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. 866bway

    Remember when the GOP was proud of its agenda, not its deceptive campaign tactics?

    February 7, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  2. Unegen

    Just when I'd come to expect nothing but petty, irrational, narcissistic, sociopathic dreck from the GOP...they hit a new low.

    February 7, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  3. John Boy

    "One cannot lead when one misleads."

    February 7, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  4. Saboth

    So Repubs again fall back to the only thing they've been doing for years – being obstructionists that "aren't concerned about the truth". They've got no ideas, and no plans, and they think their problem is they can't get their "message" across. No, we've got your message, and we just aren't interested. So in the face of having nothing to offer, they have to develop scam websites to try and further mislead voters. Apparently they are fighting on 2 fronts: 1. Twisting the truth/lying/spamming/scamming. 2. Suppress legitimate American voters.

    February 7, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. Jim

    Nixon lives!! I don't know what I am most outraged out – the original idea or the fact that they are "proud" of what they have done and see nothing wrong with it. I just don't understand what has happened to the Republican Party.

    February 7, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  6. Cypress

    This will go to the history books.
    Truly, this has to be a new low.

    February 7, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  7. Mike in SA

    So the GOP is finally giving Democrats a taste of their own medicine. Dems have had fake conservative Facebook pages for the longest time. For instance on Facebook search for "Christians for Michele Bachmann". This is nothing new except now both sides are doing it. Of course CNN didn't notice - or won't equally hold accountable - the Dems.

    February 7, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  8. Foreverwar

    Can Republicans be truthful about anything?

    February 7, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  9. rlj

    This is disrespectful to the American people and the democratic process, not to mention sleazy.

    February 7, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  10. Put Down The Bong

    Once corrupt, always corrupt. Vote Independent !

    February 7, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  11. Dan Halen

    Republicans never could deal with truth and transparency. The fake websites just enshrine it further.

    February 7, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  12. Badley

    If you elect someone that has to use deceptive tactics to get there, that's all your going to get from them... deception and lies

    February 7, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  13. cc423

    These are the tactics of a dying political party.

    February 7, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  14. SLJ

    They can't win on the message, so why not lie about the messenger. And they wonder why the number of registered Republicans continue to drop.

    February 7, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  15. CR

    This deceit and deception is just another symptom of GOP collapse. Republicans have nothing to offer.

    February 7, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  16. Disenfranchised Soldier

    The GOP is pathetic, sadly as their members (65+, White) start to die off, and the democrats start to slowly take control, they will continue to use these kinds of attacks. The GOP knows they are so far out of touch and they can't win on their policies and ideas.

    February 7, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  17. cedar rapids

    These right wing comments being posted are so funny.
    If it was the dems doing it the posts would say 'typical democrats, what else would you expect, they are so corrupt, lying is 2nd nature' etc etc.
    but as its the repub doing it the comments are along the lines of 'well its something the dems would do and they dont like the tables turned'
    Guys, you are being exposed for what you are. Remember that the next time you try to claim the dems are the party that deal in dirty tricks.

    February 7, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  18. conner

    when you have lost the women vote, jewish vote, catholic vote, asian vote, hispanic vote, young peoples vote. what else do you have to do but try to stop people from voting and decieving them. they can't run on ideas because they have none.

    February 7, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    From the article:

    "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."

    and further into the article:

    "It may sound deceiving, but Scarpinato insists the well-thought out, well-planned program is pure genius."

    ending thus:

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

    Not to be confused with "we are very proud of our American exceptionalism ... where we honor our voters and their contributions to our Country." Indeed. The GOP has become the biggest most single embarrassment America has yet to offer its citizenry.

    New GOP Motto: Steal what you can ... where you can ... when you can ... from whom you can.

    February 7, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  20. ellid

    Slimy, sleazy, and unethical, and yet most of the people who came up with this idea call themselves good Christians and claim to be in support of "family values."

    Even worse? People on this site and others DEFENDING this.

    February 7, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  21. Mike

    Regardless of side, this is shameful. As a swing voter, this would make me less likely to vote for whichever side engaged in it. There are lies and then there's something even worse: deception.

    You might win a game by cheating, but that doesn't mean I'm going to respect you for it. Plus, once one side engages in a behavior, the other side will have to do so as well if it works if they want to compete. In the end, everyone is worse off for it and it undermines whatever integrity is left.

    It is sad that not only are these individuals "proud," but that they are so morally bankrupt to not understand that whatever they think they are fighting for has been corrupted by the blinders they've so willfully put on themselves. It calls in to question everything they claim to believe in. Why would I listen to let alone follow such men and women?

    February 7, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  22. commentable

    the only people who would be fooled by this website either cant or didn't read it.

    February 7, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    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.
    -------------------------
    Does anyone out there actually believe that the this web site, which was supposedly constructed by FL Democrats, was actually constructed by FL Democrats? Does anyone out there believe that the NRCC would report about this web site, alleged to have been created by Democrats, to CNN before they reported it to Fox?

    If there is anyone left out there that honestly believe that the web site was created FL Democrats, then explain why is it that the NRCC would wait to expose the web site a full day AFTER they revealed their own web site? I have no doubt that the as the criticism started to roll in over the NRCC's deceptive practices that someone realized that some sort of justification was needed, and so justification, in the form of phony web site by Democrats, was custom fabricated to order. I'm sure that people who are familiar with Nixon's Watergate scandals will remember how he had planned a burglary to make it look as if Democrats ahd committed the act, as cover and smoke screen for his own planned burglary at the Watergate Hotel.

    February 7, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  24. Malory Archer

    Deac

    VOTER BEWARE!!!!
    Recently discovered emails proves why Lois Lerner pled the fifth and that the IRS did indeed target for political beliefs.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Care to provide a link to your claim, or is this another rethug attempt at deception?

    February 7, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  25. foxghostwriter

    Democrats are hopping mad at this only because they would do it themselves, but then realized conservatives would have trouble using a computer.

    February 7, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
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