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Tue Feb 4, 2014, 05:09 PM

GOP’s new dirty trick: Why our election laws are a joke - Salon.com


As dirty tricks go, this one is pretty minor, and even a bit funny:

The National Republican Congressional Committee has set up a number of websites that look like they could be a Democratic candidate’s campaign page, unless you read the fine print. They may even violate a Federal Election Commission regulation, Campaign Legal Center expert Paul S. Ryan explained to ThinkProgress.

The websites have large photos of Democratic candidates (and the photographs, unlike those in your typical anti candidate ad, are smiley and mostly flattering), and big, official-looking “[name] for Congress” graphics. There is a bit of much smaller type, and then the usual donation boxes. Except! The small type explains that you are donating to defeat this person. Here’s one of them:

The NRCC bought Google ads to send people searching for the candidates to the faux sites, which were all registered with official-sounding URLs like “domenic-recchia.com.” Then they bragged about it to donors:

After the NRCC launched three such sites, including one targeting New York Democratic congressional candidate Sean Eldridge, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Georgia, deputy chairman of the NRCC, wrote in a September fundraising pitch to donors, “We ruined three Democrats’ campaign launches last week and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (Pelosi’s campaign machine) couldn’t be more upset.”

As of now, there are at least six of these fake sites, all promoted with Google ads to make them appear at the very top of searches, with that barely legible yellow background (denoting paid links) that Google hopes you don’t notice. At least one person accidentally donated to the RNC while intending to donate to a Democratic candidate. The NRCC agreed to refund his donation, but obviously people who never realize they were tricked won’t ask for refunds. It may not be quite Nixonian, but yes, solid dirty trick, NRCC.

Republican Look-Alike Sites Mocking Democrats May Violate Rules - National Journal

[font size="+1"]Could targeted Democrats get the last laugh when it comes to anti-candidate microsites?[/font]

The National Republican Congressional Committee proudly launched a faux campaign website for Democratic candidate Domenic Recchia this week, mocking him as a "career politician … asking for your vote." They even bought Google ads to direct New Yorkers to www.domenic-recchia.com, designed at first glance to look like it could be Recchia's own, down to the same yellow star replacing the dot in the 'i' of his last name.

The problem is such a look-alike site, with a banner blaring "Domenic Recchia for Congress," may violate Federal Election Commission regulations for confusing the public, election lawyers say. (Screengrab)

"This doesn't even strike me as a close call," said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog group. "It's a slam dunk."

The Recchia site is just the latest in a series of mocking microsites the NRCC has put online to attack, taunt, and otherwise annoy Democratic congressional candidates from Montana to New York to West Virginia

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Reply GOP’s new dirty trick: Why our election laws are a joke - Salon.com (Original post)
Bill USA Feb 2014 OP
Gothmog Feb 2014 #1
CurtEastPoint Feb 2014 #2
Laelth Feb 2014 #3
Gothmog Feb 2014 #4
Bill USA Feb 2014 #5

Response to Bill USA (Original post)

Tue Feb 4, 2014, 05:34 PM

1. Juanita Jean is calling out the GOP for this deceptive tactic


Okay, so the Republican Party is trying to fool people into donating to them when the people think they’re donating to Democrats.

Well, alert the damn media. It ain’t like trying to fool people is virgin territory for them. This ain’t no damn pilgrim experience for Republicans.

Republicans are defending a series of websites they established that appear to support Democratic candidates for Congress, but instead direct contributions to the GOP.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said its websites were not confusing, and accused Democrats of crying foul because their candidates were struggling.

They refused refunds until a donor went to the media about it and now they are all like …. oh, not us, we will be delighted to refund money.

However, headlines like this —

— can hardly be classified as “news.” It’s what they do in the normal course of business.

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Response to Bill USA (Original post)

Tue Feb 4, 2014, 05:54 PM

2. Westmoreland had to have help on this. Dumb as a box of hair.

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Response to Bill USA (Original post)

Tue Feb 4, 2014, 07:13 PM

3. k&r for exposure. n/t


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Response to Bill USA (Original post)

Tue Feb 11, 2014, 07:33 PM

4. These websites are illegal

I found this analysis on why these websites are illegal on Prof. Hasen's electionlaw blog. I think that it is clear that these websites are illegal and the DNC needs to sue the RNCC http://www.acslaw.org/acsblog/do-misleading-campaign-websites-violate-federal-law

By 1992, the FEC came to share Justice Ginsburg’s view and amended its regulations at 11 C.F.R. § 102.14(a) to extend the candidate name prohibition to include not only the official name of the committee, but also “any name under which a committee conducts activities, such as solicitations or other communications, including a special project name or other designation.” The FEC explained that it had “become more concerned about the potential for confusion or abuse when an unauthorized committee uses a candidate’s name in the title of a special fundraising project. A person who receives such a communication may not understand that it is made on behalf the committee rather than the candidate whose name appears in the project’s title.” The Commission further explained that “the potential for confusion is equally great in all types of committee communications,” not merely the official titles.

Of course, notwithstanding the ban on the use of candidate names in the titles of committee communications, committees remain free to “discuss any number of candidates, by name, in the body of the communication.” Additionally, following a 1994 amendment to the FEC’s regulation, noncandidate committees may also use the name of a candidate “in the title of a special project name or other communication”—but only “if the title clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate.” Thus, the law is clear: a noncandidate committee may not use the name of a candidate in the committee’s title or in the title of a special project, such as a website, unless the committee opposes that candidate and the title of the website or other communication makes that opposition very clear.

The FEC made clear in a 1995 advisory opinion that the operation of a website constitutes a “special project” for purposes of the candidate name prohibition. Thus, because the NRCC is a noncandidate committee; the new websites are special projects under the law; and the URLs and titles include the names of candidates; the websites clearly fall within the federal law candidate name restrictions, and may only use the name of a candidate in their titles “if the title clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate.” But far from doing so, the URLs and titles of these websites contain textbook language indicating support for these candidates—e.g., SinemaForCongress.com. Indeed, the phrases of support used in the website URLs and titles are nearly the same as the examples of express advocacy or support the Supreme Court used in Buckley v. Valeo, such as “Smith for Congress.”

Finally, it is not sufficient, as some have asserted, that a reader who scrutinizes these websites more closely will ultimately recognize that they oppose, rather than support, the candidate named in the title. The FEC regulations make it clear that “the title” must unambiguously indicate such opposition. The regulations thus put the burden on political committees to refrain from creating misleading websites – not on the voting public to sort through intentionally confusing language.

Consequently, these misleading websites violate federal law. The NRCC should take down these websites and the FEC should initiate an enforcement action against the NRCC’s flagrant violations of federal campaign finance law.

If the law cited in this article is correct, the DNC could wait and sue to force these committees to turn over all funds. In any event, the RNCC is going to be facing some litigation for this tactic.

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Response to Gothmog (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 12, 2014, 04:13 PM

5. also: "Google slaps phishing warning on misleading GOP website" - Daily KOS


This is probably not what the National Republican Congressional Committee was expecting when they decided to make the contribution page on their websites targeting Democratic candidates mimic the Democrats' websites. First, after public backlash, they had to start offering refunds to donors who'd been misled, and now, Google has put a "reported phishing website" warning on at least the anti-Alex Sink site.

That's some digital strategery right there.

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