The NRCC ("National Republican Congressional Committee") proudly announced the "attack microsites" against Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber in November, but they are receiving national attention after an article in the Tampa Bay Times tells the story of a man who claims he was duped into donating to the NRCC from a similar site targeting Florida Democrat Alex Sink.
The "Sinema For Congress"/NRCC site was not specifically announced in the press release or blog post trumpeting the other microsites, but the link was casually thrown into a release calling on Sinema to apologized for her support of Obamacare. NBC News used the Kyrsten Sinema lookalike as its prime example in an article yesterday.
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The National Journal did run an article in December questioning the legality of these websites, citing FEC regulations (11 C.F.R. 102.14(b)(3)) and quoting a former general counsel of the FEC who now heads a bipartisan group calling for campaign reform. The NRCC and a former counsel for the Republican National Committee reply that they are "100 percent" legal and are "pretty clear" that they are in opposition.
The text IS pretty clearly opposed to Sinema, Kirkpatrick, Barber, etc. However, to get people to the site and the text, the NRCC had to (1) register the URLs, (2) get them listed in Google (etc) search results for pro-Democratic searches, (3) use smiling faces of the Democrats - generally taken from the target's own website, (4) place large banners at the top of the page that say things like "Kyrsten Sinema for Congress" with equally large "Donate" button at the bottom of the page, and (5) take them to a (non-secure!) page with this in the URL box: "http://contribute.sinemaforcongress.com/"**
Announcing the microsites, NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek claimed - with no apparent irony - that "These Democrats are frauds and don’t fit their districts....With this new NRCC campaign, voters will finally learn the truth about these two-faced politicians."
The URL's for the NRCC fake sites are "AnnKirkpatrick.com", "SinemaForCongress.com", and "RonBarber2014.com". The NRCC site comes up on the 1st page of Google results if you search "Ron Barber 2014", while the official campaign site showed up on page 5! (BTW, the SEO on the other two sites does not appear to be nearly as effective.)
Below the jump are all of the Arizona-related pages.
(BONUS IRONY: Last month, the Arizona GOP filed an FEC complaint against the Democratic "House Majority PAC" (and complained about Rep. Kirkpatrick) for violating FEC rules by using video from Kirkpatrick's campaign. The NRCC's Kirkpatrick site also used a Kirkpatrick campaign photo (from the same shoot, I think). Likewise, for their Barber microsite. It is different when an opponent uses campaign material, but ironic nonetheless.)
Sinema campaign spokesperson Rodd McLeod tells Arizona's Politics that he has not heard of any duped Sinema supporters, "As far as I know, our donors are not going to the fake Sinema site."
* Some of th other Democratic incumbents thus "targeted" are "John Barrow (GA-12), Collin Peterson (MN-07), Mike McIntyre (NC-07), Jim Matheson (UT-04), and Nick Rahall (WV-03)." Also, the NRCC separately announced similar websites against New Hampshire Democrats Rep. Annie Kuster and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. The Tampa Bay Times article details such a site targeting Rep. Alex Sink, from Florida. The National Journal article also listed Democratic targets of John Lewis (MT), as well as Domenic Recchia and Sean Eldridge from New York.
**Interestingly, the URLs for the "contribute" pages for Barber and Kirkpatrick to indicate that they are NRCC (secure) pages, but the Sinema one does not.
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