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. Joe Shoe

    Nicely biased article CNN. No shocker here really.

    February 6, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  2. hapason

    Dirty GOP. Nothing changes.

    February 6, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  3. dssman

    Typical Republican dirty tricks again. The party of "NO" who can't win fairly tries to win by gerrymandering districts, prevent valid voters from voting and now this. Why would anyone want to vote for this party and its candidates when they cheat.

    February 6, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  4. Jerry Schull

    Tell me this isn't criminal. OK, it may not be criminal but it is unethical.

    And the Republican Party will suffer for this deception.

    February 6, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  5. PhilG.

    Why should anyone be surprised that neither political party cares about integrity.

    February 6, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  6. JJ king

    Is this the best CNN has.

    February 6, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  7. Mopery

    How are the GOP's actions not a case of sedition? They're intentionally providing misinformation meant to affect elections across the entire nation, to continue seeding Congress and the government with their immoral ilk.

    February 6, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  8. David

    I clicked on the site mentioned in the article, and it was immediately obvious that it was a parody site. First, the text was mocking the Democratic candidate. Second, the site solicited donations for his opponent. Third, the site said at the bottom (in quite large font) that it was paid for by the Republican National Committee. The idea that this site was intended to "confuse" voters is absurd.

    February 6, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  9. JustTheFactsPlease

    Wow, talk about slimey, underhanded tactics! And the facts that they embrace this type of deceptive practice and see no problem with it further proves that the Republican Party is nothing but a bunch of thugs and gangsters.

    February 6, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  10. Sid Prejean

    These people are what my late father would call "bums". When you can't win on the issues, when you can't win with your candidates, the only option left is to lie and cheat.

    February 6, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  11. Steve S

    The last gasp of a dying party?
    When you have to pretend to be a Democrat to lure voters, that means your 'brand' of politics is toxic.

    February 6, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  12. tallulah13

    The Republican party proves it self time and time again to be the party of shameless liars. How anyone could vote for them is beyond me.

    February 6, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  13. Beaellie

    Disgusting...as usual. "We're proud of our tactic...." Wow.

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

    Man, I am so glad I'm not a republicon. I would to too embarrassed to leave the house.

    February 6, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  15. DC GUY

    right, nothing wrong with a outright deception and lie, No ethical issue there, just the kind of representation we want in congress. Just put up a fake web site and slander the opposition. I mean why would anyone think that was wrong?

    Time for some web traffic in Fort Lee, I think I see a pattern here with GOP.

    February 6, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  16. mickinmd

    So playing the voters for fools should endear me to anyone from either party who does so?

    February 6, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  17. woodie

    Sure. Lie to people. That will get votes.

    February 6, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  18. Mathers

    These phony sites are not nearly as "phony" as CNN's headline. These sites are not pretending to be Dem sites. They are clearly and obviously conservative.

    February 6, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  19. cgattman

    Check out ChristiansforMicheleBachman on Facebook if you want to see an example of liberals doing exactly the same thing. It's probably where the GOP got the idea.

    If you want to see an example of biased journalism, check out CNN.

    February 6, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  20. mbw

    The republican party has not changed. Same old dirty tricks, misinformation, lies, deceit, obfuscation, and slander.
    It would be refreshing to hear what the republican party stood for, not what they are against, for a change. Oh wait, they are for more tax breaks for the rich, more wealth redistribution from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, a one party system (republican of course), and less support for health, education and the unemployed.

    February 6, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  21. unretired05

    The new GOP - win at any cost regardless of truth, ethics, or justice.

    February 6, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  22. WishfulThinking

    If the democrats did this it would not be a big deal.

    February 6, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  23. yalibi

    The CNN anti-GOP political machine is full steam ahead ... it's amazing.

    February 6, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  24. Mark

    They had to, they don't have ACORN.

    February 6, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  25. Tim

    Hilarious. CNN, that never once challenged Obama for all of his lies, complains when someone tries to educate the low-information Democratic voters.

    February 6, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
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