The Republican Pattern Of Deceitful Tactics: Can This Party Be Trusted? No.

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I owe an apology to Michael Steele, the ethically clueless, dim-bulb predecessor to Reince Priebus as Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Still nauseous from Steele’s despicable 2010 fake census mailing fundraising scam, I referred to Priebus era deceptions like employing misleading editing of excerpts from Solicitor General Donald Verrilli’s defense of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court, and sending out solicitations for donations that look like overdue bill notices as examples of “the Curse of Michael Steele.”  I’m beginning to think, however, that Steele wasn’t the problem, and that it was he who was infected by the unethical instincts of the GOP, rather than the other way around.

The Tampa Bay Times recently reported on the experience of citizen Ray Bellamy, who wanted to make a political contribution to Alex Sink, a Democrat running for Congress in Florida.  A Google located “http://contribute.sinkforcongress2014.com,” and sure enough, there was a large photo of Sink and the trappings of a campaign site. Assuming he was at the correct destination and without reading the text, Bellamy clicked on a button at the bottom of the page, sending $250 to Sink’s campaign, or so he thought. But the button was under the words, “Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her,” which Bellamy also didn’t read. He felt he had been tricked. He had.

This isn’t a case of inadvertent bad design, like the infamous “butterfly ballot” that led some inattentive Florida Democrats to vote for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore, and helping to make the 2000 election the unholy mess that it was. No, it appears that such misleading website addresses luring Democratic voters to anti-Democrat sites are an intentional, national strategy that is happily, proudly and shamelessly being employed by Priebus’s Republican National Committee and its cousin, the Republican National Congressional Committee. The curse is all his now.

The political organization has purchased over a dozen domain names of Democratic candidates up for election and set up sites to attract misdirected donations like the one that fooled Ray Bellamy. The NRCC stands by the tactic and mocks Democrats for failing to grab up Internet real estate important to the party’s candidates.  It is making no aplogies. “Democrats are behind the game in digital,” NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek told Time. “They should be buying the URLs for their candidates. I think that’s a pretty basic campaign tactic.” She said the NRCC has been promoting such sites for the past year and intends to roll out more of them as the midterm elections approach, while also buying up domain names for Republican candidates so Democrats can’t play the same slimy game. “Democrats are clearly pitching stories on these effective websites because they are worried about voters learning the truth about their candidates’ disastrous records,” Bozek told NBC.  “Anyone who reads the website understand these are negative attacks. Also as required our disclaimer is at the bottom.”

The various media stories about the ploy interview various experts about whether it is illegal or not. It doesn’t matter. The trick is dishonest and designed to fool people, and a party that intentionally fools people and says, as Bozek does, “I think that’s a pretty basic campaign tactic” has told the American public all it needs to know. We will trick you. We will fool you. Don’t believe what you think we have said, and don’t expect us to make it easy for you to know what we are doing. We will do anything to win. We don’t care about ethics, or fairness, or transparency, and you cannot trust us.

I agree that the media descriptions of the websites as “fake” is a blatant, partisan-planted exaggeration. Here’s one of the sites; here is another. Using the candidate’s name in the URL is deceptive and wrong, but come on: the text “Fed up with [Democrat Congress member’s name]?  Sign up today”, is

this large

and hardly hidden from view. Nor does the text immediately under the large campaign logos like this…

LOGO-Ann_Kirkpatrick_for_Congress

…hide its intent or disguise it in any way. Under the Kirkpatrick logo, for example, the site says,

A career politician and insider, Kirkpatrick was booted out of Congress by Arizonans in 2010 after she sided with Nancy Pelosi and supported ObamaCare. But in 2012, she managed to return after Pelosi’s allies came to her rescue with millions of dollars. That probably explains why Kirkpatrick continues to be in Pelosi’s back pocket.

Kirkpatrick is a huge embarrassment to Arizona. How?

This is not what can be fairly called “fine print.” It’s not a fake pro-Kirkpatrick website, it’s an anti-Kirkpatrick site that only would seem otherwise to the careless and the foolish who only read headings before giving away their money.  Even in the similar anti-John Lewis site that heads this post, which is reproduced considerably smaller than the actual graphics, so much so that most of the text is unreadable, the bolded words “Help us stop John Lewis in his tracks” are difficult to miss. The fake URLs, however, are intentionally deceptive and an undeniable dirty trick, which is bad enough. The tactic is designed to draw the careless and the foolish, who are legion, and who are the natural targets of most political communications.  When NBC asked Bozek whether the website was potentially confusing to a potential donor seeking to support a Democratic candidate for Congress,  she said: “I think we give voters a little more credit than that.” That’s a lie. Both party treat voters as if they are gullible idiots, because enough of them are to swing elections.

I don’t trust parties who make it clear that they will use deceit to mislead voters and then argue that “it’s a pretty basic campaign tactic.” Such a party cannot effectively criticize, for example, an intentionally misleading pledge designed to promote health care legislation that “if you like your current plan, you can keep it. Period,” as a lie—which it is—because such lies are also “pretty basic campaign tactics.” If Republicans will deceive the public to win elections, they will deceive the public once they are in office. Buying up opponents’ likely web addresses so their supporters will go to the wrong websites seems like a small deceit, but those who engage in small deceits for small pay-offs are always likely to move on to greater deceits for larger pay-offs. If this is how the Republican Party wants to present itself, make no mistake what it means:

You can’t trust Republicans, because if they can trick you and get away with it, they will.

________________________

Pointer: Fred (Thanks!)

Sources: Tampa Bay Times, Time, NBC, Forbes

31 thoughts on “The Republican Pattern Of Deceitful Tactics: Can This Party Be Trusted? No.

  1. Could not agree more with your assessment. URL parking is in itself an unethical practice. Swooping in and paying a mere $10 for something that has value to only one person or organization and then holding it hostage is an ongoing practice that needs to stop. Fortunately, website contributions are done via credit cards and the deceived person can challenge the payment. Too many chargebacks will be costly to the offending organization and could mean they lose their ability to process payments.

  2. Sounds like you can’t trust either party. That said, where’s the line between acceptable ruthlessness and broken ethics?

  3. “You can’t trust Republicans, because if they can trick you and get away with it, they will.”
    This should read “You can’t trust politicians…”
    They will all trick you and get away with it.
    Trust yourself.
    I can’t believe people send money so carelessly.
    All that being said it’s particularly painful to me as a former lifelong Republican to know that the party behaves so despicably.

    • Republicans trick people to fund their campaigns.

      Democrats just strong arm it: union donations overwhelming support democrat politicians, regardless of individual member opinions, and public unions essentially siphon tax dollars straight to democrats.

      I still have yet to see a decent argument against having more Representatives per citizen, thus reducing the price of a House seat, thus reducing this ridiculous race for money.

      And I don’t care if the House is huge and nearly unwieldy, it’d still be better.

      • Democrats also sell their policies with lies, as Jack has already so well shown wrt Obamacare. No one has the moral high ground here.

        • I’d raise it to one rep per 100,000 people. It’s not actually mandated that they meet in person in one location and follow standard committee debate rules, and I think 3500 or so reps could be made to work. It would make it a lot more unwieldy, but that sounds like a feature to me. A side benefit would be reducing the pressure to remove the electoral college system.

            • I think the accountability factor alone would make a difference. It could be debunked “voters are too apathetic to care”, but how much apathy has been developed because of the gross system of non-representation we have — 1 rep per 700,000+ citizens…

              It wouldn’t become perfect over night.

          • At 1:100,000 you get representation levels equivalent to the late 1840’s and early 1850’s. Just as a benchmark, do you feel that after that, American politics began becoming less representative?

            • I honestly couldn’t say without spending more time on it. It was a convenient round number which would allow even the smallest states to support more than one party in the house simultaneously. As a Montanan it’s annoying to have a single rep for the entire state, but I’m sympathetic to complaints from big states about the uneven representation for their state.

  4. The article mentioned at least one (roughly) comparable trick by Democrats. This is grounds for condemning willful conduct by Republican leadership but not grounds for preferring their competitors (and Jack did not advocate that!).

  5. I’m surprised the Republicans were the first to this trick. It’s a fairly common bit of aggrivation online, buying up domains to either park them or use them misleadingly. It’s not surprising that it infected politics as well, but I’m under the general impression that the Dems are more youth-focused and overal tech-savvy, and would have expected them to be the first ones so steeped in internet culture as to decide this was a good plan.

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