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. ogletreeseo

    How is this legal. He should be in jail. That is stealing.

    February 6, 2014 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  2. Greg

    How is this not fraud, clearly it deception of goods despite the fine print. The law states, it has to be clearly visible, and obviously this falls under not CLEARLY visible of the true purpose of the site.

    February 6, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  3. L Williams

    Perfectly representative of the GOP's respect for truth and the public trust. And before you apologists jump in and whine that "both sides lie," that's probably true. But only the GOP does it with every breath.

    February 6, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  4. Fake Democrat

    Democrats have been giving Republican advise ever since the establishment of the Tee Party, especially in the comments proffered on this website.

    February 6, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  5. jon

    Will all of these idiots stop at NOTHING to get elected?? Once they do get elected, they do nothing anyway. Great huh?

    February 6, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  6. Philip Bramsen

    The nuances of this article paint the fake websites as deceptively fooling readers into thinking the websites are the real thing. This is seen most clearly in the way John Lewis' quote is presented in the article and statements like the opening paragraph: "If you are searching the Web for information on Democratic congressional candidates, read the fine print."

    In reality, the websites are very clearly (to any reader) not the real thing.

    The charge of deception in this article is the real deception. An honest article would accurately describe what the websites are doing: Tricking readers into coming to them, then very transparently presenting another point of view.

    February 6, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  7. John

    Republicans continue to lose credibility almost daily. They need to kick the Christian theocrats to the curb and rebuild the GOP.

    February 6, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  8. Some Dude in NC

    If anyone believed that the Republicans aren't the party of lies and deception before this... I hope you see now who you are voting for.

    February 6, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  9. Chatmandu002

    Guess who is behind the PAC called the "House Majority PAC". Yeah, that's right, the Democrats.

    February 6, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. Nam

    Guys, are we this desperate?

    February 6, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  11. Frank Garcia

    they are not phony...they are only for people that can read!!!!!!!

    February 6, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  12. Big Ben

    Like my Grandfather would say, "The GOP is a bunch of dirty rats."

    February 6, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  13. Some Dude in NC

    This is unbelievable. How is it possible that this seems like a good idea to Republicans? Deception as a standard practice? Just plain unbelievable.

    February 6, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  14. jinx9to88

    LMAO!! These guys are incredible. How about going out and earning the peoples vote?

    February 6, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  15. skdowd

    Well, we have some very tech-savvy people on the Left. Watch out, gopers.

    February 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  16. Texas Toyota

    Have you no shame repugs? Oh I forgot, no you don't. Can't win an election out right, so just try to buy one or fool the voters. SMH. But I expect nothing better from you.

    February 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  17. Loren

    Absolutely disgusting. Typical of the GOP . Lie about everything, even about who you are. SMDH.

    February 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  18. Namejimmie Sorrento

    Lower than dog feces What can one expect from slime balls who fear losing

    February 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  19. Alura

    I want a government based on what most website CEO's talk about nowadays. "TRANSPARENCY". According to google-they are not hip on fake websites. They are saying people need to have "ownership" and be "authentic". Sooooo yeah, if people running online companies need to be all these things, authentic, transparent and what not...then the GOVT should too! This is NOT brilliant, this is dishonest. Like everything else they do.

    February 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  20. James

    How much lower can our elections process go? Throw ALL the bums out. Time for a total re-do.

    February 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  21. Chad

    Republicans can no longer win at any meaningful level by campaigning on the issues. So they can only resort to gerrymandering, disenfranchising likely Democratic voters, rigging or redrawing district boundaries, voter intimidation, and now this - outright deception. And they wear it like a badge of honor, too! Is anyone surprised? I'm sure not.

    February 6, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  22. nathan berg

    electoral college beware: Dems using fake citizens for votes...

    February 6, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  23. cliffintex

    Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander...

    February 6, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  24. ardvrk

    I just donated money to the democrat on his REAL website.

    I normally wouldn't have – but because Republiturds want to cheat – I will do whatever I can to thwart their FELONIOUS FRAUD.

    I hope someone hunts the GOP down and sets them all on fire.

    February 6, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  25. John

    Pretty pathetic that you have to trick people just to get them to support you. Not a surprise, but hopefully highly illegal. I really want to see that grin wiped off his face. It's dirty, just like the attempts to keep Democratic voters from voting, restricting poll access, and ID restrictions. If the only way you can win is to thwart the will of the people, you're pretty disgusting. Take it to heart.

    February 6, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
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