Republican campaign group tweaks websites, makes them less misleading
February 16th, 2014
08:14 PM ET
9 years ago

Republican campaign group tweaks websites, makes them less misleading

Washington (CNN) – The National Republican group whose mission is to elect GOP House members has altered some of its misleading websites for 2014 congressional candidates, making it more clear that any contributions made through the sites will be going toward defeating Democrats, not supporting them.

CNN Special Investigations Correspondent Drew Griffin featured the National Republican Congressional Committee’s strategy earlier this month. At least 15 websites that appear to be official campaign sites for Democratic candidates are actually run by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The website changes come after Griffin interviewed one donor who thought he was contributing to Democratic Rep. John Barrow when he clicked a big, blue “donate” button on a site that looked like it was made by the Georgia congressman’s campaign. The URL read:

Randy Frails, the donor, contributed $1,000 through the website, only to soon realize it was actually a site created to challenge Barrow. He didn’t see the smaller print that stated the money would go toward defeating the Democratic incumbent or the tiny disclosure at the bottom that the website was paid for by the NRCC.

The original contribution page from the NRCC's John Barrow website. (Screen shot of Drew Griffin's report)

The original contribution page from the NRCC's John Barrow website. (Screen shot of Drew Griffin's report)

Frails was able to get his money back, but the John Barrow website is one of many that uses the image of the candidate in a positive light, not the kind of image seen in attack ads. It appears at first glance to be supportive of the candidate.

The copy on the page reads like a negative ad and quickly proves that the website is not affiliated with the candidate: “Georgia families know John Barrow is not fighting for them in Washington.” NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato defended the websites earlier this month, saying the “sites are clear in terms of the disclosure and the content where we're coming from.”

The home page portion of these websites still remains online, including the disclosure, but the contribution page has changed.

For example, the big “donate” button on the John Barrow website takes donors to a new page, one that looks distinctly different from the John Barrow website and explicitly states the NRCC’s name at the top.

“The National Republican Congressional Committee exists to defeat House Democrats. Chip in today to help increase the Conservative Majority in the House,” the page reads.

Here’s an example of the old shot of a contribution page for Democratic candidate Alex Sink in Florida. The donate button now takes donors to the new page.

Scarpinato confirmed Sunday the group had changed the donation portal on the websites.

"We recently updated our contribution pages, as we frequently do, to highlight our efforts to defeat House Democrats in 2014 and prevent Nancy Pelosi from ever being Speaker of the House again,” he said in an e-mail.

A photo of President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius - who are all smiling - is also displayed at the top of the new contribution page.

Filed under: 2014 • Ads • NRCC
soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. Craig

    The intent is still exactly the same. Bait the voter with something that appears to be supporting the candidate, hoping they won't read all the fine print, then ask them for money quite satisfied if the voter is mislead into believing they are supporting the candidate in question, and then taking their money. In short, it's just another "screw you" GOP program, just like all the others. They simply do not...and can not...understand that they will only gain voters...legitimate voters...when they have something specific to offer that betters American Society. Since they worry only about their rich donors and "the party" they will never gain voters other than the gullible.

    February 17, 2014 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  2. hdusey

    Typical Republican tactics.... if you can't win on the merits of your candidate... cheat and deceive. Deceptive websites like these, gerrymandering and voter suppression. Guess they think all is fair in elections... pitiful.

    February 17, 2014 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  3. bspurloc

    sue them already....
    cant win running on Morals u know the things they claim to be top most of...

    February 17, 2014 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  4. David

    This doesn't surprise anyone....does it ???

    February 17, 2014 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  5. joe

    The Obama administrations action over the last 5 years are indefensible...

    February 17, 2014 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  6. Deej

    Watching the main strategist responsible for this as he preened and crowed in dozens of interviews, I found myself feeling nostalgic for the good old days of tarrin' and featherin'.

    February 17, 2014 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  7. whatsamatta_u

    Too late. I demand an FEC and DOJ investigation, did the #GOP commit Election and Wire Fraud? Also, the Congressmen involved should complain to the DOJ as well. If the #GOP national committee sanctioned it, they should be penalized.

    A deeper question is, is the #GOP sabotaging the Electoral Process? Maybe the #GOP should be considered a criminal enterprise not under RICO, more under REINCO.

    February 17, 2014 02:50 am at 2:50 am |
  8. tina

    The only way they can win or get donations is by cheating. Republicans are a sorry bunch.

    February 17, 2014 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  9. Sandvichmancer

    I love how the main message is "defeat democrats".

    Nothing positive, nothing about ways to change the system in beneficial ways, just getting everyone who disagrees out of the way.

    February 17, 2014 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  10. bayrat

    More dirty tricks from he scumbag GOP.

    February 17, 2014 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  11. rzc

    I am a independent wondering how sick and misleading almost everything the Republican Party does can get anymore VERY SAD

    February 17, 2014 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  12. nunya

    No, it wasn't clear before. It employed typical sleazy marketing tactics with misleading images and fine print that is different from the big print that gets all the attention. You can see in the original – in addition to the greatly smaller print, even the background of the fine print is made to make it more difficult to read.

    February 17, 2014 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  13. myway

    Another chapter in the ongoing republican smoke and mirrors campaign. Obviously, there are enough fools out there who fall for this stuff. Their motto: if you can't beat them, cheat them.

    February 17, 2014 03:45 am at 3:45 am |
  14. mccainin4

    What candidates should understand is they can request the domain name for their own use at very minimal or no cost because of these exact tactics. Soft drink companies don't want sales to go to knock offs. Neither do car companies.

    February 17, 2014 03:54 am at 3:54 am |
  15. Reality Check

    NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato defended the websites earlier this month, saying the “sites are clear in terms of the disclosure and the content where we're coming from.”

    That speaks volumes to the character of those running the sites and the candidates who endorse such tactics.

    February 17, 2014 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  16. bob

    Everyone knows that the sole purpose of the Republican Party is to defeat the Democrats. Now if only it was something a bit less vindictive and a little more constructive, like trying to improve education, reduce poverty, provide universal health care, a living wage and a balanced budget. Oh, wait, those are all things the Democrats want. I keep forgetting that what Republicans really want, besides defeating the Democrats, is to give more to the rich and to themselves.

    February 17, 2014 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  17. Kevin

    The sites could still be interpreted as misleading Largest text still reads John Barrow for Congress and the Donate link. What a bunch of weasels people in politics can be. The republicans seem to thoroughly enjoy not only confusing voters, but spend a lot of time and money making it difficult for citizens to vote at all.

    February 17, 2014 04:31 am at 4:31 am |
  18. scootfl78

    The change was made ONLY AFTER they were told what they were doing was illegal (even if they tried to say it wasn't). MSNBC apologizes and fires one of their staffers for telling the truth about racism and bigotry on the right and the Republicans NEVER apologize for the lies they make. Just cover them up and move along – that's the way their fans love it.

    February 17, 2014 04:57 am at 4:57 am |
  19. Chip

    Just proves how ignorant Republicans are. Their websites even support Dems as their comments. What idiots!

    February 17, 2014 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  20. Duke

    Well there was a time when I thought I just disagreed with some of the GOP's ideas. Now I think they are just hateful scum

    February 17, 2014 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  21. NoMoreRetoric

    "The National Republican Congressional Committee exists to defeat House Democrats. Chip in today to help increase the Conservative Majority in the House,” the page reads."

    Yes, instead of working for all of America and winning elections based on solutions, leadership and hard work and ethics.

    They just don't get it and neither do most voters. Their approach IS the problem.

    February 17, 2014 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  22. Jim Joneson

    Still easy to miss if you're in a hurry. Dirty, dirty, DIRTY!!! Why do Re-thug-licans have to deserve their name?

    February 17, 2014 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  23. Robert

    Continued dishonesty from the party of autocratic haters of freedom for all American citizens.

    February 17, 2014 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  24. Doug

    When you can't win on policy you must resort to cheating, suppressing the vote, hiding the contributors, gerrymandering etc. No matter, we see, WE SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING!

    February 17, 2014 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  25. Jack

    As a former Republican, this just going to backfire and can olnly show that the leadership is lacking at all levels.

    February 17, 2014 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
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