Republicans called them “attack microsites” during the last midterms. The shoes (or, boots) are now on the other feet, and the new and improved models this month are generally staying further away from crossing the line. However, it is still a Googler-beware election world out there.
Four years ago, Arizona’s Politics was the first to report on three sites put up by the National NRCC changed the donate pages to make it apparent that the money would go to the NRCC instead of the spoofed Democrats.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) attacking Arizona Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber. The NRCC came up with official-sounding campaign committee website addresses, made the sites appear like official sites, advertised them on Google (etc), called the Democrats “frauds” and attempted to get unsuspecting persons to donate to the NRCC. After a wave of negative publicity, the
Now, the Democrats are steering clear from any “donate” pages altogether, in their “MarthaForSenate.com” website. The Arizona Democratic Party does mimic McSally’s font and style – sans the faux Air Force eagle logo – but states clearly on the landing page that its central purpose is “Martha on the issues:What McSally doesn’t want you to know”. There is no button or link to click to donate or interact, and there is no apparent advertising for the site on Google.
Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Drew Anderson tells Arizona’s Politics that “from slashing health care access and retirement security to selling off our private online browsing history, McSally hides her record because she knows it’s out-of-touch with Arizona values. Arizona voters deserve to know where the Congresswoman stands on the issues most important in this election.”
Primarily, the microsite is being publicized on the party’s social media. And, it focuses on attacking McSally on seven issues – including a brief attempt at humor on the topic of McSally’s speaking out about President Trump.
The state party’s efforts were duplicated today when Democratic group American Bridge added their own similar attack microsite, with the address of “McSallyHasIssues.com”. The opposition research group noted that “Election Day is just weeks away, and Martha McSally still doesn’t have an “Issues” page on her website. Since McSally’s record speaks for itself, we decided to help her out and make an “Issues” page for her.” It focuses on six issues areas and makes no fundraising effort.
Not to be outdone, a new site popped up this week under the confusing address of “AnnKirkpatrick.org”. This site goes with the look of a standard TV attack ad and is clearly marked as an effort by Kirkpatrick’s Republican opponent for the #AZ02 House seat, Lea Marquez Peterson. It does have a page to harvest the names and email addresses of visitors, but no fundraising efforts. And, it does not appear to be advertising the site in Google searches. (Marquez Peterson’s campaign has not yet responded to Arizona’s Politics‘ requests for more info.)
Now that both parties seem to have figured out how to make these “microsites” more like attack ads and less like fraudulent phishing efforts*, we will no doubt see more of these during the next few weeks. If any catch your eye – especially as ads in search results – please capture the information and send it to us at “info @ ArizonasPolitics . com” (without spaces).
*True, using Kirkpatrick’s name with a “.org” extension may be actionable or subject to a cease-and-desist. However, much tamer than the 2014 sites – which ironically called the targeted House members “frauds.”