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. Marc Strand

    Apparently the NRCC doesn't feel it has enough positive things to say about its own candidates, so once again they feel the need to take the low road. "Clever", Mr Scarpinato, is not the same as wise....or honest or ethical, for that matter.

    February 6, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  2. jmidnite2000

    I follow mostly liberal news sites and these GOP guys are clever...dont trust

    February 6, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  3. Money$

    These people can't even just be honest and win, they need to trick the dumb and gullible into voting for them. Why can't some just give the truth and actually mean it?

    February 6, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  4. Randy Buist

    Pathetic. A complete loss of any moral compass.

    February 6, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  5. mdupoise

    This should be illegal. Where is the moral fibre in this country anymore? The reason this country was formed was to escape the excessive taxes, political corruption and religious persecution of the age but we seem to have embraced all of that again to the inth degree. So, I say to the American people, where are the protests? where is the outrage where is the force of will where is the FORCE to make change!!!!!!

    February 6, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  6. Skeptic

    I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you!

    Republicans know how to use computers?

    February 6, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  7. what's new?

    Whatever party does this, it is dishonest. No one can talk me into believing otherwise.

    February 6, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  8. wow

    The internet may not be policed for accuracy, but I for one use it to find great information, as do many in my generation. We see the internet as a valuable tool, not something to be screwed up or made worse. Besides the ethical issues with what the Republicans are doing here, there is just a simple lack of respect for technology by them creating these bogus sites.

    That being said, I think Republicans are the least experienced with the internet, and they'll probably be the ones who find the phoney sites, while those of us who are more tech savy will be better equipped to ignore these bad resources.

    February 6, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  9. Jim

    Judging from the example I can't why anyone would anyone have to read the fine print. Any average person would have figured out by the end of the first line that this is not a pro John Lewis website.

    February 6, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  10. Hey

    I despise the GOP and their lies.

    February 6, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  11. Steve Allard

    The GOP knows it can't win a fair election. INstead of doing some soul searching they are trying to figure out how to win an unfair election.

    February 6, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  12. wildflower528

    What a sneaky, dishonest, and pathetic thing to do..all typical attributes of the republican party.

    February 6, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  13. Kuron

    Figures, they know they can't win by playing fair. If the Dems did this to them they would demand people be arrested.

    February 6, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  14. Jackson

    They're proud of their deception.

    That's the GOP in a nutshell.

    February 6, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  15. Hatch

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

    February 6, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  16. llmb

    The Democratic site address is clearly democratic, whereas the fake John Lewis site is not clearly Republican. This is a big difference. Very deceptive and sad.

    February 6, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  17. patrice

    And the message is – Lie. Cheat. Steal. Lie Again. Do whatever it takes to win. I don't care which side is doing it, this is a deplorable message to send to voters and would-be voters. Most people already have no problem not trusting politicians. And this is going to make it better how? Reading this article made my jaw drop, but I'm a trusting soul...

    February 6, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  18. eric

    I cant belive this is legal but what can you expect with crooked politics in america

    February 6, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. Big Ben

    Everyone already knows the GOP is the most dishonest, fake, party of people. All they do is distort, distort, and lie about the facts. The only people that believes them are the people that watch that Propaganda Channel owned by the GOP.

    February 6, 2014 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  20. Chris

    I'm a Republican and I think this sounds like a bad idea. There's stepping up close to the line and then there is standing right on the line pretending that the line has moved or something. I wish that both sides would work to be blameless in their efforts to elect quality candidates rather than trying to be the closest to breaking the rules.

    February 6, 2014 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  21. Luis H. Hernandez

    The Repugs keep on showing their true colors, liars and cheats.

    February 6, 2014 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  22. Jeehwan Steve

    And you don't think the Dems do the same way? You think Dems are all honest and keep their political integrity? Geesh. This should not be news for both the GOP or the Dems.

    February 6, 2014 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  23. Mike

    I realize the content of the site clearly bashes the candidate, but the header at the top suggests it is a site FOR the candidate. Imagine that somebody sees the candidate speak and decides they want to donate so they Google him and wind up on one of these fake sites. If you're not paying attention and reading all the small stuff, it'd be very easy to inadvertently donate to the other side. People, particularly the older people, will not look at the fine print. This isn't quite a scam, but it's borderline.

    February 6, 2014 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  24. CALIFORNIA

    That should balance out the voter fraud the dems have been doing for years now. Dead people and Mickey can't vote democrats.

    February 6, 2014 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  25. Larry38363

    The Republican Party has turned into nothing less than a Party obsessed with destroying the United States of America and all the people (except for the 1%) that live here. It's really sad since I've watched my Republican friends no longer willing to discuss differences and philosophies, but now there is only ONE side, theirs. This is NOT the way America is supposed to work, but I guess that's the way it is these days. Too bad!. At one point it was We The People. Now it's them and us. I'm sorry, but that's not what this country was or is all about! Now they are not just thieves, their perpetrating fraud on The American People!

    February 6, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
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