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. Isaac

    Uhh – why is this "fake", "deceptive", etc?

    A guy runs for congress.......He says what he thinks about himself; then the other side says what THEY think about him.
    Big deal. Sounds pretty smart to me!

    February 6, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  2. anonymous

    So the Repbulications create fake websites. So this is the level of their intelligence? They can do nothing ethical? What a pitiful mess the country has for leadership.

    February 6, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  3. jtaylor

    If your own candidates and issues aren't strong enough to stand on their own, give it up! How dare you play such deceptive games with Americans, whom you claim to represent. This is disgusting. Every day I feel like the GOP can't get any worse, yet every day they do!

    February 6, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  4. Travis

    The NRCC is a disgrace.

    February 6, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  5. Brian

    This article is even more misleading than the sites it's talking about. Yawn.

    February 6, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  6. Brian

    Yawn, the sample site provided is clearly NOT a pro-Democrat site. This approach is only "deceptive" if the GOP thinks Voters are illiterate; obviously not the case. Dear, CNN. Please don't manufacture scandal. There are enough real ones.

    February 6, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  7. Laura

    Does any politician believe in democracy? Giving people the best ideas they have to offer then letting the people decide.

    February 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  8. rswon

    The RNC's level of slime just reached a new level. Congratulations, party of do nothing hateful ignorant people.

    February 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  9. Maggie

    If democrats are "fooled" by this little ploy, then just maybe they're fooled too easily. And hey RNCC – I wouldn't be overly hasty about labeling the strategy as super-stupendously brilliant – the end result may not be the towering achievement that a true act of "genius" should produce.

    February 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  10. Angel

    They can't even deny that they love lying.

    February 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  11. Brass9

    So the Republican party is back at it again. If they can't win by fair politics, they will fake to be fair, steal to make it appear that they earned it.

    Unfortunately, RNC has been so unpopular with their unfair means, obstructing anything and everything that is good for the country, that any brand name with RNC is going to be unpopular. Thus by tricking voters, they are again trying to prove that anything RNC touches is dirty.

    Good luck RNC. We can see through you. Rest in Peace.

    February 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  12. tsmith552

    Where are today's MORAL political LEADERS?? I'm a republican and once again I'm disgusted with this party's actions. Shame! Someone (all of us), please take out the trash.

    February 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  13. forberocity

    I'm not going to get into a Democrat/Republican finger pointing contest, but this seems pretty deceptive. Can we get away from tactics and maybe move towards actual substance in our political contests? Please?

    February 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  14. Doug

    This is disgusting. The GOP is a criminal organization. Put these crooks in jail.

    February 6, 2014 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  15. JT

    How is this any different from the deception that Obama portrayed last election? Please..... give me a break. This headline sounded like the typical mainstream media bias...... so predictable.

    February 6, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  16. James

    Well, the GOP is the Party of Lies, who believes that telling a lie often enough equates with truth, so the strategy seems perfectly appropriate.

    February 6, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  17. Itsnotdeceptive

    If it helps you win an election, it is moral and ethical. People act like there is no purpose to life. People act as if life has no meaning. I choose to live in a world of purpose and meaning.

    February 6, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  18. David

    Sorry, it didn't appear deceptive to me.. Looks like dem's can dish it out, but they can't take it.

    February 6, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  19. michael

    You know you have already lost when you reach to these levels of deception.

    February 6, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  20. janetmermaid

    All of these low-class, unethical Republicans should be sued for fraud.

    February 6, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  21. Ian Roth

    Deceptive or not the stuff they post is probably still true. Maybe it'll knock some sense into democrats and see what their party actually does to the country

    February 6, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  22. JimmyJam048

    Looks like the RNC thinks that Democratic voters are as stupid as many Republican voters.

    February 6, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  23. Susan

    And it's all legal to lie and deceive in the greatest democracy–God bless America. ROTFLMAO!

    February 6, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  24. GTA

    This, from the same people who brought us Watergate....

    February 6, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  25. Glassboy

    "Scarpinato at the NRCC says there are no tricks at all and disputes anyone’s claim that the sites are deceptive." Really? The website URL is JohnLewis4congress.com. Gotta go look up the definition of deceptive. It must have gotten changed.

    February 6, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
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