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. wirius

    Well isn't that all kinds of lovely. If you can't get people to vote being honest, lie to them instead.

    February 6, 2014 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  2. David F Bowman

    CNN is reporting a controversial website while the President and the US Attorney General conspire to conceal an abuse of power by the IRS.

    Please...save the indignation. If CNN had any integrity it would be pursuing the IRS story independently.

    February 6, 2014 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  3. Rocky Landing

    What a surprise.

    February 6, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  4. Nick

    Yup, I am sure Nixon thought it was a great idea to break into Watergate.

    Do Reps have so little to offer that the only "genius" they can come up with are ways how to spread misinformation?

    February 6, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  5. Ralter

    "You see, the voters just don't -understand- our message, that's the problem."

    February 6, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  6. jeff

    More fake things from the GOP – brilliant.

    February 6, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  7. Jeff

    Every time I get disillusioned with the Democratic party and think about looking at the Republican party, something like this happens. These types of antics, antics wholeheartedly endorsed by the NRCC (based on the spokespersons remarks), really make me not want to vote for any Republican, ever.

    February 6, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  8. TRM

    It is a shame they can't give us usothing to vote for instead of always "against". Deception, bullying, dishonesty, etc.. How does anyone think this is a good idea? In addition, these fresh faced little web developers may find themselves starting a cyber war they won't be able to finish!

    So sad. And here I thought with the tea party moving to the side lines, the GOP May once more become a viable contender.

    February 6, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  9. Tom in Desoto, TX

    Who would have guess republicans would that? And people thought Richard Nixon was a slime ball. In recent times it's been reported the republican party is divided, between the 18th and 19th century "thinking"

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  10. Jorge

    Why don't you mention the thousands of Republican websites created by Democrats to demonize the Tea Party??

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  11. SFC Mike

    So is this the GOP concession that they don't think they can win on the merits of their own ideas and programs? They have to play fun and games instead.

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  12. Art

    Given the GOP's track record this isn't hard to believe.

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  13. Keyboard Cat

    Not surprising. GOP has been using every dirty tactic in an attempt to stay relevant despite waning support.

    Yet, the liberals are the enemy, huh?

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  14. brian matthews

    Here is an idea how about the GOP and the DEMS stop lying and deceiving and start being Americans and do whats right by us and not yourselves. I think we should FIRE all members of congress and start over with good ol common sense Americans.

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  15. Paco Charte

    What else is new? With their ever shrinking voter base, the Republicans have no choice but to resort to scare tactics, rigging the voting machines, lies, gerrymandering and any number of other illegal practices to discourage people from voting Democrat.

    Not your father's GOP? My father never voted GOP.

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  16. PJS

    I guess they know they can not win any other way. Why not talk about jobs, the economy, the deficit, healthcare. They have to trick people. that is just sad.

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  17. Kieran

    They say there's no trickery and the sites disclose their purpose. Then why use something like johnlewis4congress.com as an address? If the site is designed to prevent Lewis's election, then using an address like that is most definitely a trick.

    February 6, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  18. T E X A S

    I wouldn't expect anything less.

    February 6, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  19. Carol

    How can anyone be deceived about who put this out? It tells you National Republican congressional Committee on the bottom of the page.

    February 6, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  20. iBod

    Republicans never cease to hide their corrupted capabilities. Election Fraud. Plain and Simple.

    February 6, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  21. Whitley

    This is why nobody likes them.

    February 6, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  22. JAEIT

    Careful GOP, your genius is showing.

    February 6, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  23. Fred G. Sanford

    Republicans couldn't be elected dog catcher without resorting to lies and dirty tricks.

    February 6, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  24. AIR

    LOL CNN strikes again with quality non-partisan reporting and "story" selection.

    February 6, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  25. doc77

    Nothing like a lie to try to tell the truth. We'll be on the lookout for these deceptions.

    February 6, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
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