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Republicans The Almighty Buck Politics

Look-Alike Web Sites Hoodwink Republican Donors 294

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-than-meets-the-eye dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Shane Goldmacher writes that a network of look-alike campaign websites have netted hundreds of thousands of dollars this year in what some are calling a sophisticated political phishing scheme. The doppelgänger websites have the trappings of official campaign pages: smiling candidate photos and videos, issue pages, and a large red "donate" button at the top and exist for nearly three-dozen prominent GOP figures, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and donation magnets such as Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Allen West of Florida. The only difference is that proceeds from the shadow sites go not to the candidates pictured, but to an obscure conservative group called CAPE PAC run by activist Jeff Loyd, a former chairman of the Gila County GOP in Arizona. 'The only thing they are doing is lining their pockets and funding their own operation,' says Republican political strategist Chris LaCivita. CAPE PAC has a strong Web presence, with over 100,000 followers on Twitter and 50,000 on Facebook and its business model is to buy Google ads — about $290,000 worth, as of the end of June — to promote its network of candidate sites whenever people search for prominent GOP officials. A search for 'Mitt Romney,' for instance, often leads to two sponsored results: Romney's official site and CAPE PAC's mittromneyin2012.com. Once on a CAPE PAC site, users would have to notice fine print at either the top or bottom of the page revealing that they were not on the official page of their favored politician. A dozen donors, including some experienced Washington hands such as Neusner, had no idea they had contributed to the group before National Journal Daily contacted them. 'It confused me, and I do this for a living,' says Washington lobbyist Patrick Raffaniello. 'That's pretty sophisticated phishing.'"
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Look-Alike Web Sites Hoodwink Republican Donors

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:04PM (#41292257)
    Idiots and their money are soon parted.
    But hey, at least this way, they weren't going to as horrible of a cause.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:15PM (#41292391)

      No, no, what happened is The Free Market (blessed be Its holy name) has decided that these fraudst--sorry, intrepid businessmen at CapePac deserve that money in the marketplace of ideas.

      After all, that's the decision that these sucke--sorry, customers have unwittingl--I mean willingly made.

      • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:16PM (#41293167)

        No, no, what happened is The Free Market (blessed be Its holy name) has decided that these fraudst--sorry, intrepid businessmen at CapePac deserve that money in the marketplace of ideas.

        After all, that's the decision that these sucke--sorry, customers have unwittingl--I mean willingly made.

        I really don't think that anyone has been "hoodwinked", or that these are fraud or phishing sites. These are PAC sites. This is what PACs do, they accept donations and essentially spend that money any way they see fit. Ostensibly, like the fine print says, they use that money to oppose various candidates like the president, or support other candidates (often it seems that supporting a candidate actually means running ads opposing another candidate, rather than ads that highlight why your man should get the job).

        Anyway, my point is that this is not malware, or phishing, or an "attack", or fraud. This is American politics. So really the post I'm replying to is right on target, sarcasm or not - this is the system that we have deliberately made for ourselves.

    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:24PM (#41292523)
      No one would ever do this to a democrat... Sigh. When will people look beyond the letter and actually see the candidates? Then maybe will will get some better ones.
      • by vlm (69642) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:34PM (#41292669)

        When will people look beyond the letter and actually see the candidates? Then maybe will will get some better ones.

        Unlikely, if they had vision that good, they'd look beyond the candidates too, and see they have identical donors, so there's not much difference.

        What is different is the PR campaigns. One side wants to primarily use the government tactics (which has merged with big business) to destroy the middle class, and the other side wants to primarily use big business tactics (which has merged with the government) to destroy the middle class.

        Personally I used to be a fan of having big business destroy my class, but then the bible thumpers and extremists took over and kicked all the normal people out, so now I lean toward having the government destroy my class. Right or wrong, assisted suicide is illegal on an individual medical basis; however on a national basis its not only legal but compulsory. Oh well.

        • by OverkillTASF (670675) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:09PM (#41293077)
          Republicans want to try to keep you from doing evil, Democrats want to force you to do good.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:13PM (#41293139)

          Blind skepticism is little better than blind faith.

          Since your name suggest you chose the right editor, I'll assume there is hope for you.

          When you say "they have identical donors" that simlply isn't true. The billionaires that make up Crossroads GPS are not donating to Obama's campaign or PACs, and LGBT PAC is not spending money saying nice things about Romney. There is a choice. If you're in the 1%, or an ultra-conservative religious enthusiast, Romney will undoubtedly have your back. If if you're.. well... everyone who doesn't care to see the desires of the ultra-conservatives and the wealthy prioritized above the rest of us, then it would seem Obama is a clear choice.

          If you want to cut out all the bullshit, take two good examples. Read the 2010 Affordable Care Act (as passed)

          http://www.healthcare.gov/law/full/ [healthcare.gov]

          And then Read the Paul Ryan budget (which Romney claims is very similar (if not identical) to his):

          http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/pathtoprosperity2013.pdf [house.gov]

          These are outstanding examples of what each camp would like to do with your money. You can read into the past versions if you like. The orignal Obama Care included the highly controversial Public Option, and the original Ryan plan turned Medicare into Vouchercare. Both were bad ideas if you ask me, but they have since adapted their plans.

          If your argument could be amended to: "Both sides are far too influenced by money and special interests." Then I would wholeheartedly agree and highly recommend this book by Lawrence Lessig on how we should go about fixing this problem:

          http://www.amazon.com/Republic-Lost-Money-Corrupts-Congress--/dp/0446576433/ [amazon.com]

        • by Genda (560240) <mariet AT got DOT net> on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:18PM (#41293201) Journal

          This is why I find the flaming and ranting and social polarization so flat out ridiculous...

          My whore leans to the left... you're an idiot, everyone knows a whore should lean to the right. Guys, the operative word here is "Whore" someone who sells themselves as a function of performing social acts for pay. The fact yours lean in different directions doesn't alter the fundamental economic reality. America has one party, the Republicrats. Some of them talk blue and some talk red, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, they are all about the green and everything else is just frosting on a cow flop.

        • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:37PM (#41293397) Journal

          What is different is the PR campaigns. One side wants to primarily use the government tactics (which has merged with big business) to destroy the middle class, and the other side wants to primarily use big business tactics (which has merged with the government) to destroy the middle class.

          I guess that's why the Republicans and Democrats have spent the better part of two years fighting over rescinding tax cuts for those making over $250k and extending social spending for those making less than $250k.

          Maybe you'd like to explain your "destroy the middle class" comment a little further?
          Without any context, it just makes you seem ignorant.

  • Inevitable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:09PM (#41292315) Homepage Journal

    This was inevitable since citizens united. Money=speech and does not necessarily need to relate to a campaign to be used with respect to a campaign. Fraud(is it fraud?) was a completely logical consequence.

    • Re:Inevitable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:02PM (#41293001)

      This was inevitable since citizens united.

      I'm sorry, but fraud existed long before the Citizen's United case, and will exist long after. Isn't it common knowledge that one should be very certain of the website one is buying things from/giving money to, and didn't that advice come about not because of SCOTUS but because of existing fraud?

      Weren't there any look-alike fraud sites before Citizen's United reaffirmed that people who own corporations still have civil and constitutional rights? I think there were.

      There is nothing inherently political about this issue, nor is there anything inherently political about the crime. It being Republicans who are being defrauded doesn't excuse it, and Citizen's United has nothing to do with it.

      • Re:Inevitable (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hillgiant (916436) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:42PM (#41293457)

        Citizens United did not create fraud. But it did make it a lot easier to perpetuate. So many "social advocacy" groups that no one has ever heard of, no one knows who runs, no one knows who funds, no one knows where the money goes.

        Just make a Kittens & Puppies for Christ PAC, set up a web page, post a couple partisan screeds on it, add a DONATE button, and presto: money.

        Even better if you actually do a tiny bit of whatever qualifies for advocacy these days and roll the rest into "operating expenses". (So much more civilized than "hookers and blow")

      • Re:Inevitable (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:42PM (#41293461)

        ... before Citizen's United reaffirmed that people who own corporations still have civil and constitutional rights?

        Too bad those corporate "citizens" don't have any civil or constitutional responsibilities or have to follow all the same rules we regular citizens do. I sure wish I could live here in Virginia, yet declare my home state to be Delaware and avoid paying state taxes or getting sued here in Virginia.

        As far as public corporations, the stock-holders own the companies. Hmm... I don't recall getting to vote my shares whether or not to donate to political parties with any of the companies for which I own stock, so how am I being represented here?

  • ssssshhh! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The dirty little secret is that there is less money in fishing for Democrats

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:10PM (#41292341)

    This leads to something that has always puzzled me about American political parties -- their legal status. Are they non-profit corporations, or something? Other than the brownshirts, what keeps me from opening up a storefront down the street from the local Republican Party headquarters, and call my place the local Republican Party headquarters, instead -- complete with candidates that I support, fundraisers, etc.?

    • Re:Question (Score:4, Informative)

      by tilante (2547392) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:18PM (#41292439)
      Yes, they are non-profit corporations, and as such, hold trademarks on their logos, company names, etc. So the Republican Party would be able to sue you for trademark infringement.
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        but "friends of the local republican politicians org" would be totally fine?

        that's to say, a lot of the pr on stations etc in usa seems to be bought by these support organizations(and not bought by the parties or candidates directly, like over here) - so is it fraud to create one, gather money for it and then just use the money very, very sparingly for the cause?

        • Re:Question (Score:4, Informative)

          by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:26PM (#41293303)

          That's not fraud, it's completely typical. Not just for political causes, but all non-profits.

          Don't forget that 'officer salaries' come off the top of donations.

          You do have to file a metric buttload of paperwork every year to stay legal and not get greedy/stupid with the foundation credit cards.

          The hard part is, as always, finding the suckers with money.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This leads to something that has always puzzled me about American political parties -- their legal status. Are they non-profit corporations, or something?

      I think the official status of US political parties is that they exist as "shut the fuck up and stop asking inconvenient questions, citizen, unless you want to wake up tomorrow to find your family and friends 'disappeared' and your freedoms 'inconvenienced'" entities. I think that sort of entity is defined in the tax code under section Go-Fuck-Yourself.9934-EZ.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      Not sure exactly where political parties fit in the maze of U.S. corporate entity classification. But the network of state and local parties that calls itself "The Republican Party" is affiliated with the Republican National Committee, which owns all the IP relating to the GOP "brand". If you start calling your organization "The Republican Party", expect to Hear from their lawyers [politico.com].

      The GOP doesn't, to my knowledge, have a Sturmabteilung. If they did, it would presumably wear Red, not Brown.

      • I find this a bit amazing. The idea seems to be that a private organisation can hijack the terms "Republican" or "Democratic", when we know that only the most dubious third world hellholes have the words in their country names or one party political organisations. The People's Republic of China and the Democratic Republic of North Korea, spring to mind. Perhaps there's a rule here: the names of countries mean exactly the opposite of what they say, so that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ire
        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          ... and the Democratic Republic of North Korea, spring to mind.

          To be precise, the country is called the People's Democratic Republic of Korea. That's a bonus second "aren't we nice" adjective (for extra craziness multiplier), and no North (because they maintain that the South is rightfully theirs too).

          • by fm6 (162816)

            no North (because they maintain that the South is rightfully theirs too).

            Uh, there's no "South" in the official name "Republic of Korea" either.

            This is not a unique case. Recall the Republic of Vietnam ("South Vietnam"), the Federal Republic of Germany ("West Germany"), and the Arab Republic of Yemen ("Yemen") which existed as U.S ally/clients in opposition to the Soviet ally/clients, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam ("North Vietnam"), the German Democratic Republic ("East Germany") and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen ("South Yemen"). In each of the above cases, one a

  • by beltsbear (2489652) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:10PM (#41292345)
    Funny how one slashdot article follows another sometimes.
  • by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:16PM (#41292415)

    Perhaps some campaign finance reform is in order?

    • Perhaps some campaign finance reform is in order?

      It already has been reformed. This is the reform.

  • Gooses in sauce. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928)

    "Clearly, it's deceptive and it's wrong and it's hurting good, Republican conservative candidates," Neusner said. He has since asked for a refund, which he said the group is processing.

    Yet the disclaimer was right there at the bottom of the page.

    Why do you hate the free market, Neusner?

    --
    BMO

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:19PM (#41292455)

    Hey just a quick reminder, election day this year for 3rd party candidates has been moved up to Tuesday November 6th so they have extra time to count handwritten "Ron Paul" write in votes and stuff like that... so if you're voting libertarian party, or really any 3rd party, anyone other than -R or -D, PLEASE show up at the polls on Tuesday November 6th, mkay? And if you're voting for a -R or -D then DO NOT show up at the polls until Wednesday November 7th this year. I'd really appreciate your help and if you could copy this to your facebook and G+ and twitter and all that, I'd really appreciate it as a personal favor. Please make sure that any -D or -R voters you know, won't show up at the polls until the 7th, OK?

    TLDR is the voting commission has split presidential voting by party to reduce crowds, all 3rd party voters = vote on Tuesday Nov 6th, and D/R voters please don't arrive at the polls until Wednesday Nov 7th!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jpapon (1877296)
      Careful son, that's voter fraud, and could earn you a nice vacation in your local Federal penitentiary.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tekrat (242117)

        Don't be ridiculous. It's only voter fraud if he's a MINORITY.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Thus, "Here's another old scam for your examination". There's a million old scams... merely running them online is not very interesting.

        I wonder what the internet equivalent is of "stealing neighbors yard signs" and "standing withing 500 feet of the polling place and campaigning" for internet voting and internet fraud.... I haven't figured that one out yet. Fake donation collection and fake voting information is almost too obvious/simple.

        • by vlm (69642)

          There's a million old scams... merely running them online is not very interesting.

          I hate to reply to myself, and contradict myself, but I believe I just invented a new form of voter fraud in the last hour while thinking about this. Unlike all the other example I thought of, this is unique and new to the internet age and never existed before in identical format in meatspace.

          Take witches cauldron. Mix in:
          1) A decent rootkit to intercept and modify all traffic in and out of a box
          2) Deep monitoring and tracking sufficient to categorize a PC as D or R owned (for example, tracking cookies fr

    • Voter surpression. There's a thousand ways to do it. The easiest is to target geographically. You find a place where you will find lots of supporters of the opposing party (If you're trying to stop republican voters, a church. If you're trying to stop democratic voters, a college campus) and spread your misinformation there. Election organisers also pull tricks like that all the time, like deliberatly under-allocating polling locations to districts they know would tend to vote for the enemy so some of the v
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:20PM (#41292479)

    They go for smooth and polished, and don't look at all like the cluttered, Times New Roman-laden "stopmrobama.com" -- oh, and the fact that your "mittromneyin2012.com" link redirected to "stopmrobama.com", and the page that comes up is all about Obama, and doesn't have the word "Romney" anywhere on it, should also be big hints.

    'It confused me, and I do this for a living,' says Washington lobbyist Patrick Raffaniello. 'That's pretty sophisticated phishing.'

    Uh, no. This just proves Washington lobbyists are pretty bad at what they purportedly "do for a living".

  • by ffflala (793437) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:20PM (#41292483)
    It's interesting that this is hitting Republican donors. Republicans tend to claim to see regulations as something to be avoided, as big-government, anti-free-market, babysitting when people and/or the free market should take responsibility.

    However, this is exactly the sort of "there ought to be a law" technically-legal-but-unethical business practice that regulations, at their best, can and do address. Right now this guy is probably protected from a solid fraud case because he puts the disclaimer, albeit in tiny print and in an unlikely place to read it. But regulations could be promulgated that would require any page site that accepts political donations to post disclaimers of proper level of font size, prominence, and in clear language.

    Such regulations already exist for, for example, the credit card "box" that clearly, states terms of credit card offers, including the APR, fees, etc. Before the "box" regulations, this info used to be squirreled away, in fine print, obscure language, if it was to be found at all. And like the donors, people often found themselves unwittingly fooled out of real money because they were duped.
  • Sleaze vs Party (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tanktalus (794810) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:22PM (#41292503) Journal

    Gotta love all the comments so far. Apparently, when it's a sleazeball in your own party, it's just a single sleazeball (or a handful of them, whatever), not representative of the party. But when it's the other party, it's poetic justice.

    No, people, fraud is fraud, deception is deception, no matter which politics they put on their front door, and no matter who they defraud.

    • Re:Sleaze vs Party (Score:4, Informative)

      by bmo (77928) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:28PM (#41292573)

      What you don't understand is that the party that rails against regulations is now the victim of fraud.

      Which makes the schadenfreude especially sweet.

      Why do you hate the free market?

      --
      BMO

      • by poity (465672)

        I'm pretty sure even with strict regulation of campaign finance, fraudsters would still use phishing scams like this.

        • by Algae_94 (2017070)
          I'm sure there would be less of them. Heck, I'm thinking about getting in on this bonanza, but if there were stricter regs and potential punishments, I'd never even consider it.
      • What you don't understand is that the party that rails against regulations is now the victim of fraud.

        But are they complaining about it?

        For the record, I did not RTFA.

        • Re:Sleaze vs Party (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bmo (77928) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:26PM (#41293291)

          >But are they complaining about it?

          Yes, it's called hypocrisy.

          It's fine if *you* get fucked over with a credit card contract because of tiny print buried on page 42, but woe be unto the person who deceives a Republican donor. Hell hath no fury.

          --
          BMO

    • by gatfirls (1315141)
      If it's fraud so be it, if it's deception then he's just playing the same game the actual politicians do to make people part with their money. At least his deceptions deprive a relatively small amount of people of money they are ok with parting with (probably to someone else deceiving them) anyway., instead of, ya know, ones that bankrupt a country.
    • Re:Sleaze vs Party (Score:5, Informative)

      by fermion (181285) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:34PM (#41293365) Homepage Journal
      I don't see it this way at all. What I see is a website that has palusible deniability. This is only so much money one can donate directly to a political candidate. Given that it is ok to donate unlimited amounts to a PAC not directly associated with a candiate, it makes sense that websites like this would be set up. It makes sense that lobbyist and insiders would feighn ignorance. OTOH, the political party or candidate could likely take such sites down with a simple DCMA notice if they were in fact phising operations and in fact did do harm to the candidate. But these are not phising sites. They do not appear to be stealing personal information, nor do they appear to be misusing the money. I mean maybe not all the moeny is being used to promote the candidate, and certainly the candidate does not have control, but that is normal and the later is the definition of how these PACS are supposed to work. They are not supposed to controlled in any way by the cadidate.
  • by monk (1958)

    A better name would be Carpe PAC.

  • SECRET SOURCES OF MONEY that need not be revealed

    does that really feel like something that should be part of your country? democrat, republican, anyone?

    where is the outrage about that?

    if money from who knows where can influence our politics, i don't know why this story should elicit 1/10th of the concern

    if it comes from who knows where, it might as well go who knows where

    • SECRET SOURCES OF MONEY that need not be revealed. Does that really feel like something that should be part of your country? democrat, republican, anyone?

      They also have secret sources of votes that need not be revealed. Why should my donations to candidates be made a public record when my vote is not? What's to stop a prospective employee from pulling my donation records up when they are going through the hiring process and saying "Oh, he donated to a Democrat/Republican/Libertarian/Green Party candidate, we don't want to hire one of those people."

    • by Genda (560240)

      I don't think they are listening... PEOPLE, THE MONEY CAN COME FROM ANYWHERE!!! If the Chinese think the Democrats are cramping their style and the Republicans would be willing to cut them a little more slack... here's a billion dollars, don't spend it all in one place. If the global media conglomerates think the Dems are kowtowing just a wee bit deeper than the Reps, here's a billion... remember who your friends are. This is the most morally corrosive, antidemocratic, cynical, destructive to the fabric of

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:48PM (#41292847) Journal

    Look-Alike Web Sites Hoodwink Republican Donors

    And Actual Democrat Web Sites Hoodwink Democrat Donors...

    Don't hate, you'd laugh if it were reversed. [instantrimshot.com]

  • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:02PM (#41292997)
    Republican politicians hoodwink Republican donors (and the rest of us) every day of the week. Nothing to see here, move along.
  • So much win (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MacGyver2210 (1053110)

    One word: Awesome.

    I love stuff like this - it's doing to the GOP's constituents what the GOP does to the country on a regular basis.

  • damn (Score:5, Funny)

    by knappe duivel (914316) on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:19PM (#41293211)
    This guy is going to give PAC's a bad name.
  • There are dishonest, money grubbing, gravy sucking pigs taking advantage of the politically weak minded ... and then there are internet scammers. Man this is like Nazis and Child Molesters in a cage match... who do you boo and who do your root for??? Oh, and for those of you with sensitive skin, I'll add I'd feel not a wit different if the scammers had been doing Democrats instead so there is that.

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