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. keven

    Wow, a new low, even for RNC.
    Are they that desperate already?
    Or just that lying it so natural they don't even notice?

    February 6, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  2. Scott

    Republicans must be really desperate. Politicians today are so sleazy, it's incredible. And that's both sides of the aisle. What the hell is happening in this country?

    February 6, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  3. GOPuke

    The NRCC may think they're clever and may be so proud of themselves, but all they're doing is showing how shady, underhanded, and deceptive conservatives are. Granted, this will please a sizable portion of their base of unscrupulous bullies, but it will turn off independents and ultimately end up working against them...big time.

    February 6, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  4. CTYank

    Given these guys' record of recent years, now what would you expect? Guess this means that they know they're headed to the crapper?

    February 6, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  5. withheld from CNNSA

    these deceptive tactics tell exactly what u need to know about GOP which is trust? the use of religion and abortion is a gimmic as they use capitalism or some other ideology to eradicate many from world which do not fit the mold. Guess which other countries use these deception one is britain which is the other one .. its not usa its is..

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

    Well, that's why they're called CONS

    February 6, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  7. Jerry

    Oh no, someone might actually go to one of these sites and discover the truth about their heroes! We have to stop this! The opinions of the voters should only be formed by the liberal media!

    February 6, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  8. The Fact of the Matter

    "”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.” I'll bet. The Democrats are past masters at deception.

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

    What deception? The example they posted is a pure smear site with a misleading URL

    February 6, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  10. mikeinsf

    This should be illegal, and I'm surprised that the NRCC would think deception at this level is "clever".

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

    The GOP has long resorted to lying. What else are they going to do?

    February 6, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  12. Griff

    What's the matter CNN? Upset that Republicans outsmarted Democrats?? If the shoe was on the other foot, nary a word would be said.

    February 6, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  13. Casey

    Wow, the NRCC are fooling themselves if they think this is ethical. I guess we'll see if their trick fools voters.

    February 6, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  14. Greg

    The Democrats are just jealous they didn't think of this first. But they don't need to do it since they have so many dead people and illegals voting for them

    February 6, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  15. ewf

    Its foolishness like this that completely turns me off of the GOP. I have been a registered Republican since I was old enough to vote. It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for another one. The current crop makes Nixon look like a saint.

    February 6, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  16. wisconsin101

    I personally think it is a great idea. The candidate's website is full of puff and all the good but nothing of the negative or ideology that starkly contrast to others. It is always good to see both sides of an issue and that makes one informed voter.

    February 6, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  17. Yes1fan

    This is also known as "phishing" schemes, and there are internet laws (terms of use) against that practice.
    The internet overlords need to block these sites.

    February 6, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  18. oddjob3422

    I'm sorry, but anybody who would go to that site and believe for even one second that it was an official John Lewis site is too dumb to vote. There isn't anything "fake" about it – it's just the typical dishonest tripe that all politicians use to try to sway the votes of the hopelessly dumb.

    February 6, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  19. Dan

    There should be truth in advertising. But what should we expect from the great thinkers in the Republican party.

    February 6, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  20. SirLanfear

    So what you're really saying is they are exploiting the fact Democrats don't read anything, they just agree to whatever their party tells them. Sounds good to me.

    February 6, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  21. Historian

    The GOP is an intellectually bankrupt party. Instead of finding solutions to the problems facing our nation, they connive new ways to deceive and disenfranchise voters. Really, is this the best they've got? I know some 12 year olds who had the same idea.

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

    Disgusting! This is certain to backfire on these morons.

    February 6, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  23. joeintucker

    ok, so both sides do it, but CNN wants to make it a Rupub issue – figures...

    February 6, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  24. wilnel1984

    The Republican mantra: when in doubt-cheat.

    February 6, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  25. DW Duke

    Fairness in all things. Justice in all beings. 🙂

    February 6, 2014 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
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