At least 16 fraudulent sites attributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee have been discovered. These sites, whose domains are the names of Democratic candidates, use large type and photos that make them appear to be fundraisers for those candidates, though the small-print text makes it clear that these are actually sites set up opposing their apparent candidates. The NRCC claims these are all fair game and blame Democrats for not registered their candidates' names as for campaign sites. But when there's a site at AnnKirkpatrick.com, with the words ANN KIRKPATRICK FOR CONGRESS and a DONATE button beneath it, and when that DONATE button sends money to Ann Kirkpatrick's GOP rival, the intent to deceive is pretty clear.
At first glance, AnnKirkpatrick.com looks like any normal campaign website. A big picture of the smiling Arizona Democrat stands next to a "Kirkpatrick For Congress" banner above a fat "DONATE" button, all in the same colors as those used by the real website for Kirkpatrick, who's fighting to keep her House seat. Read closer and the text of the site reveals lines like "Kirkpatrick is a huge embarrassment to Arizona," but anyone who didn't bother to read the site closely (or who couldn't due to bad eyesight) before trying to make a donation to Kirkpatrick's campaign would find that they'd just contributed to the coffers of the National Republican Congressional Committee—the House GOP's campaign arm backing Kirkpatrick's opponent.
Annkirkpatrick.com is one of a series of websites (TIME has found 16, so far) the NRCC has set up that are clearly designed to trick the viewer—at least at first—into thinking they're on a legitimate campaign website. The tactic smacks of "spoofing" scams, whereby spammers masquerade under fake phone numbers or email addresses to win trust (it's how you might have once received an email that looked addressed from a friend but turned out to be a plaintive plea from wealthy Nigerian prince). But the line between clever and criminal is an ambiguous one in American politics, and anyone claiming to be shocked by less-than-truthful campaign materials hasn't been around much.
Campaign Websites in 2014 Aren't Always What They Seem [Denver Nicks/Time]
(via Wil Wheaton)