February 6th, 2014
05:54 PM ET
5 months 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. CD

    If you can't win fair and square, "cheat!"

    February 7, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Defiant

    This is a new low, even for CNN...

    February 7, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  3. John

    If the Dems tried this, the GOP would be SCREAMING for impeachments.

    February 7, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. Sven

    Once you accept that the Republican Party has neither standards nor ethics, news like this stops being a surprise.

    February 7, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. 2L

    This doesn't surprise me – we had a Republican operative in MD make phony calls to suppress Democratic votes in MD. He got several years in prison for election fraud.

    February 7, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. Pander Bear

    The GOP motto. If you can't Win, Cheat! Worked in 2000!

    February 7, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Warbo

    @John:
    "If the Dems tried this, the GOP would be SCREAMING for impeachments."

    Read the article. Dems do this. And no, the GOP is not screaming for impeachments over it.

    February 7, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  8. MattInJax

    Fake websites, fake legislative ability, fake ability... fakes.

    February 7, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. JC

    Lying to the public seems second nature to the GOP while party leaders take this type of thing in stride, so much so that they tout how proud they are of their "genius." Really? To me it shows that the GOP incorporates this kind of deception as standard operating procedure. Somewhere Nixon is applauding. I wonder when the GOP officially decided honesty could take a backseat.

    The voter is so used to being tricked in some way, we're almost numb. Almost. But putting up phony websites to sway a vote is a new low. IMO. If your message can’t persuade voters on its own merit, then perhaps it’s time for you to get a new message.

    February 7, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  10. Lisa P.

    ...The NRCC press secretary told us the Republican strategy is cleverer, but that Democrats have done the same thing...

    ...Undeterred [by criticism or evidence], the National Republican Congressional Committee thinks it has a winner and will create more fake websites as the 2014 midterm elections draw near.
    ##################################################################

    Self-deception and lying are the only way Republicans can win these days. Just keep telling yourselves that everybody is doing it, GOP... except when you're telling yourselves that you're so smart to have thought up this kind of fraud before anyone else did (in other words, *before* anyone else was doing it). Logic is for losers, and reality doesn't matter, right up until election day when your fools and liars will be voted out.

    Here in Wisconsin the GOP put up a fake website for a candidate who hadn't even gotten in the race yet, making Republican deception the story for several days. That's where too much money, too many consultants, and too little sense will get you.

    February 7, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  11. rabbitcommarogerindyreader

    Here's what to do to give the GOP trouble for being so deceptive.
    Go to one of those sites, make a small donation with your credit card. Then go to the credit card company and cancel the transaction, explaining that you were deceived by the site.
    Credit card company gets enough of these complaints and cancellations, they'll start treating the deceptive source as fraud.

    February 7, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. HaroldtheBarrel

    Latest GOP fundraising initiative:

    Hello, my name is John Boehner and I am a Nigerian prince. I have several million dollars trapped in a bank account in Nigeria. I wish to solicit your assistance in recovering these funds....

    February 7, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  13. Jesse

    Didn't obama just do this not to long ago with fake republican websites. Um, hi pot meet kettle kettle meet pot.

    February 7, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  14. Big_D

    I guess the FEC can join the FCC in three letters that mean nothing club if they let this go. This is fraud and should be charged just like any fake charity or other deceptive scheme. This is criminal.

    February 7, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  15. ChrisM

    So this is the way republicans can get donations. Deception rules the GOP.

    Be careful when you donate online

    February 7, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. Marti

    Unfortunately, many posts refer to the political Parties. Yes, the Democrats see amassing votes and then power through fabricating illegal entry as a "civil right" or deserving of "civil rights" belonging to citizens, and the GOP knows what the Democrats are doing, and oppose it.

    That’s the only partisan thing about it: how the parties react to numbers of immigrants and which party embraces illegal actions as somehow justified and deserving of citizenship.

    But Immigration is economic. Always has been. Politics just gets in the way now and then.

    Immigration can either harm or help a nation. The only way to determine which, is through immigration law that is consistently enforced and adjusted to needs of all citizens within a given nation. Immigrants are citizens of other nations…until they enter legally and become citizens and have the right to participate as U.S. citizens..

    Illegal entry has little to do with "racism" or ethnicity (there are no races, just physical changes to acclimate to levels of sun, cold, wetness or dryness, etc). There are communities of Irish illegally in country. There are growing numbers of Saudis, Iranians, Somalis, Central Americans and people from 150 plus nations who've entered illegally.

    Migration is economic. Economic in its basic meaning: obtaining food, water, land, jobs; everything needed to survive. Wars and over-population also cause migration. All of these factors cause too few jobs for too many workers, and therefore migration.

    Migration is human history. In eons past, humans simply over-hunted, over-used soil, drained water sources and moved on to conquer others by force taking new lands. That is still going on in spots worldwide. The big difference is that all continents but Antarctica have been claimed by national borders. Boundaries serve to warn off intruders with threat of war if intrusion continues.

    Again, human history. And since the 1930s, citizenship automatically includes access to costly benefits created by citizens for citizens, limiting citizenship is necessary to keep the benefits afloat.

    Over-population, causes water shortages with salting of land, deforestation, and more migration as nations with high birth rates produce the most legal and illegal migrants moving to places worldwide.

    Developed nations in particular are the dreamed of destination for most migrants. The top destination choices are: the U.S., Canada, Australia, Britain, all of Scandinavia. Within Europe, it’s Germany and Britain because of jobs.

    Migrants enter illegally because nations long ago created immigration law to limit the numbers and rate of in-migration. When each year’s total per nation is reached, a “line” of applicants remains. Sort of like an intersection that allows three cars before signal turns red. The cars are too many, for the limit of the street, but the cars keep coming.

    A healthy debate should be “Do we agree with S.744 to just triple legal entrants to make more “legal” or do we need to decide if the current limits are to small or too large for our needs?”

    Many nations use immigration law to select immigrants according to skills needed. The U.S. lacks both enforcement, and a system of selection both of which operated de-facto during the great legal immigration during our industrial revolution (1870-1920) because employers advertised jobs overseas, and arrivals had to prove a job was waiting, had money to get to it, or had relatives to support them to enter or be sent home after selling everything and coming to America.

    Immigration has become political because both parties made it so. Immigration law otherwise would serve to limit the numbers and rate of entry, to protect the nation's security and economy and the livlihoods of its citizens who would be continually undercut by more desperate newcomers.

    Our nation was the first to make LAW supreme over monarchs; LAW blind to ethnicity, wealth, religion that is to be applied to all citizens equally, without special treatment for any.

    That is the fundamental reason for the existence of our nation. We welcome all who show they value rule of law by entering and remaining legally. Illegal entry however, shows a lack of comprehension of the purpose of laws: to provide the most freedom while at the same time preventing violence and conflicts among inhabitants.

    Today, equal application of law is under attack by massive wealth that is applied to buying special treatment, even specially tailored laws. It is under attack by people who think kindness is allowing uncontrolled, illegal immigration as they forget kindness for their fellow citizens.

    Jobs have been declining since the 1920s as farm mechanization, automation, communication, computerization replaced human hands. That accelerating technologic job removal, with accompanying value for the few highly skilled, is in direct confrontation with population growth.

    The ONLY people in the U.S. who want population growth are people who think only "market share" and promote GDP over "per capita GDP"...meaning they measure national health by STUFF produced that crosses borders vs. how the income from that STUFF is shared by workers. STUFF and its income shoots across borders, workers do not. Most live and work within borders.

    So, uncontrolled immigration into one set of borders must be controlled, to prevent harm to citizens and to ensure jobs exist for added newcomers. Think traffic laws. Sometimes an irritant, but always rules for humans to follow to keep safe and do no harm to each other. Drivers can be purple with orange spots, but they’d better follow the traffic laws for everyone’s benefit, their own included.

    Immigration is economic. It can either harm or help a nation. The only way to determine which is through immigration law that is consistently enforced and adjusted to needs of all citizens within a given nation. Immigrants are citizens of other nations and until they enter legally and become citizens, should not have a say in this nation...nor should those who illegally hire illegal migrants.

    February 7, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Jesse

    Didn't obama just do this not to long ago with fake republican websites.
    ----------------------------
    Un, nope. A better question is why did the NRCC wait a full day to unveil what they claim as "Democrats did it first." I have since learned that even that claim is false, because the NRCC is pointing to an info page on the Democratic party's web site, not an independent web site operating under a different domain name.

    February 7, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  18. Ah...I see...

    Warbo said:

    @John:
    "If the Dems tried this, the GOP would be SCREAMING for impeachments."

    Read the article. Dems do this. And no, the GOP is not screaming for impeachments over it.
    ----------–
    YOU read ther article! The very next sentence starts:

    "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."

    February 7, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. Ah...I see...

    Warbo said:

    @John:
    "If the Dems tried this, the GOP would be SCREAMING for impeachments."

    Read the article. Dems do this. And no, the GOP is not screaming for impeachments over it.
    ----–
    YOU read ther article! The very next sentence starts:

    "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."

    -As you can see, this is a state committee's acts, not the national comittee like the Reps, which tend to have MUCH more money and influence. Besides, it's common knowledge that both parties will field candidates as the other party to siphon votes. This is just encouraging that trickery and by doing it from a national HQ, sets up precedent for this to occur everywhere and on both sides. With the Koch brothers and countless other charlatans funding such devious behavior, no one will know who the real candidate is. Money should not equal political power but it does and one party has a whole lot more than the other.

    February 7, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. Jack

    Disguising! No matter how you spin it!

    February 7, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  21. Swedge70

    If you question which party is more underhanded, this should answer that question for you forever.

    February 7, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. rs

    Republicans: lairs and frauds- or -completely delusional.
    You decide!

    February 7, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  23. kathy

    Other than from wealthy Republicans, this is the ONLY WAY the GOP can get ANY donations.

    February 7, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. Jack

    The Republicans will lose votes; It smells too much like watergate dirty tricks. And there are those that remember that era.

    February 7, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  25. Patrick

    I was shocked and than I thought about it. It's the GOP they would not hold any office if the did not cheat rob and steal. I am just happy they did not try to say god told them to do it. It's just what greed worshipers do:-)

    February 8, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
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