Double-check your URLs this election season: CNN reports the National Republican Congressional Committee is building fake websites to dupe potential Democratic donors.
The NRCC has reportedly registered hundreds of addresses and put up the names and images of Democratic candidates.
"We were pretty shocked, actually, that they had left a lot of URLs sitting out there for their candidates. We figured 'Well, if they're not going to use them, we will.'"
Each site includes a donation link, which redirects visitors to the NRCC's website. Visitors are then prompted to contribute and "help defeat" the Democratic candidate. (Via johnlewis4congress.com)
An NRCC spokeswoman tells The Wire the committee doesn't see anything objectionable about the misdirection. "Democrats are behind the game in digital. … They should be buying the URLs for their candidates. I think that's a pretty basic campaign tactic."
National Journal reports the NRCC promoted the sites, many of which share style cues, using search ads purchased through Google to generate traffic.
And those sites might indeed be illegal. Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center tells ThinkProgress the sites probably violate Federal Election Commission rules preventing the use of candidate names in special projects.
"The FEC considers websites, including microsites, a special project falling under this rule. The only exception is when the site makes it unambiguously clear it is opposed to the candidate."
Each site does have a box explaining it's paid for by the NRCC and not endorsed by the actual candidate. But a writer for Salon explains the FEC is notoriously slow to act — if it's going to move on these imitation sites at all. The six-member panel is split equally between Democrats and Republicans, making a majority vote unlikely. (Via johnlewis4congress.com, andrewromanoff2014.com)
"In the absence of the threat of enforcement, the only thing stopping a political party from outright ignoring campaign finance regulations is a sort of gentlemen's agreement not to."
The 2014 midterm elections will take place in November.