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. chutzpah

    Excellent idea! Bank scammers and other fraudsters have been using this idea for years with great success.

    February 6, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  2. Marri

    Works for me. So, you're saying this tactic is only limited to democrats??? Kind of hypocritical, don't you think?

    February 6, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  3. George

    Where is the public's outrage! Republicans and Democrats using this tactic should be prosecuted for fraud! Wake up America! The barbarians are among us! Call them out!

    February 6, 2014 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  4. san

    Republican's can't win elections on their failed policies so they lie, cheat, gerrymander districts, suppress the vote and now the lowest of the low..try to steal money from those that would donate to a political cause of their choice.. I mean really, who needs enemies when we have Republican's such as these. Who do these Republican's think they are..this isn't Russia. Vote out all Republican's Nation Wide, there is not one deserving of your vote, not one!

    February 6, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  5. Cedar Rapids

    Well they will be in trouble if people start to claim they were registering domains to pretend to be something/someone they weren't.
    Part of the law on domain names makes comment about 'Is the domain name holder attempting to divert consumers from the trademark owner's web site in a confusing way, either for commercial gain or in an attempt to tarnish or disparage the trademark mark?' .....and it can certainly be argued that that is what is happening here.

    February 6, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  6. jake deman

    For the love of God, what has become of my party.

    February 6, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  7. Richard Mitchell

    The RNCC only way is though misleading the truth and facts. It has been used by the Comedians on Fox News Funnies! People just have to remember that if it say Fox or RNCC it isn't the whole truth.

    February 6, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  8. MOCaseA

    So basically they are spoofing. Wow. They will throw unimaginative low level hackers in jail for something like this, but when they do it it is legal and "pure genius."

    February 6, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Just when you believe that the repubs party could slink no lower.

    February 6, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  10. Flappy

    Of course he is proud of the program. Con men are always proud of their handiwork.

    February 6, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    GOP lying and trying to deceive us?! Who would have thought!!

    February 6, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  12. Northern neighbour

    They are "really proud" of misleading and lying to people? Is black white, and up down now? Absolutely disgusting. I didn't think it was possible, but that makes our Rob Ford look positively upstanding by comparison.

    February 6, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  13. buckcameron

    GOP lying and trying to deceive us?! Who would have thought?!!

    February 6, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  14. steve

    This proof positive that the GOP is corrupt beyond belief

    February 6, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  15. Come On CNN

    Provided to you by CNN......Watching Out for the Democratic party.............

    February 6, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  16. Frank

    Holy Fraud Batman....

    February 6, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  17. Artifex

    If you cant beat them fair and square, lie and cheat.

    The official republican election motto.

    February 6, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  18. CackyPhones

    Is anyone surprised at this. Probably not if they are paying attention to politics.

    February 6, 2014 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  19. Jesse

    So a person is willing to part with $1,000 but not willing to do a little reading? These websites clearly state that donations would NOT be going to the pictured candidate. It's impossible to call it deceptive. If you are stupid and impulsive enough to not read before donating, you deserve to lose your money.

    February 6, 2014 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  20. MIck

    Wow, just pathetic. GOP a bunch of pure liars, have fun losing the next election -again!!

    February 6, 2014 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  21. Mark

    I've kept my eyes pealed for any mention of this on the Fox site. Not surprisingly, Total Radio Silence...

    February 6, 2014 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  22. Jeff

    And CNN creates fake news, what's the problem?

    February 6, 2014 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  23. Miguel

    And the left has been using fake news outlets for years – NPR, ABC, NBC, CBS...

    February 6, 2014 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  24. bobby

    This is completely unethical.

    February 6, 2014 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Looks like the Republican blood still has a lot of Nixon DNA in it.

    February 6, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
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