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Dirty Tricks? Look-Alike Websites Lure Congressional Donors 157

First time accepted submitter AdamnSelene writes "Forbes reports on a National Republican Congressional Committee sanctioned campaign worthy of the NSA: fake candidate websites that use identical or similar pictures and color schemes to solicit donations to defeat the Democratic candidate. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the NRCC initially refused to refund the contribution from a Tampa Bay doctor who caught onto the scam, and he had to contact his credit card company to challenge the charges. The National Journal reports that the NRCC-sponsored effort may run afoul of Federal Election Commission regulations, though it expects that the bipartisan FEC will be toothless when it comes to enforcement. However, I have to wonder whether this is finally a good enough reason to use the DMCA and file take-down notices against the faux websites. Perhaps the candidates could solve this themselves, and get a judgement for copyright infringement so absurdly large that it puts the NRCC out of business?" Some sites along these lines might be dirtier than the ones here illustrated, which seem to fit pretty well into the broad world of snarky and cutting political ads; Dr. Ray Bellamy, the Tampa Bay donor mentioned above, intended to give money to candidate Alex Sink, but evidently didn't notice this line in bold print, just above the "Donate" button: "Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her." Note that, as the Tampa Bay Times' article mentions, this kind of site isn't limited to Republicans, either.
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Dirty Tricks? Look-Alike Websites Lure Congressional Donors

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  • Slashdot Alternative (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:29PM (#46196139)

    Has anyone created a website like the classic version of Slashdot that people are migrating to? I keep getting forced into the beta version when I come here. Where will everyone be going once this beta goes live?

  • Re:Ah, politics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:32PM (#46196635)

    The ultimate object in politics is to WIN.

    And in the end, what does that get you? What do you "Win"? When you are dead and gone, what difference will any of it make?

    The world today sees "enemies" in far too many places. Our enemies are across the field in a football stadium, applying for the same job we want, working at a competing company, immigrating to our towns or just members of a different political party.

    And the truth is that real enemies, those that want to see you dead, benefit from you seeing everyone as an enemy. When you see most everyone as an enemy you have far fewer friends. You fail to see what that you have far more in common with your perceived enemy than those things that make you see a Democrat or Republican or Libertarian as an enemy.

    The truth is that there is a difference between an enemy and an opponent, between those that want to destroy you and those that you will have to live with and cooperate with once the football game, job interview, work day, naturalization ceremony or political campaign is over. This country was founded on the idea that we could disagree, put it to a vote and still live peaceably with each other once the decision has been made.

    Stop acting surprised if one party or another engages in devious activity to reach that goal. It's been happening for thousands of years. It's never going to stop.

    No one is really surprised by this, but we can be disappointed. And we can demand better, that those that want our votes show us that they can be trusted to act in a decent and ethical manner most of the time. We can't expect perfection but we can ask that the ultimate object in politics is to govern well and honorably.

  • Re:Doesn't He Read? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:38PM (#46196673)

    Or to ask another question, is that how you would want your Physician's Desk Reference to be written? Would you want them to make a page describing a toxin look just like a page describing a medicine?

    Let's stop excusing people who are engaging in scumbag behavior, let's hold them accountable, and refuse to let them continue to exploit our sense of virtue and morality that leads to us being willing to hesitate while they have no such compunctions.

    Let's have the courage to say no. Let's have the courage to judge those who actually did wrong, and not weasel out of it by blaming the person who was exploited by those with nefarious intent.

  • Re:Deception? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:41PM (#46196699) Homepage Journal

    but evidently didn't notice this line in bold print, just above the "Donate" button

    It would be good for people to be careful, but in our capitalist society it is more important to make transactions as fluid as possible. For instance, can you imagine what it would be like if you went to the store and had to read every can of beef soup because some company might have put rat in it to save money. Sure, this is an extreme example but we have laws about transparency in commerce not to protect consumers, but to maximize the velocity of money through high consumer confidence.

    There are certain transactions that have such a high fraud rate and are are of little economic value that the common sense approach is just to avoid them. Door to door magazine sales, services that claim to give you your credit rating every month, donations over the phone, most extended warranties, have so much find print or or just outright fraudulent that they have killed what could have been a reasonable market model.

    For instance, I liked Best Buy but stopped shopping there because of the stories of employees losing their job because of not selling extended warranties. I don't buy them most of the time, and did not want the guild. Likewise, I no longer give donations over the phone because of substantiated reports that in the some cases the firm doing the collecting takes a majority cut, leaving little for the charity. I know many who do the same. These firms are put in danger because some are not on the up and up.

    So here the problem. For an individual point of view, selling an selling an iPad box for $200 is a great profit margin. From the point of view of an economy that needs to push tablets to grow, it is not so great. From the point of view of a narcissistic committee who sees their donations plummeting, setting up a misleading, though totaly legal, and the idiots who donate deserve to be robbed website, is a good idea. But from the point of view of nation who wants to make donating to public candidates as easy and painless as possible it is bad.

    Like donations to the fire department fund that do not benefit the firefighters, this kind of misdirection is going to hurt the entire political donation industry. Already if one is going to be so foolish as to make a donation over the phone, one has a checklist of 20 items to go through. Pretty soon making a donation over the internet is going to be same hassle, which means it will not happen. Of couse, when most of your contributions come from a few rich corporations and not the grass root this does not matte.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @02:02PM (#46196873)

    Don't you freedom-loving libertarians love this kind of shit?

    No, fraud is typically near the top of the list of the things libertarians don't like. I would wager in fact that a lot of spittle has been hurled on the subject of fraud and how to prevent it in a libertarian society.

    What I think is particularly interesting about this example is not that it is outright fraud, but that the people perpetrating it think they can do so because they are Republicans and the victims are Democrats. If they had instead been "parodying" a big non-profit like Red Cross or World Wildlife Fund, I don't think there would be any doubt that it was intentional fraud.

  • Re:Ah, politics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @02:31PM (#46197089)

    This country was founded on the idea that we could disagree, put it to a vote and still live peaceably with each other once the decision has been made.

    No. It was founded on the idea that if you couldn't live with it, you could go west and start a new place (or even live by yourself in a cabin somewhere). But the West is full now, and America is running into the same problems as everyone else: people actually have to reach a livable compromise. And it's failing economically, politically and culturally, as that same never give up -spirit that once inspired pioneers against the elements now fuels petty tribalism by sending people against other equally determined people.

    America can't even pass a budget without turning it into a ridiculous drama, and a lot of people actually encourage it precisely for the harm it causes ("starve the beast"). The end result will be another civil war, collapse or a total cultural reform. Something's gotta give.

  • Re:Doesn't He Read? (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @03:29PM (#46197547)

    You should read part of the PDR sometime; many medicines are quite toxic and their pages look exactly like the ones that are less toxic. Sometimes, the result of taking a toxin is better than not taking it for a particular patient.

    Indeed, the range of dose between danger and therapeutic between medicines is often narrow, that's why the PDR isn't exactly the best metaphor here.

    I had thought about mentioning that, but I neglected to do so. My bad, I should have done so, thus you wouldn't have felt to make such a statement.

    Would you like me to find another way to phrase it? Should the PDR not make it clear what data is representing toxic effects and precautions, and what is for the therapeutic?

    But, more to your point, you seem to suggest that because someone doesn't take the time to read the FUCKING BOLD PRINT that we should then hold the author accountable for mistakes the reader makes in comprehension.

    I think an author who deliberately obfuscates and misleads should not be excused for it, no. Not even when they protest that they made an effort to indicate what they were doing, and it is the reader's fault.

    This is a case of that, and I don't support it. I say no, and I say your protests of freedom of speech is really just a false appeal to virtue.

    Your "courage to say no" sounds an awful lot like infringing someone's free speech because some idiot reader couldn't comprehend the plain language of the document or simply decided not to read it.

    And your "some idiot reader couldn't comprehend the plain language" sounds an awful lot like supporting scam artists and con jobs by blaming the person who is being exploited.

    I'll go ahead and judge who actually did wrong - it was a presumably well-educated man who made a mistake and sought to place the blame elsewhere.

    And I'll go a different direction, and recognize the clear and obvious intent of the website to mislead and deceive people. It was assuredly a deliberate attempt to make use of duplicitous means to take advantage of the less attentive readers and seeks to place the blame for anybody fooled by their actions elsewhere.

    Perhaps we really do need a take-it-back button. We did this with the airlines who are now required to offer refunds on non-refundable tickets for 24 hours after purchase. If we extend the idea far enough then perhaps all those poor saps who contributed to Obama expecting him to close Gitmo, or who really thought they could keep their health insurance should be entitled to refunds as well.

    Can we get a refund for Reagan, who promised us a better America? For Bush, who promised us no new taxes, or the other Bush who promised to reduce the debt? For Nixon even?

    But thanks for making your partisanship obvious.

  • by plalonde2 ( 527372 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @08:48PM (#46199365)
    Ok Smartass. Show us the funds phishing website run by the Democrats.

    There are equivalencies to be made across the parties. This is not one of them.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson