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. WEEDY

    Hilarious.... get that message out there...

    February 6, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  2. Jay

    This is sickening. News organizations focused on entertainment rather than truth. Voters that can't differential fantasy from reality. Big money cynically exploiting these trends. If it was a foreigner that made such a malicious anti-American website to deceptively steal money from Americans, they would be water boarded.

    February 6, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  3. Vickie Holbrook

    Maybe President Obama will get to the bottom of that like he has Benghazi, The IRS and the NSA. Maybe he'll write a speech about it, that'll fix it.

    February 6, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  4. TripleA

    So this makes big headlines, with one little snippet that Democrats do it to. If thus is so, then 2 questions.

    1. why did it not make CNN's headlines before.

    2. When it does finally make the headlines why is it just GOP in the headlines.

    The Liberal media thinks that America is just a bunch of mindless sheep. But then I guess about 50 percent of us are...

    February 6, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  5. Tony

    So deception is now officially a part of the Republican Party's strategy. Are there no decent Republicans left?

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

    Many watched in horror the 9/11 attack said to be done by Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. But with the only response by Bin Laden who said no one would ever have to attack the US again as the US would be destroyed from within. Well I often questioned what that message was and now it sees Bin Laden knew back in 2001 what the plans were for the USA. Using people like Snowden, racism, false information and out right lies it seems the Koch Bros will soon control the US Government. After forming a nation for the people we will soon have a Dictator in charge. Smart move by David/Charles Koch to use the greedy and ignorant Americans to gather others. Other nations can learn how the US tried to form a perfect Union only to be taken like other great nations before this.

    February 6, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  7. Dave

    You mean to tell me that the REPUBLICAN"S are starting to do what the DEMOCRATS have done for years, cheat, lie, and steal? Shame on them for trying to level the playing field. Next they will want voter ID to prove that the voters are only voting once or issue instructions on how to vote over and over and over again, right out of the Democratic play book!

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

    Democrats stink, but the tGOP is simply a vile group, voted in by vile people for vile, duplicitous causes.

    Why not a false website...they've run nothing but fake governments.

    February 6, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  9. Solange

    I'm so surprised the GOP would resort to such dirty tricks! They should stick to the honest tactics they've used so far such as gerrymandering districts to lump black voters into one district, making it harder for people to vote, using southern strategy to stoke racial resentment against whites, etc. At least back then they had the moral high ground! This, THIS is just going TOO FAR!!!!

    February 6, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  10. No one

    O.C.G.A. § 16-9-109.1 (2013)
    For violating (b) you are guilty of a felony according to (c). Well done GOP.

    February 6, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  11. cdub

    Wow...Seriously? Both sides crossed the line with the patriot act and the NSA scandal already but this bs is just "stupid", and that's the only way one can describe it. They know the casual web browser wouldn't have a clue-they really believe we are, as citizens, that naive. It's false advertisement (by implanting the idea the site was made and approved by that candidate, and i'd say same regardless of party) and defamation of character (again, i'd say same regardless of party) by creating a site and "alluding" to it being tied to him.

    February 6, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  12. Paul

    Republicans using voter suppression like tactics?

    Color me not surprised, it's second nature to them.

    And for the party that doesn't care about real pollution why would they care about web pollution?

    February 6, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  13. Herewe Goagain

    Its okay. CNN has been using its fake news site for years to get out their message.

    February 6, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  14. mckemaus

    What's our views on e-mails and/or FB accounts that pretend to be someone else to set them in bad light?

    I hope campaigners from both parties have more integrity than average spammer or trolls.

    February 6, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  15. Yes I have one

    Surprisingly enough you don't have to be tricked to be a Republican. The most successful method is to start by not being a Democrat.

    February 6, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  16. Ed T Duck

    It's clearly deceptive. You go to the website and the first two things that stand out are "JOHN LEWIS FOR CONGRESS" then a big "DONATE" button. Clicking the button takes you to a form and only in small print at the bottom of the page do you see the money goes to the NRCC.

    February 6, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  17. Milk Toast

    So....is this a new low in American politics?

    February 6, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  18. Felonius Monkey

    Unbelievable gall....If I'd seen this anywhere else I'd have thought it was an Onion story.

    February 6, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  19. Zayah V

    The smell of desperation in a party rapidly disappearing into oblivion.

    February 6, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  20. atienne

    NICE: This is whats wrong with politics these days. Cant win on your ideas then slam someone else. I say nuke em all and start over.

    February 6, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  21. santiago beltran

    Damn foul and underhanded republicans!

    February 6, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  22. Pchang

    I think this violates ICANN's fair use regulations on domain names. The actual candidates should be able to seize these domains and point them to the actual web site.

    February 6, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  23. Ross

    Deception is a tool of the Devil. ”Well, we are very proud of this program.” I'm sure the Devil is equally pleased and proud of them, but likely the Good Lord is NOT so pleased with these "So-called Good Christians".

    February 6, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  24. Bob S

    Not that politicians are ever honest. But this seems extra dishonest and disingenuous.

    February 6, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  25. mckemaus

    What's our views when we receive e-mails and/or see fake FB accounts that pretend to be someone else, to set them in bad light?

    I hope campaigners from both parties have more integrity than average spammer or trolls.

    February 6, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
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