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. bellenoitr

    Disgusting. People are confused enough. Don't nee any more confusion.

    February 6, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  2. coyote

    No, its deceiving. And its not necessary. Its not your father's GOP was my idea... but that was if people like me, conservative hippies actually ran for office...then I remembered, I don't fly. I know.

    February 6, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  3. TheLostSurveyor

    Seriously? They think this enhances their credibility, how? It strikes me as VERY unprofessional and classless.

    February 6, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  4. lifeisadimension

    Very bad idea!. It is time for legislation and enforcement to deal with this, if it is not clearly already illegal.

    It is also time for political party headquarters to meet and agree on election ethics and rules.

    (c) 2013

    February 6, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  5. Joe

    Can always depend on the party out of touch with mainstream Americans to stoop to new lows.

    February 6, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  6. Syd

    Wow, these sleezes know no bounds.

    February 6, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  7. are122

    LOL. Good idea. If both parties do it people might get a far better idea of who they may vote for.

    February 6, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  8. John

    Republicans are idiots. This sounds like the strategy an 8 year old boy would devise. Pathetic. Win on ideas, not idiocy.

    February 6, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  9. Sean Kelly

    Years ago the republican party used to stand for state powers, individual responsibility and fiscal responsibility. However, over the last decade they have become so intrusive into the individual's personal life and dictating what a person should and shouldn't do that they have lost their way. Can't stomach the democratic party and all the darn hand-holding they advocate.

    However, now the republican party has decided to pollute the internet w/ more of what makes the internet annoying. You know who else uses these tactics of making users think one site is actually a different site? Scam artists, malware authors, organized crime, foreign governments not friendly to freedom loving individuals, etc.

    RNC, you've picked a stellar crew of people and organizations to model your actions after. Sad, but I not entirely surprised.

    February 6, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  10. Paul

    Lol, one of the drawbacks on the John Lewis site is "After more than a decade working under Baucus, John Lewis has pocketed over $568,000 of taxpayers’ money." Are they saying that you shouldn't vote for him because he made $56k a year working on the hill for a decade? Are there a lot of staffers working for free or do Republicans pay their staff out of their own pockets?

    February 6, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  11. John Dolan

    It's nice to see that the DNC can continue to count on CNN to headline their propaganda. CNN is as reliable as FOX.

    February 6, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  12. rosethornne

    The new GOP motto:
    If you can't win on your policies, cheat.

    February 6, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  13. Biebs

    Is anybody really actually surprised? Typical crooked Republicans

    February 6, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  14. ohioan

    GOP can't win a fair election. But they love to wave the flag and call America the greatest democracy, while coming up with strategy after strategy to disenfranchise voters. Their tactics sound 3rd world to this citizen.

    February 6, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  15. zappo15

    These people are like the spam artists bombarding innocent people with never ending garbage

    February 6, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  16. jack

    Deception and fraud are great way to win the hearts of voters...NOT!!

    February 6, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  17. emefkay

    American politics has become a disgrace...and one party tends to be much more cynical, deceiving, and willfully ignorant than the only other party that has a chance to win a national election.

    February 6, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  18. Frustrated Citizen

    It's official, the GOP is morally bankrupt. For five years they have thwarted a democraticly elected president, while offering nothing else in exchange.

    I hope some attorney generals are paying attention and charges will be filed soon.

    February 6, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  19. Cynthia Avishegnath

    Once you find it effective to deceive, then the temptation is too strong to resist to use the same deception on everything else. Like faking WMDs in Iraq.

    February 6, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  20. Dan in PA

    I'm a Republican and find this shameful. Our nation is going to hell due to tactics like this and I don't want to hear "they do it too". Integrity means not lowering yourself. I'm embarrassed for the party.

    February 6, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  21. Phil

    As if the GOP hasn't had enough reputation-decimating fiascoes to its credit yet, they still manage to find a way to plummet even farther into the political abyss. Who can trust anything they say now? Is there a shadow GOP somewhere that is hell-bent on erasing any faith the American people still have in their government?

    February 6, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  22. scout mom

    This is nothing new. The Democrats used this same tactic in my area before November 2013 elections. So don't promote this as a Republican creation.

    February 6, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  23. iconoclast1

    Typical GOP sleaze. Republicans will go to just about any lengths to get elected, even if it means not giving Obama (and thus the American people) any "victories" for 8 years. It's scorched earth politics and should be repudiated by all.

    February 6, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  24. Mike

    This is yet another completely slanted CNN article. What is misleading about these sites? If you read any of them it is clearly not a Dem campaign ad, and they are clearly against the candidates. You'd have to be a moron to be "deceived" by them. They bought URLs with the candidates name in them...duh. Shame on the Dems for being cheap when securing URLs. CNN is so completely in the bag for the Dem party they'd run a headline story like this making it appear that the GOP are doing anything wrong here. Funny, I don't recall CNN running stories bashing any of the Dem ads that go way beyond the pale. CNN are schills for the Dems, period. You're this close to being MSNBC. Fake campaign sites? CNN is a fake news site. Go ahead and block/delete this comment, you know you will.

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  25. skyler

    Disgusting republicans. Can't win on merit. And they won't win on deception, either.

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
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