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. janetmermaid

    Just when I think the Republicans can't be more unethical they prove me wrong.

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  2. Bl lang

    Of course the GOP has to resort to fraudulent tactics; they are too stupid to actually come up with any policies whatsoever

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  3. Eduardo

    Raising money through deceit and manipulation. Looks like Republicans took a page from their corporate thug homies.

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  4. Charles

    CNN knows that both parties do this. Typical bias.

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  5. kc

    These people are awful and desperate.

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

    Haha you call that democracy.

    Already the US has so many attack ads and negative campaigning. What happened to may the best person win. Clearly they have no platform or anything else to get behind so Republicans are going for pure smear campaigns.

    Run on the strength of your own ideas and plans. What good is it electing somebody if they have no idea what to do once they get in. Have a platform and run on that. Allow your opponent to do the same. Guess that is too fair and simple to be allowed.

    I sincerely hope everyone votes to stop all this negative campaigning.

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

    Politicians of all parties are low life bottom feeders.

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  8. Casual Observer

    GOP & Deception – ”Well, we are very proud of this program.” - nuff said.

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  9. jamie

    that is just hilarious!!!!!!!
    what a bunch of buffoons!!!!

    February 6, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  10. deee510

    Hmm the nrcc must be absolutely sure they'll lose this November. Last attempts to remain a political party.

    February 6, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  11. Shawn

    .....this should be illegal. No matter what politics you believe in.

    February 6, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  12. Beamed

    More evidence of the increasing efforts by the GOP to win elections through deceit and changing who can vote, rather than by actually appealing to voters.

    February 6, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  13. Dan

    Very typical of politicians hungry for power and to advance their own agenda. To them is not about what's right, but what will help themselves. There should be a law agains this type of misrepresentations. NO character or whatsoever.

    February 6, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  14. JeffZ

    I just went and donated to the REAL web sites of these candidates, simply because this tactic by the NRCC is pathetic.

    February 6, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  15. snowdogg

    "At least 15 websites that appear to be official campaign sites for Democratic candidates, are actually the handiwork of the National Republican Congressional Committee."

    Scarpinato insists the well-thought out, well-planned program is pure genius.

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

    Yeah, I'm sure the GOP has really taken the high road... as usual.

    February 6, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  16. IAdad

    Why do people vote Republican? It's more a social disease than a political party at this point. They've done nothing but drag our politics into the thickest muck to gain power and once in power they've launched unnecessary wars and bankrupt the country, all the while screaming that it's someone else's fault. I'm so disgusted and so sick of the modern GOP.

    February 6, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  17. Derek Kelly

    It's pretty editorial of this article to refer to the NRCC's websites as "fake". Any idiot can see exactly what they are from the very first sentence. No one is fooled because the sites aren't trying to deceive. Their attack are blatant and obvious. I'm no republican, but come on. This isn't objective news...

    February 6, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  18. DFW Dann

    So it's pure genius to put out fake websites? I thought misleading the public was a political tool that had been around long before the internet. Next thing they'll tell us is that they have a great idea for debates called "the pivot." If only we could remove elected officials who bet on the idea that the average voter is stupid.

    February 6, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  19. Adam

    This is strong evidence that the GOP is willing to go to great lengths to deceive. They're willing to go to great lengths to LIE. Aren't they the "Christian" party?

    So, ask yourself this during the midterms – do you want to vote for a party that is so willing to lie so blatantly? It is this sort of thing that motivated me to leave the GOP.

    February 6, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  20. Fr33th1nk3r

    A small band-aid to try and prevent the inevitable political extinction of the GOP in 2016....

    They are getting so desperate to thwart Obama that they are even now making fake websites and trying to masquerade as their opponents?

    The Repgnicans have reached a new all-time low....

    February 6, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  21. Gary

    Any company or individual doing such practices would be sued, fined or put in jail. I have 0 respect for this Party. They no longer deserve a name.

    February 6, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  22. What's fake here is the CNN story...

    Nothing phoney about it. It even has the RNC contact info on it. If anything here is fake, its this CNN story by another DNC stenographer masquerading as a reporter.

    February 6, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  23. Hmmm

    Voters Beware democrats use make believe voters to cast votes

    February 6, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  24. Justin

    While Im not surprised by this GOP tactic, I am surprised CNN put it on the front page. Bravo, Journalists!

    February 6, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  25. Terry

    Of course dems do it too, but you won't see that in a screaming headline.

    February 6, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
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