The National Republican Congressional Committee has set up a number of websites that look like they could be a Democratic candidate’s campaign page, unless you read the fine print. They may even violate a Federal Election Commission regulation, Campaign Legal Center expert Paul S. Ryan explained to ThinkProgress.
The NRCC has set up these pages for various congressional opponents, including Amanda Renteria (CA), Martha Roberston (NY), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Alex Sink (FL), and John Tierney (MA). Each follow a similar format; they list the candidate’s name “for Congress” to ask for donations:
According to Ryan, the websites appear to violate a Federal Election Commission regulation prohibiting political committees and parties from using a candidate’s name in special projects. The FEC considers websites, including microsites, a special project falling under this rule. The only exception is when the site makes it unambiguously clear it is opposed to the candidate. In Ryan’s opinion, the page set up under Tierney’s name “does not unambiguously show opposition to Tierney.” However, he noted, the FEC is “not a nimble organization” and it can take two years to complete an investigation, well past election day.
Ray Bellamy of Florida says he was tricked by the page and accidentally made a donation to the NRCC. “It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site,” Bellamy told the Tampa Bay Times. The look-alike page uses the same colors as Florida candidate Alex Sink’s campaign, with the URL sinkforcongress2014.com. Once entering information, the person is redirected to an NRCC thank-you page.