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. Selena

    This is a very dirty Republican trick – thank you for bringing this to light CNN

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    As if democrats don't play dirty...

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  3. James Vickers

    Liberal media again. Everybody needs to avoid CNN, ABC, and CBS.

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  4. Reed w

    Forget this liberal propaganda. These websites were not AT ALL made by Republican Party members. Supporters are different then committe members. This is just another article making the GOP look bad in the name of Obama. The Dems are tearing apart the moral fabric of this nation. Republicans are better, but not by much. God save us all.

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  5. Devin

    From the John Lewis site. "Lewis has spent nearly 12 years working under Baucus and was a top aide to the “chief architect” of Obamcare". Obamcare? Nice job.

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  6. mikes

    Fake reporting, more accurately. There's nothing fake at all about the web sites, even the one partially shown on the video lead-in. You can clearly see it making critical statements, and not in "fine print." The page's headline is "Had enough of John Lewis? Sign up today," and the first sentence is "John Lewis is bad for Montana."

    Perhaps this article should really be about illiterate Democrats.

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  7. Jdm

    Wow, just, wow. It's one thing to get information out, it's another to do it deceptively. At least the republicans are being honest about their dishonesty. Derp

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  8. Jason

    If only as much effort went into governing as does campaigning...Thank you Citizens United!

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  9. Chuck

    Typical of the republican party to take lying and deceit to new lows each election.

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  10. abinoone

    Sleezy tactic from a party with no vision or soul.

    February 6, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  11. Ginni Tritt

    I mean really...is ANYbody surprised?
    QUOTE: ... 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.”... Yeah... So was Hitler. Nuts, cruel, inhumane, egomaniacal, but genius.
    (Anybody wanna make book on how many rightwing nutjobs jump on the statement about Hitler being nuts?)

    February 6, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  12. cinemattla

    Our politics have become so corrupt that the GOP brags about deceiving the voters. Have they no decency left? Who am I kidding – of course they don't.

    February 6, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  13. Thomas Jefferson

    Americans are beginning to question the wisdom of even voting. Elected officials are not performing and when they do it is at the behest of corporate America. Democracy is at risk if we don't fix it.

    February 6, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  14. Teris

    I remember Dems doing this to George Bush in 2000 and 2004. This is NOTHING new.

    February 6, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  15. w

    Why is this a big story? The democrats have been doing the same thing.

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. mpoidvin

    You can't think of every immoral act someone trying to gain power will do. So you need a code of ethics with legal enforcement. A you know it is wrong law I guess you could call it. A bipartisan committee with the power to order a new election.

    We are having the same troubles in Canada, and we have laws much stricter than the U.S.. But you can't think of everything.

    And like it or not, it comes more from the right, you know the law and order, integrity, family values gang. Look all over the western world, they are anything but moral or principled, fanatics and turn coats is a more apt description.

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  17. cneder

    The DCCC has their own fake websites also that are just used to bash conservatives. . . one is called CNN. The other is msnBS

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  18. Gopherit

    Deception by not keeping election campaign promises, deception in relating halt-truths and lies after being elected, deceptive websites, attempts to deceive voters by masquerading as the opposition parties – American politics at their "finest!"

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  19. rickapolis

    Typical GOP con. They have nothing to offer. Never have.

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  20. Independant Voter

    I checked out the link contained in this article and found it to be in no way "confusing". All you have to do is glance at the site to determine that it is not "pro Lewis". Someone who donates through this site thinking the money will be spent to aid Lewis is just not reading. Of course, we all know that Bills in Congress get passed without being read, so maybe this is just "trickle down" stupidity.

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  21. Dave

    Republicans selling their platform on the strength and appeal of their stated positions on the issues… Ha ha ha ha ha!!!

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  22. Tom from Canonsburg

    No matter what the GOP says, this is just plain dishonorable. The supposed Party of morals just showing their true stripes.

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  23. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Figures.. Lie cheat and steal in politics, too, eh Pubs? And you think you just have a "messaging problem". Pitiful....

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  24. gatodicima

    So the NRCC is "proud of this campaign," eh? It doesn't seem, these days, they have much of anything else of which they claim to be "proud," so there you have it: "Proud" of being devious; "proud" of being misleading.

    This is really nothing very new, actually. In fact, the phrase "deceptive advertising" is more often a redundancy than an oxymoron. To me, the REAL issue is the source of the "dark money" funding for this stuff. Thank you so much, "Citizens United"!

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  25. disgustedbythesystem

    Absolutely Sickening. Our elected officials are supposed to be servants of the public trust. Every action in this vein serves only to erode that. This is just the latest evidence that our political system is broken, perhaps beyond repair.

    February 6, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58