If you use the Internet to research political candidates before entering the voting booth, you’ll want to use a bit of extra caution this year. The National Journal is reporting that the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) has created and is promoting a series of fake news websites to spread negative information about select Democratic candidates and incumbents.
The Republican sites use innocuous sounding names like “Augusta Update” and “Central Valley Update” to appear like local, independent news sources. Articles typically begin with a non-partisan tone, but quickly turn negative toward specific Democratic candidates. Only when (and if) someone scrolls down to the absolute bottom of the screen will they notice a disclaimer stating the site was paid for by the NRCC.
The partisan attack sites are being promoted via localized Google search ads and blend in with legitimate news sources. Still, misleading though they may be, the sites operate within the letter of the law.
“This is a new and effective way to disseminate information to voters who are interested in learning the truth about these Democratic candidates," said NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek. “We believe this is the most effective way to present information to leave a lasting impact on voters.”
A spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee predictably blasted the new Republican tactic.
“House Republicans' campaign strategy to overcome their own historic unpopularity is to resort to deception—again,” said DCCC Spokesman Josh Schwerin.
This is the second time this election cycle that congressional Republicans have come under fire for misleading websites. Late last year, the NRCC created look-alike sites for Democratic candidates that sought campaign contributions. Instead of those contributions going to the Democratic candidates, however, the money went to their Republican challengers instead – a possible violation of campaign law.