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. Barbara

    What do you expect from that grand old party?

    February 7, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  2. Rich

    This article is a prime example of what polarization has done to this country. On ANY level, this is a sleaze ball tactic. If a Dem did this to a Republican, the Republicans on this forum would be screaming holy hell. But, since this is their guy, they will try to find every way to defend this and all you will hear is "they do it too". It's amazing to me how quickly people will sell out what is right or wrong to staunchly defend a party or candidate whom they've never met nor know personally, just because of a party affiliation. Some things are just dirt ball things to do, no matter what party you belong to.

    February 7, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  3. G LaTour

    The Republican site seems as legit as a Nigerian scam. Typical. Wake up people!

    February 7, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  4. Bugl3t

    ”Well, we are very proud of this program.”

    Really? Proud of fraud? Proud of confusing voters? Well, isn't that special. I guess your role model is to show that if you can't win on merit, cheat.

    February 7, 2014 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  5. beetle1a

    Typical right wing method. If you can't win by a straight forward method, do it by cheating. They've already done it in some states by restricting voters.

    February 7, 2014 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  6. John

    Sounds highly unethical and borderline illegal. Seems almost like the smeared candidate(s) could file a suit against them for libel or something like that. This is the reason the popularity of the GOP is in decline. Instead of running on actual merit, they run on a hideous smear campaign. When they lose fair and square, they try to change the rules. We as a people don't find that very attractive. While both parties to this to one extent or another, it seems to be the GOP being the most obvious and obtrusive with it.

    February 7, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  7. Ed Jarecki

    I was once a Republican. Although registered as a Democrat, I really want the best person/people in the job regardless of party affiliation. This said, however, I perceive this GOP approach as deceitful and just further entrenches me against the Republican party. Glad their proud. They just further lost my vote...

    February 7, 2014 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  8. mikes

    Fake reporting, not fake websites. The website, including the one shown in the video, clearly do not support those candidates, and are clearly labeled "Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee" right on the front page.

    February 7, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  9. livingston

    If you have nothing to offer. If you have no desire to better the American way of life. Then lie, cheat and steal.....but don't forget to clam that you are doing it because you are so much better then everyone else. We need to keep shining the spotlight on the roaches and watch them scatter.

    February 7, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  10. Big Joe

    You can spin it any way you like, but this is nothing more than the 21st-century equivalent of smear ads on television, which have been produced since politicians first aired campaign ads. Heck, these ads used to appear in newspapers before there was television. You may not like it, but it's nothing more than politics as usual.

    February 7, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  11. The GOP need to pack up and leave

    Does this really surprise anyone?

    February 7, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  12. blue079

    Depending on how close these fake sites resemble the real ones, the RNCC is opening themselves up to lawsuits. You cannot just go around copying someone else's design and work and pass it off as your own, even if there is different content. Those little copyright symbols at the bottom of websites are there for a reason.

    There is such a thing as copyright infringement.

    February 7, 2014 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  13. Coach Irf

    Wait, they figured out how to use the internet?

    February 7, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    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.”
    -------------------------
    This deceptive practice should be wake up call to one and all, most especially to conservative voters. I have no doubt that any liberal who follows politics is not too surprised by this revelation. Liberals have watched conservatives spin deceptions on the public for years and decades. One grand example of it was the swift-boating of John Kerry in 2004, which a deception that targeted moderates, independents, and those who lean more towards the middle than to either side.

    Convervative voters should be put on notice. If this is the sort of program that they would implement against liberals, and if swift-boating is the type of deception they would carry out against moderates, then just what sort of deceptions would they try to pull on their base? If you think that they would not do anything of the kind, then you truly have been deceived.

    February 7, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  15. DD

    Guess what? BAD IDEA!!!

    February 7, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  16. Barbara

    Yes I believe every thing that CNN writes here Nope.

    February 7, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  17. Know Your Subject

    What's the problem? Worried that low-information voters might confuse one party's propaganda with the other party's propaganda?

    February 7, 2014 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  18. Skeptic

    Great news! Republicans are finally learning how to play politics the right way. Scorched earth politics. It's what the Democrats have been doing for years. Lying through their teeth about everything. Dividing America by every category imaginable using prejudice, ignorance, and fear.

    For the sake of America's future we need to remove the Democrats from power. Whatever the Republicans need to do, I support.

    When your political enemies have no morality in their quest for power then you must play that same game or being annihilated.

    If the Democrats want to return to the moral universe then Republicans should also.

    But until they return, the GOP needs to be as tactical and shrewd and conniving as possible.

    The Democratic Party is trying to irreversibly alter America on a fundamental basis.

    Their policies will destroy America's standing in the world possibly for centuries to come.

    Their is nothing fair in war especially when it's the war for your countries future.

    February 7, 2014 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  19. MC-MSgt

    They simply don't care anymore. Politicians have realized that people don't vote for a candidate, they vote for a party, so candidate behavior no longer matters. They aren't held accountable for their actions until they get crucified by the media, and even then they can rise above most things with a quick apology.

    While these are party actions and I'm sure candidates distance themselves from these activities for reasons of deniability, in my eyes if you use the funding the national committees provide then you are endorsing their behavior.

    Maybe it's time to wipe the slate and everyone vote for independents?

    February 7, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  20. anavidreader

    ”Well, we are very proud of this program.”

    Enough said.

    February 7, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  21. Cindy

    Seriously? The GOP is phishing for votes now?

    February 7, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  22. Jake

    told us the gop was doing it, in the last paragraphs, admit that the democrats were doing it too. typical libby bias.

    February 7, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  23. Pusser

    Low class. Truly.

    February 7, 2014 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  24. drsolo

    What else is new. They got all the money in the world and no ethics. They are determined to keep as many people as possible from voting!

    February 7, 2014 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  25. Brainiac3397

    Regardless of what party, this sort of behavior is obviously not in the best interests of the American people, especially when the concept behind it is to decieve and scam. I'd hope at least one elected official from the GOP will do what's right and go against this method. Just because it's "legal" does not make it right.

    As for the accusation of the Democrats doing the same, I'm sure there's a BIG difference when the democrat one was at state level and not supported by the the national group. The NRCC is approving of this tactic on a national level, or basically saying every American can be rightfully conned.

    February 7, 2014 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
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