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. Svetlana

    Just go to the site and enter a bunch of phony names, emails, and zip codes. If Republicans are so proud of their "brilliant" idea, they'll love getting these emails.

    February 6, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  2. Name

    Of course they think it's brilliant. It's sneaky, underhanded & a lie. Straight from their playbook.

    February 6, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  3. DavidK

    Deception and I consider it unethical, imagine if it happened in the corporate world?

    February 6, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  4. billy bob

    politicians are idiots, and those who market them are the same!

    February 6, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  5. Jim in Ohio

    Unbelievable that NRCC sets up fake sites, and is *proud* of that. Nice that the disclaimers are buried at the bottom of the page in small print ... certainly doesn't seem to be what NRCC would do it they weren't actively trying to deceive voters into visiting bogus sites that push their propaganda. Just another reason why the current Republican party is losing respect and votes among the American public.

    February 6, 2014 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  6. thejackelscolumn

    This should be illegal.. But hey, this is reason enough not to vote R...

    February 6, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  7. Matt

    Wow, republicans certainly are slimy now days.

    February 6, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  8. Belle

    Cleverer is apparently means more deceptive.

    February 6, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  9. Ted Testerson

    What? republicans being dishonest and deceitful? Say it ain't so.

    February 6, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  10. Name you be frank & i'll be earnest

    Of course they think it's brilliant. It's sneaky, it's underhanded and it's untruthful.
    It's straight from the republic 's playbook. Hard for them to win with straight talk.

    February 6, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  11. Ted T

    Our countryis doomed should the GOP win the Senate and the House of Representative. Voting for a republican is like voting against your own self interest.

    February 6, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  12. Senator Slimestein

    Can't be any phonier than the mainstream media or cable news like CNN and their collective idea of what passes as real news or what really matters.

    February 6, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  13. RNK

    Just when we thought the GOP had hit bottom, they dig even deeper.
    From what is stated in this article it appears – contrary to what the RNCs Scarpinata says – that the ONLY purpose of this new trick is to deceive. The GOP felt it has not lied enough and that it cannot tell the truth about its own candidates and expect to win, so they come up with this.
    The GOP needs to close up shop and go away. Maybe where their values are accepted – like Iran.

    February 6, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  14. reasonablebe

    is this that surprising? remember the fake mail in ballots- which were sent with 'official' looking return envelopes which really went to a gop dead letter po box?

    February 6, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  15. Dr Z

    To deny that this practice is deceptive is just more hogwash from the republican party. I can remember when the Grand Old Party ran campaigns based on idea and policies. Today's GOP is all about shutting down our government despite the costs, gerrymandering districts (they lost by approximately a total one million votes across all US House Districts in 2012) and ironically gained seats, and repealing laws and gutting our government while preserving tax breaks for the rich. A GOP governor recently even went as far as to shut down a bridge in New Jersey as political retribution. To put it simply, the GOP has become all about deception and impeding our great nation.

    February 6, 2014 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  16. Republican who supports President Obama

    After reading this I am totally disgusted and hope this news story gains traction to the point this behavior STOPS. There should be rules and ramifications for things like this – regardless of party. If the Dems did this the chorus of protests and lawsuits would create a flood of reports and overtures from the people on the right - ahem Fox News, etc.

    We should expect BETTER from our political parties – not misleading scare tactics that do way more harm than good.

    February 6, 2014 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  17. Mike

    How can one be proud of misleading people? This is low, regardless of which side does it...

    February 6, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  18. Tychi

    Unethical. To create misinformation and deceive people. So creating fear and telling lies is not enough for the GOP. People actually vote for these scoundrels? If they do this to political candidates, what will they do to normal Americans? The GOP sounds worse then the Russian government.

    February 6, 2014 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  19. Samuel Johnston

    In other words use fraud and lies to trick the voter into voting Republican, got it.

    February 6, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  20. Peter Gerdeman

    So, who is surprised by this? Since the days of Tricky Dicky... GOP are nothing but a bunch of lying, cheating, stealing, loud-mouth, druggie losers. Fully one third of them in the House have either been arrested for a felony, and/or filed bankruptcy. Just have to love it when they try and take the moral high ground. Yeah, like starting a war in Iraq for never found WMD. Sorry, Rush, don't take it personal...

    February 6, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  21. April Moreno

    Nothing the republicans do surprises because they are the party of furthering their same old sick agenda.

    February 6, 2014 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  22. Robert Arnold

    This is pretty telling of the Republican Party's morals. Shameful. And just because some Florida "Democrats" have done this before does not make me buy the idea that this is a common practice of the Democrats.

    February 6, 2014 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  23. Fraud Alert!!!

    This sounds like FRAUD to me and whoever is responsible for this should be going to PRISON!!! Oh wait, it politics, and so, it's legal???

    February 6, 2014 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  24. nothanksimdriving123

    Well, when you have no fresh ideas or plans for the nation, when all you can offer is "they're bad", I suppose this is the best you can expect. When the GOP comes up with some new ideas, we hope they'll tell us, honestly, without subterfuge.

    February 6, 2014 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  25. Andrew

    A new low for Republicans.

    February 6, 2014 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
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