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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