One of the most common ways to support a political candidate whose views you agree with is with the power of your dollar. Fundraising numbers are bandied about as a sign of grassroots support or candidate viability, and of course lead to purchasing necessary political resources like staff, media buys, campaign supplies and event venues.
What if, in an effort to donate money to a political candidate you support, you accidentally gave your money to someone you vehemently disagree with? Now, that would be a problem.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to some people trying to donate to Democratic candidates.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is being accused of trying to dupe voters into accidentally donating money to the GOP rather than the Democratic candidates featured in a number of websites, all using varieties of URLs modeled after Democratic candidates for Congress. With web addresses like “www.johntierny2014.com” and “www.sinkforcongress2014.com” the Republican party has obviously combined a tradition of cybersquatting — the purchasing of domains to ensure the people who would use them can’t access them — with some good old-fashioned dirty politicking to create confusion and turn political hit sites into potential cash cows.
Campaign Legal Center expert Paul S. Ryan told ThinkProgress that the websites could be considered an FEC violation, due to their lack of clear explanation that these aren’t pages meant to gather donations for the candidates, and that the funds donated through the portals go to the GOP instead. Unfortunately, according to Ryan, the amount of time it takes to file and have a complaint heard makes it unlikely that there would be any resolution before the 2014 elections.
The NRCC is obviously starting to feel some backlash, as a few of the donate pages, such as this one for Rep. Alex Sink now redirects to a more obvious NRCC URL-based landing page now. Others, such as the donation page for Rep. John Tierney, still doesn’t have that sort of transparency.
Why would the Sink page be more open about its GOP designation? Probably due to the publicity it has already received about tricking donors. According to the Tampa Bay Times, at least one Florida resident was already tricked by the fake site, and was forced to call the NRCC office to try and get his donation returned (which they at first refused to do).
This isn’t the first time that the Republican party has stooped to fake websites to fool people. Republicans in California created a fake website meant to look like the state’s insurance exchange, hoping their action would deter people from signing up for Obamacare. “[T]he Repubs mailed a pamphlet to their constituents, directing them to the decoy site, calling it a ‘resource guide’ to ‘help’ them navigate the ACA sign up process,” wrote Jim Hightower at The Progressive. “Far from help, however, the faux site is a trap. It’s filled with boilerplate Republican propaganda against the law, gimmicks to discourage viewers from even applying for the health care they need, and a rash of distortions and outright lies. There’s so much bunkum on the site that its fine print includes a disclaimer saying they don’t vouch for ‘the quality, content, accuracy, or completeness of the information’ it provides.”
That’s what passes for good governing in the GOP these days.
With the Republican party focusing more on their tech strategy, ploys and misdirections like this will continue to pop up all over. After all, that’s what happens when you put a priority on a “technology incubator” to prep digital strategy for upcoming elections. The Republican National Committee calls their new initiative “Para Bellum Labs,” which they say is Latin for “prepare for war.”
But as one Gawker reporter notes, that’s also the name of a Nazi pistol.
Photo Credit: Kyrsten Sinema for Congress