February 6th, 2014
05:54 PM ET
9 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. MTrain

    Typical GOP resorting to desperate tactics...do they not understand that this just alienates them even more?

    February 6, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  2. brod

    Wow, they have gone beyond desperate. You are witnessing the death throes of a political party. Good riddance.

    February 6, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  3. fallen angel

    Let's be honest here the GOP is no different then the major hacker from the Ukraine that the US Marshalls just arrested for hacking fraud lying and false identification and countless other charges.You tell me what the difference is between what the GOP is doing and what this hacker from the Ukraine did.I believe the two have much in common.

    February 6, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  4. Disgusted

    Wow. This is even newer lows from both sides of the aisle.

    February 6, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  5. Nodack

    Why doesn't this surprise me?

    You guys could run on your record and tell us all your plans to help America, but instead you rely of fraud and throwing rocks at the other side. Ya, that makes me want to vote for you.

    February 6, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  6. Cwhat'sNew

    Can this get any lower? A total disrespect to voters.

    Man, I mean, we've got phony website registered in Hongkong and likely from a culprit in China selling products without our authorization. But, you've got to be more respectful and more solemn to your voters than to your retail consumers.

    February 6, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  7. Angel

    Are you kidding me? I,m ashamed of the Republican Party, how low can it go? They said they are proud? Holy Cow, lose more like me that at least respects a good clean fight. Tired of the BS. If you have to tear down the other candidate then you have very little to offer!

    February 6, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  8. Aerin

    OK. Where are the handcuffs???

    February 6, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  9. bcrunner

    Surprised?? Not me!! It's the only way they can win.

    February 6, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  10. Natalie

    Unfreakingbelievable what these trolls will do! When I saw this, I thought it was a joke. Oh well, it goes along with their fake concern for middle America.

    February 6, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  11. Larry L

    This is exactly why voters have turned away from the Republican Party. Their entire extremist, right-wing ideology is entirely based on distortions, conspiracies, and cheap political tricks.

    February 6, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  12. So...

    Wow. How the Republicans aren't completely ashamed of themselves for trying to restrict voting and mislead voters is just beyond me. It seems to have become synonymous with their party.

    February 6, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  13. Reality

    Geeze what a bunch of losers. If all else fails, use a smoke screen. SMH fools.

    February 6, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  14. Carter Sherline

    The usual GOP dirty tricks. Nothing changes with them.

    February 6, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  15. Ben

    If you can't beat 'em... Cheat 'em.

    February 6, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  16. jod

    If you are unintelligent enough to contribute money to a website like this, you deserve to have your money taken. Who gives money to a website and literally doesn't read anything on the page, except for the URL? Each of these sites explains IN DETAIL that it is opposed to Democrats.

    February 6, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  17. Bill Davis

    I thought the idea was to distance yourself from Obama

    February 6, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  18. Red Ormiston

    Typical...and they think they're justified in fraud because?

    February 6, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  19. Disgusted

    Just another way politicians prove their low-class mentality and will do whatever is necessary to win with sleazy tactics. Don't be fooled, it's not just the worker bees who know about these shenanigans. I am throughly disgusted. 👎

    February 6, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  20. opinion8it

    They cheat, they lie, and they steal

    Coming to your neighborhood soon

    February 6, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  21. ForestWalker

    If you can't earn your votes by winning the hearts and minds of the people through good quality legislation and compromise that benefits the majority of Americans, lie, cheat, steal and smear your opponents. Our political system is a fouled sewer reeking of fetid excrement.

    February 6, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  22. Dick

    Why am I not surprised!

    February 6, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  23. Scott

    The website is incredibly obvious what it is and even has the RNC logo on the bottom.

    February 6, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  24. mrmanhattan

    Republicans being deceitful and untruthful?


    February 6, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  25. Andulamb

    I don't care for political trickery. I believe that every politician, if they are sincere in their proclaimed intention to serve their city, county, state, or country, has an obligation (which most politicians ignore) to be honest. However... I don't see these as "fake" websites. They are real websites that are anti a particular candidate. If you search the internet for John Lewis, then why shouldn't you find sites that are in opposed to him as well as those that are in favor of him?

    That said, the joke is on the NRCC. I googled John Lewis: two of his real websites are among the first page of results. The "fake" site is not. Nor is it on the second page. In fact, the only way I could find the "fake" website was to include a phrase from the page: "sitting on the sidelines". No John Lewis supporter is going to search for that phrase. So I think it's very likely that: few people will find the "fake" websites, and even fewer will be influenced by them when they do. A candidate's supporters are not going to linger very long on a website that is opposed to that candidate.

    The NRCC is clearly a fan of their own idea. But it was almost certainly money down the drain.

    February 6, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
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