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. someguywithakeyboard

    heh while the actual url of the site is kinda misleading the content is obviously pro Republican. I dont see how anyone would ever think otherwise. It clearly and easily states on the site who is responsible for it. I guess the republicans are trying to fight back against the people that spent all there time trash talking republicans on the internet during the last campaign. Its well know the Dems would flood republican stories and youtube videos etc... with anti republican sentiment. seems they are just getting a taste of their own medicine. I am sure they will play the innocent card and only the truly naive will fall for it.

    February 6, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  2. Cs

    THIS is why I will never trust the far right republican officials. You can bet your bottom dollar that they would be crying foul if they caught the democratic party doing it. It would be Fox new headlines for weeks.

    February 6, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  3. Rob

    This is shocking. I mean, politics are always so honest. What's up with this??

    February 6, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  4. Namer rs

    Dear GOP-

    This is called fraud. You people don't belong in office, you belong in jail!

    February 6, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  5. Econ for dummies

    wow this clearly violates consumer protection laws since many of these sites have asked for donations.

    February 6, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  6. narutogrey

    The article should add that these sites are also tricking democrat voters into accidentally donating money to the republican rival. You go to a site with your democrat candidate's name in the domain and click the donate button, you assume that's who you are donating to. Instead, the republicans are using the fake website tactic to in essence steal money from democrat voters.

    February 6, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  7. hrothvitnir

    Can't win an election? You can either : A, gracefully accept your defeat ; or B, cheat like hell.
    Apparently the Republican party prefers plan B.

    February 6, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  8. Tariq Singh

    How is this deceptive? The website clearly states it was made by the Republican party and says not to support John Lewis. This is a non story.

    February 6, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. Rob

    Considering the GOP has been deceiving people for so long, it was only a matter of time I guess.

    February 6, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  10. sally

    There is no level the GOP will not stoop down to. They are totally untrustworthy!

    February 6, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  11. John

    If you can't win votes by selling your program then lie, lie, lie. There are enough low information voters that some of the lies stick. Do republicans really want "no child left behind"? Not really. It's not in their best interest.

    February 6, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  12. Walter

    At this point, what difference does it make?

    February 6, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  13. democraze

    The GOP can't win a face to face elec tion, so they are reduced to dishonesty. Similar to the 4 hour election day waits in Florida.

    February 6, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  14. james r

    Re-registered as an INDEPENDENT last month; apparently I made the right call.

    February 6, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  15. Why

    The GOP is Doomed when they have to resort to these shady tactics. They can't win with a decent republican candidate. They can't win with their policies and they can't win with their War On the American People.

    February 6, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  16. Walter

    If you like your informative Web site, you can keep your informative Web site.

    February 6, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  17. Evan

    This is completely fraudulent regardless of what political party is doing it. It may not be illegal per say, but that sure as hell is not ethical and just demonstrates the lengths that parties go to.

    February 6, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  18. DC Observer

    Why not fake websites? After all, we have a fake Senate and a fake in the Oval Office

    February 6, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  19. Ken

    See, this is exactly why voting for anything in this country has become a worthless idea. Republicans cant stop the public from voting, they cant cheat the votes, they cant take the right to vote away, so they stoop to new lows to make educated voting impossible by impersonation and lies. Why should we trust a party that does this?

    If Republicans cant win on their own merit then they shouldn't run at all.

    February 6, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  20. EBenson

    Buyer beware! Well, anyone living in a free speech system such as the US beware. Of course the Republican specialists are creating fake websites. I believe that the Democrats can match the Republicans fib for fib - you can even throw in the Whigs or the Puritans for that matter.

    The main issue, for me, is whether the government and its derivatives such as the IRS are fibbing to me, spying on me, or tricking me in some way. Since I help pay their salary, I expect them to be punished for doing so.

    February 6, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  21. Name

    Just another little bit if evidence that our government (all of it, not just republicans) is nothing but a big joke. There is nothing even resembling integrity or honor. We are a nation run by cheats, scammers, liars and manipulators on both sides. And the sad thing is its considered clever. Oh what a joke we have become.

    February 6, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  22. kenmac8

    I say we fire all of you and hire on local candidates that aren't corrupt and puppets for whoever has the most money. Votes should not be ever be bought. I can guarantee you every politician currently in office regardless of party has been bought off in one way or another for their votes. It has been a long time since the politicians have actually worked for the people.

    February 6, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  23. ironman59

    We have been waiting for it to happen. The gop has officially hit a new high (or in this case low) on the sleaze meter. This shows why they are so out of touch with the voters. They think running a "scam" website is how to be ethical & upfront.

    February 6, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  24. DJL

    Just when you (maybe) thought US politics couldn't get any lower...

    February 6, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  25. VonPapen

    This should not be legal.

    February 6, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
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