Republicans know they are in deep trouble across our country. Their popularity is plummeting — their “unfavorable” rating is nearly 50% — largely thanks to efforts to stop people from voting, attacks on women and the LGBT community, and for making sure government doesn’t work and then blaming that on Democrats. In response, they have turned to deceptive strategies intended to deceive voters about their candidates.
Their most recent foray involves the creation of fake news websites attacking Democrats and designed to look like popular newspaper sites:
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which came under fire earlier this year for a deceptive series of fake Democratic candidate websites that it later changed after public outcry, has launched a new set of deceptive websites, this time designed to look like local news sources.
The NRCC has created about two dozen of these new faux news sites targeting Democrats, both challengers and incumbents, and is promoting them across the country with localized Google search ads.
The NRCC’s single-page sites are designed to appear to be a local news portal, with logos like “North County Update” or “Central Valley Update.” The articles begin in the impartial voice of a political fact-checking site, hoping to lure in readers. “We’ll take a look at her record and let you decide,” starts one. Then they gradually morph into more biting language. At the very bottom, in a box, is the disclaimer that the NRCC paid for the site.
“This is a new and effective way to disseminate information to voters who are interested in learning the truth about these Democratic candidates,” said Andrea Bozek, communications director for the NRCC. […]
Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the DCCC, still criticized the approach. “House Republicans’ campaign strategy to overcome their own historic unpopularity is to resort to deception—again.”
Here in Michigan, Democrat Pam Byrnes, who is seeking to unseat tea party obstructionist Tim Walberg, is the target of one of these offensive sites. The site is called “South Michigan Update” and looks for all the world like a Detroit Free Press article complete with a byline and a “Filed Under” tag. They even have ads for Tim Walberg masquerading as paid advertisements.
The fake article, titled “Byrnes struggles to escape her record”, features unflattering photos of Byrnes with ranting about tax hikes she voted for while in the state legislature (many of which Republicans also voted for) and the obligatory slam against “Obamacare”.
Byrnes issued this statement, calling on Walberg to repudiate the fake news site:
Over a month ago, I challenged Congressman Walberg to a series of debates because I believe voters deserve to hear from the candidates in an open, conversational, and informative way. But instead of debating me in public, he’s hiding behind fake websites and negative attacks. Congressman Walberg needs to denounce these misleading and unethical sites. Unless Congressman Walberg is afraid to face voters on his record of perks and politics, then he needs to stand up and demand these sites be taken down.
The sites won’t be taken down, of course. Republicans don’t want voters to know the truth. They want to mislead voters because it’s the only way they will be able to succeed against the groundswell of anger against their obstructionism and their favoring of corporate interests and the wealthiest Americans.
A complaint has been filed with the Federal Election Commission by the Campaign Legal Center.