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. tv22

    I guess the point is that Dems just give money to anything, they don't even read the ad. Isn't that how we ended up with Obamacare?

    Dems – when you see a website you have to read it to see what's in there!

    February 7, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  2. Rudy NYC


    I guess this isn't as bad as Democrats in northern Indiana registering dead people to vote for Obama in the last election.
    Or maybe it is?
    I might rise to that level if some local of the Democrats had actually registered dead people to vote. This is far worse because this is coming from the top, and they are seeking donations from people. Let's suppose that someone had put up a web site the pretended to be the Red Cross that was openly seeking donations from people under that pretense. What should be done about the web site? What should be done with the people who were behind the web site?

    February 7, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  3. irunner

    Just another reason I'm an EX-republican.

    February 7, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  4. Pete

    These fraudulent web sites should be held accountable and prosecuted like other ones found by the FCC..But republicans the sanctumonious ones think its fair game in politics until its turned on them as was Citizens United when Pres.Obama turned it back on its own creators during his reelection campaign...Remember republicans you sow what you reap and just like Citizens United this again could turn around on you costing you more problems than you can handle...

    February 7, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  5. John

    And we hear the typical Republican defense: Everybody's doing it, without any evidence to support their claims. How can this possibly be legal. Aren't there laws against fraud?

    February 7, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  6. DJ Reality

    Well for the GOP it is win at all cost. No matter the cost.

    February 7, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  7. 2L

    Is this the ONLY way Repubs can win? Pretending to be a Dem?

    February 7, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  8. rs

    Further proof the Republican Party is the party of losers. These guys are like a bad frat movie!

    February 7, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  9. John Doe

    When our skilled jobs were offshored, and the traditional family was destroyed, we lost our integrity as well. Marketing is only professional lying. Soon Dems will copy this trick, as they have copied others in the past.

    February 7, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  10. Bruce

    Aside from the incredible ethical issues with this "strategy," it also suggests that Republicans can't win on their own merits.

    February 7, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  11. rs

    Rick McDaniel

    That seems to be the GOP, learning the dirty tricks used by the Dems.

    Politics didn't get the reputation for the dirtiest of occupations, for no reason.
    REALLY?! Name one Democratic dirty trick of this caliber- Remember the Right will for ever be Richard M. Nixon's party of "dirty tricks". Losers!

    February 7, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  12. No one

    O.C.G.A. § 16-9-109.1 (2013)
    Illegal in Georgia. More specifically a felony, each state has its own laws on these, Florida specifically states domain names are included in such fraudulent activities.

    February 7, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  13. Xavier Neuro

    Why is this not illegal?

    February 7, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  14. Steve in PA

    The party of no ideas, no good candidates and no action...well just NO really. They try to change the voter ID laws, redistrict like crazy, and now come up with phony web sites-anything to win yet not give the population as a whole something it can live with. Is it really that hard to come up with any far reaching ideas that will appeal to a broad range of voters? I guess so...to move forward one must let go slightly of the things that were popular 50 years ago...or 4000 years ago.

    February 7, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Reed w wrote: February 6, 2014 07:36 pm:

    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.
    The article quotes the NRCC's press secretary, who is just overlfowing with pride as he denies this practice is deceptive. Denial of the facts is most often seen among conservatives, most particularly when it doesn't fit their view of how the world works, and how everything is supposed to be. On the flip side, manufacturing facts to fit the world view is also a very common practice among conservatives.

    February 7, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  16. Elyse

    Wow. That is just sick. And, honestly, it's idiotic. All they're going to end up doing is turning on-the-fence voters away from them.

    Also, this is fraud, which is illegal. I hope someone with a law background sues them.

    February 7, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  17. Sal

    You just can't trust those people. And they want to lead this country? 

    February 7, 2014 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  18. Tom Brinkman

    Remember when you were a child and you did something wrong. And your mother said "bad thing", and you said "but Johnny across the street did this too". Sorry, but even if the Dems have done something bad along the way, this unethical website scam/phishing is dead wrong! No ifs, ands, or buts!

    February 7, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  19. Bob

    Phoney party creates phoney websites. Just reinforces the GOP brand.

    February 7, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  20. John

    We should require candidates to take an oath to tell the truth and, when they or their supporters are found to violate the oath, they are disqualified from the election. Our nation deserves so much better from those who would serve in public office.

    February 7, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  21. RonG

    Who believes the repubs really came up with this on their own?
    It's just a take-off on what the dems were already doing.

    February 7, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  22. EmergencyThought

    You think that democrats would be flattered. Unfortunately, even they know that their low information voter propaganda needs a clean up, so the GOP is here to assist. After all, it isn't like democrats haven't been pretending to know more about what a Republican should do than Republicans, themselves. We just took it to heart. Can't make phoneys happy.

    February 7, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  23. ShawnDH

    Republicans can't win without lying and cheating...and probably can't win WITH lying and cheating, but considering they have no actual values, they'll sure try!

    February 7, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  24. george michael

    Deceive, lie, cheat, steal....its the "NEW" republican party.

    February 7, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  25. sammy750

    This is funded by the Koch brothers who are taking over the USA in 2014. They have spent over a half billion in campaign ads so far. That is 9 months from the election

    February 7, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
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