.

    Registering a domain name (URL as they refers to them in the story), of a known public figure is not allowed by most Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The terms of service agreement usually covers this and in most cases an ISP will shutdown the website or turn the domain over to the rightful party. Lastly, using the photo of a person on a website without their permission is not legal.

    What really bothers me about this story is just how Scarpinato calls this "brilliant". It’s not brilliant. It simply confirms the ignorance and lack of integrity the NRCC is so proud to display these days.

    February 6, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  10. ean

    Looking at the site you would have to be a moron to actually be deceived by this. It is clearly not a trick.

    February 6, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  11. Scott Rice

    So.... both sides do it, but only Republicans get the headline. Typical, CNN

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  12. Havanaclipper

    This is why the GOP is the party of division, hatred and vitriol. The very fact that they think this type of deception is OK speaks to their true nature. No denying it. Just because it's legal, doesn't make it ethical, or moral. Some idiot in the party proposed this idea, ran it up the chain of senior idiots and the board must have said "Yes". Pathetic.

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  13. TurnTexasBlue

    Al Franken had it right: Lying Liars

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  14. Kelley

    If you can't win fair and square you shouldn't be running. Such deceptions are truly reprehensible no matter which "side" is doing it. Though it does seem to me that the conservative side avails itself of the deception tactics much more than liberals or libertarians.

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  15. YoonYoungJo

    This is politics at its dirtiest. But if its legal its legal. Wonder if it would ever be possible to clean up the rules or if its just too complicated. Its becoming obvious world war 3 is not going to be faught on land, sea or air. World War 3 is going to be faught on the Politicol stage.

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  16. Mike in Texas

    Since they have no record to run on and have no new ideas it doesn't surprise me. If people are gullible enough to vote them in then they deserve them. Maybe we need another Republican controlled congress and White House for enough people to realize the Republican party does not support progress but instead promotes outdated policies and has an outdated belief system. Maybe WalMart CEO's can get a few more billion dollars while their employees receive government subsidies. Biggest lie of the year isn't "you can keep your insurance" it's "the rich are job creators".

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  17. MrMightyHigh

    There's no comparison between those fake websites. The Republicans' fake sites use names that normally would sound supportive for the candidate; the Democrats' "fake" site referenced in this article is in the domain for "floridadems.org."
    Republicans know their policies are contrary to most Americans' interests, so they have to resort to deception and gerrymandering to hold onto the House. Even worse they are proud of it. Such great values in the Greedy Ol' Party!

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  18. Greg

    Not shocking news but it is disappointing that the RNC thinks it needs to trick people to win elections.

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  19. policial

    All we need to know about cnn's bias.

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  20. Peter

    They are really scraping bottom of the barrel. I suppose people will do whatever they can when they're desperate.

    February 6, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  21. Erik

    Really? This is the best the pubs could come up with?

    February 6, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  22. glorydays

    Oh good grief. They are so dishonest.

    February 6, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  23. Dan

    Pretty much what you would expect from the republicans, they have nothing to run on so deception and blocking voters is the only way they can win.

    February 6, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  24. Rich

    The GOP just keeps getting sleazier.

    February 6, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  25. tony

    Next they will pretend to be democratic candidates on our voting forms, as a "stroke of genius".

    The new GOP is absolutely corrupt and will do anything to overthrow our US democracy. It's Treason by any other name.

    February 6, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
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