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. TheProblemIsWhat

    The problem is what, exactly? People should be voting based on where the politician stands on issues... not on a Republican/Democrat/Insert-your-party-here label.

    February 6, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  2. Michelle

    It's a shame that this doesn't surprise me. Both sides pull this kind of crap!

    February 6, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  3. rjrock

    While the tactics described here aren't against the law, they are certainly unethical. There's is little doubt that deceptively trying to manipulate a voters information environment is wrong. Then again, we put up with it everywhere: all advertising is deceptive. Of course, if we want our government built in the same way Marlboro built their brand, then we'll get the government we deserve.

    February 6, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  4. ana

    Anyone with half a brain can tell that this is an opposition site.

    February 6, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  5. liberal disease

    now they are playing the same game as the libs do and i bet the libs don't like it..
    its like the tea party, how dare they protest, that our thing!

    February 6, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. cwj

    Just in case you didn't get that Republican politicians are dishonest already.

    February 6, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  7. buffalo

    How truly sad. Unable to win on their own merit, they will lose because of the lack of it.

    February 6, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. john rosen

    The article, a number of times, refers to "fake websites". There is nothing fake about any of these websites. Clearly, there is full disclosure. The fake website of historical proportions is "Obamacare.gov.

    February 6, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  9. Crocker

    NOT a good idea at all. If the GOP can't get their message out without being deceitful then it isn't worth hearing about.

    This is from a died in the wool Republican. Do it right or don't bother.

    February 6, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    dirty rotten republicans, opps, repugnants!

    February 6, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  11. Wade

    Why not CNN refuses to tell you the truth about the dems the dems lie about what the GOP stand for and CNN alolows them to get away with it so why not. If CNN and the DEMS can cheat and lie then why not?

    February 6, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  12. Name

    In all this trenching munevery going on today with head's of state's offices know reason they are displaying themselves as someone else identify-theif they would call it to be so on low and middle class citizens say it arin't so then again get you agendas for this country together and get over your e-go men and women that call themselves our leaders in house city, state, government, mayors, legislation's branch , congress, military, supreme court's and all that follows under them and the next ccandidate's who remotely will stay on the lossing track for cheating their way in life and in business administration for riches and never want to work you all making such a big fuss about.Oh by the way I'm the one you owe all the money to unemployment compensation sums to here in Montgomery, Alabama.

    February 6, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  13. Hatch

    "Well, we are very proud of this program."
    That says everything you ever need to know about the GOP.

    February 6, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  14. SonnyKC

    This shows how desperate they are. They will do anything to win but this won't work either. Their ideas are way off the planet. The war on women is just a small sample. .They have done to much damage and if re-elected the damage will continue

    February 6, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  15. Casey

    This is borderline fraud. Ever type in a website's URL an misspell the name? leave a "g" out of Google, transpose the "c" and "r" in Microsoft? Misspell "Wikipedia?" Do something like that sometimes you'll get transported to some other website that, at best is trying to profit off the web traffic from typos, at worst, could give your computer a virus or malware. Attempting to impersonate another website is unethical; at least the kind of sites I've mentioned typically don't visually look like the legitimate site, but the GOP's actually taking the charade one step further. Any web developer who does this should be ashamed for enabling this.

    February 6, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  16. Farrok

    The Republican Party is a Criminal enterprise and should be disbanded.

    February 6, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Any reasonable person who visits the site linked in this story would conclude that the RNCC is very straightforward about it being their work. There's no deception about it. This writer obviously has a bias showing through.

    February 6, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  18. JJ_B

    Is this really front page news? I mean does it really need to be the "top story" or first thing I see when I come to read the news. C'mon CNN...stop being so biased.

    February 6, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. cw

    Desperation, thy name is Republican. Can the right get any worse?

    February 6, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. C Faiferlick

    I looked at the web site. I can't see how anybody would be fooled into thinking that they would be contributing to Mr. Lewis. It is clear that the NRCC is critical of Mr. Lewis and the NRCC is raising money to defeat him.
    I think the word "fake" is not correct or a fair use of the word. It is a "mock" web site.
    The NRCC mock web site certainly does not come up as the most likely web site to link to if one were googling Mr. Lewis and Congress.

    February 6, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  21. Kay Lee

    The Spirit of Tricky Dick (Nixon) lives on!

    February 6, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  22. dkeller2929

    it has finally come to a point that the only way republicans will get elected is through deception

    February 6, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  23. Robert

    I say KUDOS to the republicans. Democrats self-disclosure tends to look a lot like some cults... you don`t really know what they`re about untill you`ve sold your soul. If this helps people to know a little more about candidates based on their records instead of just their empty campaign stances – then great!

    February 6, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  24. Hatch

    "Well, we are very proud of this program.”
    That says everything you ever need to know about the GOP.

    February 6, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  25. Chris

    It's difficult enough to find reliable information on the candidates for various government positions. Way to make a mockery of the democratic process Demublicans and Republocrats. These tactics ought to be illegal.

    Hell, they probably are. Who else makes up fake websites? Con artists. There's no doubt now...Congress = con artists.

    February 6, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
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