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. Fred Ectempt

    Just the latest ruse from a party that can't get enough people to vote for their radical stands and policies in an honest election..

    February 6, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  2. smelledge

    This is what we've come to? And which "family value" does this represent?

    February 6, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  3. Yawn

    Dirty tricks in elections? No, say it ain't so, Joe. Blah, blah, blah. Drew, are you a Democrat?

    February 6, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  4. smelledge

    And which "family value" does this represent?

    February 6, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  5. cavepainter

    The first thing that came to mind was Greenpeace's fake Shell oil website.

    It'd be really cool if people could work together to improve the world instead of "winning" simply by making the other team look bad, but it seems that's how a lot of these games are played.

    February 6, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  6. Robert Martinez

    Why "Voter Beware" if the message is true then let it be heard! PS: I'm an independant.

    February 6, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  7. Tom

    Thank god theydon't have any ethics to get in the way!

    February 6, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  8. andyoo

    it's not fake web site.. it's just buy up domain names and point to other sites.
    they never pretend to be a democrat web site or have fake democrat materials
    ...just re-direct names you are searching.
    it happens on internet all the time. what's a big deal? there is no scams pretending what it's not.
    CNN write just found out about internet and starting surfing today? this ain't no news. I can find democrat doing the same.

    February 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  9. Wade

    It would be a crying shame if a young potential voter were to get some facts about socialist candidates. NOT.
    Leave it to CNN to make the story a headline. Bahahaha!

    February 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  10. stevie68a

    Republicans are desperate. They can't win fair and square, so they resort to the lowest of the low. Hopefully, this is
    another nail in their coffin.

    February 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  11. Kelley

    Is the author of this article tipping his hand? The DCCC is appropriately the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Not The "Democrat...".

    Please don't tell me the Republican brain-washing efforts of the last few years ("let's all say Democrat Party instead of Democratic, and spit it out like a pejorative term, and people will start to hate those commies over there") has actually worked!

    I don't care a whit one way or the other, they can all go to heck, but writers should be more careful.

    February 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  12. Rez

    Let’s see . . . fraud, subterfuge, and outright deception–yes this sounds exactly like the GOP I've come to know and detest.

    February 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  13. Scott

    What is really Fake about any website? It's not fake. It's just another political ploy by a desperate party to draw in the gullible reader to see "their" candidate as an alternative. Anyone should be able to discern whether the site they are visiting is actually representative of their personal values and what's important to them as a voter...The site are quite real, and should tell you the viewer fairly quickly that if their views are similar to yours. It's called deceptive not fake. if It promises/draws you to something that a real voter with real intelligence might immediately see as deceptive advertising. It's a gimmick. Good luck with that. But what have voters really ever gotten from our so called democracy but genuine gimmickry from both parties. The act of a desperate person is to often rely on deception to have that chance and this will I believe ultimately back fire. Just my humble opinion, some of us will see it for what it really is.

    February 6, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  14. DustyOnes

    Another lesson learned from MoveOn and MediaMatters.......GOP's turn.

    February 6, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  15. Adam

    Honestly im getting tired of the constant slander of only republicans why dont you guys ever talk bad about Democrats...

    February 6, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  16. josh rogen

    what's good for the goose...

    February 6, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  17. CAW

    Well... As an independent voter I have to be very concerned about these acts.

    February 6, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  18. Adam

    Honestly im getting tired of the constant slander of only republicans why don't you guys ever talk bad about Democrats...

    February 6, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  19. Chad

    The sites might be more humorous or infuriating than anything else. The websites clearly aren't deceptive; just the name of the websites are deceptive. Maybe more confusing than deceptive. I don't know what benefits these site offer. I think they benefit the opposition more than anything else by infuriating the opposition and giving them more impetus to fight.

    February 6, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  20. Kim

    The repukes are dying. Bye, bye.

    February 6, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  21. George Hoguet

    I suppose some think this is just genius. To me, it perfectly represents how far the Republican brand has slide down hill. Instead of talking about the real issues, they get slick and sleazy. I guess they want to be the party of deception.

    February 6, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  22. Hewitt Rose

    If one side has to resort to deception in order win, and, when caught at it, defend deception, then you really have all you need to decide on which candidate to vote for. Republicans, who appeal to a dwindling number of cranky old white men, try to maintain their power through budget extortion, filibuster abuse, voter repression, and now website deception.

    February 6, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  23. carey

    In my business we build relationships based on trust. If a person tries to trick me, I lose respect for that person.

    These people with their fake websites are not the strong Republicans of the past. People like James Baker, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, and George Schulz were all tough but fair. What the heck do we have now?

    February 6, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  24. Name. G

    Are we really that stupid? Vote them all out!

    February 6, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  25. Kings on the Back Row

    ..
    ..NIXON said that he was not a crook....DUBYA said that WMD's grew like Scotch broom in Iraq...REAGAN said that he could not remember 50 TIMES!
    ..
    ,,GOP fake website --- small little red potatoes !
    ..

    February 6, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
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