The RNCC has hijacked their Democratic opponents' names and gamed Google results to collect donations for Republicans.
Ray Bellamy said he wanted to make a political contribution to Alex Sink and did a Google search to land on "http://contribute.sinkforcongress2014.com."
"It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site," Bellamy, a doctor from Tallahassee who follows Florida politics, wrote in an email to the Buzz. (Here's Sink's actual site, which uses a similar color scheme. UPDATE: Democrats have their own misleading URL: Jollyforcongress.com, though the site is clearly against him.)
But what Bellamy overlooked was that the site is designed to raise money against Sink. "I failed to notice the smaller print: Under "Alex Sink Congress" was the sentence 'Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her,' " he said.
National Journal also documented Republicans' name-squatting:
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.
"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.
Under FEC regulations, political committees cannot use a candidate's name in a "special project," such as a microsite, unless it "clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate."
These sites don't. They rely on their ability to game Google via ad buys and other traffic/SEO builders to get people onto the site, where their headlines suggest it is the candidate's site. It's not until after they donate that they discover they've just helped the opposition:
"After sending what I thought was a contribution of 250 dollars to Sink, I get a page clearly thanking me for attempting to defeat Democrats, Obama, and Pelosi. The new URL is https://www.nrcc.org/contribute/thank you/ and a photo of Greg Walden, Republican Congressman -Oregon 2nd District."
How is this any different than a phishing scheme? It's social engineering intended to dupe people into opening their wallets for the opposition. This is a problem that the FEC should be fixing now rather than later, but likely won't due to the even ideological and partisan split on the panel.