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. ErikF

    I checked out several of the websites, it requires a person with an IQ above 3 to figure out that these are "dont vote" for said person, I hardly see any difference then the stuff (and I mean really illegal activties) the Democrates have done the last six years, although the republicans dont have lies and half trurths like the democrats or video's showing starving old people that the democrates used three years ago, Nice to see CNN reporting the news in a fair manner....lol – NOT !

    February 6, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. Norma Vessels

    Deceitful, and unbecoming for members of Congress ., though I'm not surprised at the Republicans thinking it is a pretty neat idea. I hate the deceit, but I hope the Democrats turn the tables on you all, and do the same to you.

    February 6, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. HenryNewton32

    The Washington Post has its fake GOP counterpart called The Washington Times.
    The New York Times has its fake GOP counterpart called the New York Post.
    The GOP is good at lying.

    February 6, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  4. john

    So to get people to trust you is to initially deceive them? I would agree it wasn't deceitful if the giant large image didn't say "John Lewis For Congress". The entire large image, left and top, gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling. Than it goes into its attack on John Lewis. The way I see it being clever, is to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling to continue to read which than draws you in more as you read what it specifies. Which is the polar opposite of what you got from the images. It's a clever marketing strategy in that regard but to say it is not deceitful I would disagree with.

    February 6, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  5. jake

    the teapublican party has sunk to new low. (i know, "you can't possibly get any lower.") but this proves the point. congressmen and senators used to be held in high esteem. the modern teapublican party has relegated being elected to the u.s. congress to a position below used car salesmen, personal injury attorneys, and late night cable t.v. weird kitchen appliance pitchmen.

    lucky for the u.s., the right thinks that they don't win elections because they are not far enough right.......

    February 6, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  6. Timothy Johnson

    What a sham. Another massively slanted CNN article masquerading as news. Admits in the content that both sides do it but that's buried way down in the article. How much longer will this country need to be brainwashed by the media before it wakes up. Note that other sites are no better; e.g. foxnews, huffingtonpost, etc. America's media is a travesty of corruption, much the same that our democracy has become at the hands of the power hungry political elite. Wake up America, we no longer live in a democracy.

    February 6, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  7. Owen

    I didn't think the GOP could get any lower. But wow. Just wow.

    February 6, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  8. karek40

    Finally the GOP is getting as smart as the Democrats. For years democrats have been registering as republicans and running for office. Your choice has been a democrat or a democrat. Do you really see much difference between Bush and Obama. Both increased our involvement in foreign wars, both increased our national debt dramatically. Both increased EPA regulations and drove companies to out source. Both saw high unemployment and functioned behind closed doors while saying their regime would be transparent. Not much difference.

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  9. Don

    ***Socialist news media
    As a news "junkie," everyday I read MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and of course, CNN. (Including comments.) It is very obvious that the American citizens are slowly awakening to the failure of our Socialist experiment with Pelosi/Reid/Obama. Even CBS is starting to report un-slanted news but woefully, MSNBC and CNN have not yet notice their precipitous lowering of viewers and commentator"s attempt to correct MSNBC and CNN's slanted tacks.

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  10. mike roblee

    so the dems have been using dead voters for years

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  11. Freeman

    Everything about the GOP is fake ,,except their greed

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  12. Someguysarerude

    Yeah. Some day soon I expect the GOP is going to break the envelope of credibility they keep stretching and do something that will put them entirely Out of Business.
    Damned liars like Darrell Issa creating fake scandals. Roger Ailes using Fox to spread propaganda nation-wide. These aren't chargeable crimes, just crimes against truth. But soliciting funds under false pretenses seems completely illegal.
    Of course, they'll claim some kind of persecution and disavow knowing anything bout it, right?

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  13. Smeagel4T

    Lying and deception, the new GOP "family value".

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  14. Sean

    So this is what they've lowered themselves to? Wow..they really are desperate

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  15. Ed Swanson

    What ever happened to arguing issues? I think every American, regardless of party affiliation, should be nauseated by this kind of trickery.

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  16. Joe Scharf

    Too Far!

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  17. Plutocracypolitician

    Bridge closures, rigged counts, voter ID laws...is there anything the GOP won't stoop to?

    February 6, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  18. MM

    Americans expect transparency from all political figures they elect. Unfortunately, all we see is deceit, fraud, etc. I can understand if this type of campaign was initiated by a single politician but the NRC? It goes to show why Americans continue to lose faith in politicians. There should be an establishment of repurcussions when unethical behavior is evident. And not judged by fellow politicians, let America decide.

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

    While perhaps not illegal, this is deceptive....as it is meant to be. In my opinion it is a form of lying. Most of my voting life (52 years) I tend to think Republican. However since the Tea Party came along, I am disgusted with the behavior of the Republican Party.

    February 6, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  20. Charles Pennington

    This practice stinks. To deliberately steal a voter's contribution in this fashion, and then proudly declare it a "stroke of genius", really makes me question the thought process and ethics that the party is using to try and lead us. I do not trust any of them.

    I just tore up my voter registration card.

    February 6, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  21. Mike

    I think it is hilarious that this "story" even exists considering the fraud perpetrated on the American people that resulted in Obama being put into office.

    Clearly "hypocrisy in action" is not an issue that concerns the democratic party.

    February 6, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  22. Lou

    Wow! The GOP has sunk even lower than I could have ever imagined! Any honest conservative would be outraged! Too bad not many "honest" conservatives exist....

    February 6, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  23. Nick

    Not surprised. More desperate moves. They are spamming the hell out of me too, especially the AFP. These people need to go.

    February 6, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  24. jg1320

    The system itself is broken. The two party system has been proven time and time again to not work. The game is rigged. I propose a three party system. The democrats, the republicans, and a third party similar to the republicans but without all the crazies and extremists who give them a bad name.

    Politics should be clear and transparent for the masses. Any party that resorts to cheap manipulation of its supporters does not deserve my vote.

    February 6, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  25. glauber

    Man, these people are getting worse and worse. Their own party is self-destructing, so what do they do instead of take care of business within the party to determine its direction and win more elections? Crap like this.

    February 6, 2014 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
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