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. Mitchell Fuqua

    This is not right and it shows how crappy society is becoming that this is acceptable. I don't like Democrats and their logic but I will be Damned if I would accept this from my party either. So friggen ashamed of anything to do with Washington D.C.

    February 6, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  2. rl

    It is the only way they can win, and they don't care if it is legal, legit, or moral and especially ethical. As long as they win. That is one of the reasons they are so upset about losing the Presidency twice in a row, and especially to that type of person. They are trying to make them the only class. What most of them don't understand is that the 1% will not be there to help the rest of their fellow republicon/TBers. But they would rather destroy the United States than allow it to become the strong country it was once.

    February 6, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  3. dynamiteservice

    And the reason why CNN didn't report Democrats creating Republican phone web sites is because... No need to respond because we all know CNN's priorities.

    February 6, 2014 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  4. musician

    Dirty tricks and desperation. We've come to expect such things from the craziest GOP we've seen in a very long time. It's absolutely incredible.

    February 6, 2014 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  5. mike

    Talk about grasping for straws.

    February 6, 2014 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  6. DaMeglet

    What ever happened to having a better platform and better ideas to win an election? Lying and slandering is cheating, and frankly makes all these Christian conservatives look like a bunch of power-hungry hypocrites. Surely most of the people who vote for them are better than this - are they not embarrassed by this behavior from their elected officials?

    February 6, 2014 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  7. Grampa

    When you can't win with ideas and honest debate, you cheat. In the GOP's case you cheat any way you can. Nothing is too low or disgusting. That's the mindset of those who are bankrolling the Republican party. Their worst enemy is honest reporting that exposes their filth. Their best friend is Fox News.

    February 7, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  8. budwin

    I have a little test of reporting honesty. Most of the times it is the likes of FOX that fails my little test. This time it is actually CNN. The adjective Democratic morphs into "Democrat" to indicate derision, and this is why of course it is the so-called "fair and balanced" source that uses the wrong term so often. But note that now CNN has adopted the FOX lingo right in the article headline itself: "National Republican Congressional Campaign using fake Democrat websites to lure voters". Though the article itself is innocuous, as it is the Editors who write the headlines I worry that CNN is shifting its model of journalism to the FOX model.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  9. jack epling

    If you can't win on what you stand for then lying about what the other guy stands for may work.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  10. Deej

    That this is legal, or that the one in Florida mocking Republicans is somehow legal, that's the mindblower here. It's all about deception, though, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised politicians are involved. I used to love politics. I was young and foolish.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  11. Casan

    The GOP has always played dirty, they rarely seek to win on facts rather they feed fears, prejudice and every other human fallacy to win votes. This is no surprise!

    February 7, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  12. Devon

    Both sides do this which is disgusting. Dems in my area tried to get people to sign an anti-gun bill with a sign that said "save the 2nd amendment" No one ever stopped them and they're still using that ploy. Should be against the law.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  13. WindsOfSol

    They are supposedly the party that represents morality and Christian values. I believe "Thou shalt not bear false witness" is still one of the Ten Commandments.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  14. JDub

    "Undeterred, the National Republican Congressional Committee thinks it has a winner and will create more fake websites as the 2014 midterm elections draw near." There is no level that the Republicans won't go to to lie, steal, cheat the American people for their own gain.

    Just another example.

    February 7, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  15. Skyisfalling

    They have to do something! They're clearly not going to win any major election without lots of help!

    February 7, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  16. Casan

    There is a difference between a strategy and outright deception.

    February 7, 2014 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  17. TomCom

    Typical Republican campaign work

    February 7, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  18. James

    Notice how when you click the NRCC's link at the bottom of the page, the web address does not change.

    February 7, 2014 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  19. So Sad

    Shrinking base, diminishing demographic, what is a minority party to do? Kiss it goodbye GOP your star will never shine again.

    February 7, 2014 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  20. Not Shocked

    Who would have guessed the party that doesn't believe in facts would themselves be proud of intentionally misleading information.

    February 7, 2014 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  21. Edwin

    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.” Translation: we know people will not VOLUNTARILY support republicans - so we think it is okay to purposely mislead voters.

    My question is why this is actually LEGAL. A democracy only functions when the voters have an opportunity to actually be informed, and purposeful attempts to falsify are the exact opposite of that.

    Regardless, this is disgusting. Only someone who truly rejects the idea of democracy could call it "genius."

    February 7, 2014 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  22. basedonfact

    Fake Websites, Voter suppression, mass mailings with incorrect data, and gerrymandering is all the GOP has going for them

    February 7, 2014 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  23. Mike

    So when is deseption not lying? If you have to rely on dis-honest tactics and trickery to get votes then you are not wotthy of my vote. And these hypocrites spit in the face of Jesus and join up with Judas in the name of money. They call themselves Christian but they kicked Jesus out of their religion.

    February 7, 2014 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  24. John B

    CNN Special Investigations Unit Reporter Drew Griffin: How could you mistake that for an official campaign website? In all fairness though, I was shocked to find out that rival political parties mud-sling. I just imagined that they had slumber parties until election day where they rode unicorns, ate cupcakes, and had pillow fights. So, how does one get your job again? I have some serious thoughts about the 'Real Housewives'.

    February 7, 2014 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  25. Thom Burke

    Glad to see the GOP is as ethically challenged as ever.

    February 7, 2014 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
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