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. Steven

    Seriously!? This kind of thing is exactly why I choose not to vote. Once I can actually vote for a normal person and not somebody who is wealthy and deceptive, I will begin to vote.

    February 6, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. Jon Samuel

    Democrats want to allow illegals and criminals to vote by fighting against simple voter ID laws. Democrats rig the elections through voter fraud and have been doing this for years. It is how Kennedy got in. So now CNN is worrying about some phony website? If they want to investigate fine but stop being so one-sided. There were explosive IRS hearings today. Just another example of corruption not receiving much attention by CNN. Why isn't that the headline?

    February 6, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  3. Osgodby

    Dishonesty and misinformation is is reminiscent of the Third Reich. The NRCC should be ashamed.

    February 6, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  4. Rachell

    Ugh, enough with the false equivalence guys. Having a strategy fully backed by the NRCC is NOT THE SAME as having one website posted by a state level democratic party. This drives me insane when reading articles on American politics...."Republicans advocate killing puppies and the disabled!! Oh yeah!! Democrats are just as bad! They used SALTY LANGUAGE during a debate!! /Lazy Press
    That being said the fact that the NRCC is actually PROUD of this strategy speaks volumes about that organization. It must be very frustrating to be a Republican in this day and age when your party has been taken over by extremists and charlatans.

    February 6, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  5. Daws

    Great, instead of updating our platform to get more voters, let's try to trick them! Anything goes except changing our ideas!

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

    Goodness gracious!

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

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

    Typical of the slimey GOP.

    They always lose. They squandered our $5 TRILLION killing arabs, leaving our nation in shambles.

    America would be better without any Republicans. Send them all back to Germany.

    February 6, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. Cantorette

    Apparently the GOP has decided to mimic the behavior of most con artists. Now, I"m not saying that the Democrats have not done some questionable things in the past as well, but to have no shame about deliberately deceiving people, and to state publicly that they will continue to act in such a manner? There goes my vote right there, no matter who the candidate is, simply because they are willing to represent and BE represented by a willingly deceitful party.

    February 6, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  9. so much for honesty

    GoP wants to win hook or by crook and it seems the GOP is now full of them from Christie to Romney.

    February 6, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  10. wthnospam

    Wow... Just when you think the right couldn't get any more loathsome (not that they have the corner on that from the Dems.) Their whole "the end justifies the means" approach to everything is rather anti-Christian considering their base...

    February 6, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  11. gopdumpsterfire

    Well when you have a platform the majority of America doesn't want dirty tricks are all you have left.

    February 6, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  12. Tim

    Will the fake websites offer a tab for PayPal "donations?"

    February 6, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  13. Josh

    Jesus Christ. How can any sane mature adult support these sociopaths? If you need to lie so blatantly to win support, what you support is rotten.

    February 6, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  14. Ian

    Guess we'll have to vote after the revolution then.

    February 6, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  15. DG

    The headline for this story is a bit over the top. I doubt anyone who stumbles upon one of these sights is going to be "tricked" into believing it is that candidate's actual campaign sight.
    It's actually pretty clever campaign messaging – create a spoof campaign site that satirizes and points out the perceived faults of an opposing candidate.
    There's little doubt in my mind that had this been a DNC effort to do the same to GOP candidates, the headline for this story would be something along the lines of "DNC Employs Clever Web Spoof Sites for 2014 Midterms".

    February 6, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Bad taste.

    February 6, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  17. Mark

    Their should be criminal charges brought on the people who are doing this. A new low.

    February 6, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  18. Steven

    Republicans have reached a new low. This is pathetic even by their standards. I can taste the desperation. They can't win so they have to come up with new ways to cheat. It's over for their "party".

    February 6, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  19. Lee

    Shades of Donald Segretti and the 'Canuck Letter." Dirty politics at its finest.

    February 6, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  20. Kris L

    In other words, we cannot win with our ideals, so we hope that there are enough idiots out there who may be convinced to change their views based off a fake website.

    February 6, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  21. Robyn Guimont

    That is pretty low. I just wish our elections would get back to the candidates telling us what they intend to accomplish if elected to office (I know, you have to those promises with a grain of salt). Back stabbing and lying about your opponant does nothing to further the public's ability to make a sound decision. Shame on you GOP!

    February 6, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  22. Just a thought

    Is this not illegal? Kind like Catfishing. Misrepresentation?? What next, I mean with politics in general. Sad.

    February 6, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    I would say "unbelievable", and I've come to expect underhanded tactics from the GOP, but this really takes the cake...

    February 6, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  24. empathy4us

    Well, that's a wonderful lesson that the GOP are teaching our children. I hope they are proud of themselves as this certainly isn't a family value...

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

    At least the RNCC is honest about their shady deception practices. Both parties are completely out of touch anyway.

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