Either progressive House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is desperately trying to raise money among conservative Republicans or conservative Republicans are employing her name to raise money using a somewhat misleading website.
Nancypelosi2014.com is one of nearly 20 websites created by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) as fundraising vehicles and some critics think they are purposely deceptive. A spokesman for Representative Krysten Sinema (D-Arizona), a target of the campaign, told the Los Angeles Times, “I've certainly seen a lot of parody campaigns—websites and Twitter accounts—and I think that satire is a part of our culture. But just actually trying to make people think you are somebody you are not, I think, is underhanded.”
NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato disagreed. “I think they are crystal clear about the perspective they are coming from,” he said, characterizing the websites as “clearly negative.”
He has a point.
Only reckless, web-surfing clickers and the truly deluded should be taken in by the big type at the top of the page, “Nancy Pelosi for Congress,” and skip immediately to the big “Donate” button at the bottom. The smaller type provides the red meat for those who hate the woman many see as the embodiment of the left coast liberal.
The brief intro blames her personally for adding “trillions to the national debt” and then reels off five out-of-context quotes meant to ridicule her willingness to raise taxes, her reluctance to make pending cuts and her support for the Affordable Care Act.
Then again, the Tampa Bay Times reported that a supporter of Representative Alex Sink (D-Florida) said he was taken in by sinkforcongress2014.com. “It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site,” Tallahassee doctor Ray Bellamy said. Bellamy said he donated $250 before getting a thank you reply from the NRCC. He must not have clicked on the site’s central piece of propaganda, a video of a woman walking on the beach making up facts about Obamacare while blaming the White House, and not Florida’s obstructionist policies, for the state’s low signup.
Pelosi is the second Californian targeted by the NRCC website developers, but may not be the last. The Times said the committee bought hundreds of similar urls, which they can hang on to for at least a year. The committee took an early bead on Amanda Renteria, a former aide to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) who is running for Congress in the Central Valley.
Once the precociousness of the websites wears off, legitimate concerns about their legality linger. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) regulations seem to frown (pdf) on at least one of the site’s tactics: “An unauthorized political committee may include the name of a candidate in the title of a special project name or other communication if the title clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate.”
All of the websites in question are titled with the candidate’s name followed simply by “for Congress.” And although many in the Tea Party view an association with Congress to be highly derogatory, that might be a tough sell. Fortunately, the six-member FEC is always stocked with three members of each party and generally seems willing to take a bipartisan pass on such matters.