With the 2010 midterm elections just two weeks away, many voters are just now beginning to consider who they’ll choose to represent them in Congress. As they search for information on the candidates, they may come in contact with the underbelly of digtial political campaigns.
Some call them "attack" sites. Some call them "hit" sites. Whatever you call them, Republicans and Democrats are flooding the web with sites hurling inconvenient truths and not so truthful smears at their opponents. ClickZ has been on the lookout for them throughout the 2010 midterm election season, compiling a laundry list of sites dedicated to dirty laundry.
We've organized featured sites according to party affiliation, starting with sites created by Republican party organizations and campaigns, and followed by sites from Democrats.
Hit Sites, GOP Style
How are Republicans attacking their opponents online this year? GOP hit sites have been all over the web leading up to the midterms. Here are a few examples:
Paid for by Taxpayers for Wilson
In New York, even mentioning the state capital makes voters cringe. At least, that's what GOP candidate for comptroller Harry Wilson is hoping, despite the fact that he wants to work there next year. His campaign, Taxpayers for Wilson, uses the hit site to disparage incumbent Tom DiNapoli as "an unqualified career politician." The site claims, "One could say, he made a career out of raising taxes to pay for special interest projects that are now bankrupting the state. Now as New York Comptroller, a position entrusted with looking out for taxpayers, Tom DiNapoli is finding new and inventive ways to raise taxes behind closed doors. The press is calling DiNapoli's secret tax scheme, 'The DiNapoli Tax.'"
Paid for by The Indiana Republican Party
It helps when the opponent's name rhymes with "bad." On BadForIndiana.com, the Indiana Republican Party claims Brad Ellsworth - Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Indiana - is, "Bad for Indiana." Not only is he bad on "Bailouts," "Healthcare," "Jobs," and "Taxes," Brad is Bad on "Miscellaneous." The site urges voters to donate through the site to, "Help us get the message out to Hoosiers that 'Brad for Indiana' is 'Bad for Indiana.'"
Paid for by Carly for California
They're coming to get you, Barbara: The Carly for California campaign, that is. The GOP campaign created the site to poke fun at Senator Barbara Boxer, Democratic incumbent from California, suggesting voters "give Barbara Boxer a break so that she can go back to being called just 'Barbara' instead of insisting on being called 'Senator.'" The site features video of Boxer asking to be called "Senator" instead of "Ma'am" during a Senate hearing – a request the Carly camp calls "pretty ridiculous."
Paid for by Carly for California
The Carly for California people think Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has failed, and had FailedSenator.com built to document "how Barbara Boxer has failed Californians for 30 years." The site is refreshed with new anti-Boxer information regularly, for instance noting in early October that Boxer is "holding out [her] hands to the special interests in an effort to save the only job Boxer cares about: her own."
Paid for by The Republican Party of Wisconsin
"We've had enough of a Senator who can’t keep his word!" screams FireRussFeingold.com. According to the Republican Party of Wisconsin site, by helping "fire" Democratic incumbent Senator Feingold, voters will "Save Our Country." The site promoted Twitter hashtags including #FireRussFeingold, #Teaparty and #Obamacare. It was spotted in late July, but is no longer live. Unlike most hit sites, it allowed comments, many of which were actually supportive of Feingold. "Sorry, If you look at his record, he has always been effective," stated one commenter of Feingold. "Feingold represents Wisconsin well. 6 more years!" wrote another.
Paid for by Meg Whitman For Governor 2010
In creating the JerryFails.com hit site, Meg Whitman For Governor 2010 didn't see the need to make moonbeam jokes about California's Democratic candidate for Governator, Jerry Brown. Instead, the GOP campaign targets his "legacy of broken promises and failure," noting "He failed to create jobs as Governor. He failed to improve schools as Mayor of Oakland. And he's failed taxpayers at every turn in his 40 years in politics."
Paid for by the Republican National Committee
Go figure: The RNC ain't Obama fans. "Barack Obama's presidency has been a disaster," opines the RNC's November Starts Now site. "He is either unwilling to or incapable of doing his job. The economy is in shambles, the government is failing, and Americans are losing hope. Barack Obama was not ready to be President. He's not the solution. You are," continues the site, which asks people to submit contact information including a required phone number. But there's no real call-to-action thereafter. Instead, a thank you page features three anti-Obama videos and a link to the party's main GOP.com site.
Paid for by Kirk for Senate
Illinois Republican Mark Kirk's Senate campaign aims to paint his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, as a suspicious banker with mob ties. The site suggests, "Alexi Giannoulias Made Tens of Millions in Loans to Mobsters and Convicted Felons," and displays mug shot-like photos of people with questionable pasts, tying them to Giannoulias. "Alexi Giannoulias and Broadway Bank loaned millions of dollars to what Giannoulias calls 'colorful characters,' states the site.
Paid for by Carly for California
As if Carly Fiorina's jab at Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer's hairdo weren't enough indication, the array of anti-Boxer sites her campaign has created says the GOP hopeful is on the attack. RetireBarbaraBoxer.com asks voters to choose which destination Boxer should visit if Fiorina unseats her, and to send friends one of four phony postcards from Boxer. "If you're tired of running away from your record, why not run away from the bulls in sunny Spain, instead?...Adios!" reads the postcard from Spain. Recipients of the e-mail postcards were notified that, "As you read this, the card below is being delivered to Boxer's e-mail account, along with scores more from others like you who are ready to retire her on November 2."
Hit Sites, Dem Style
Democrats have launched their share of attack sites against Republicans, using some of the same tactics as their opponents:
Paid for by The Democratic National Committee
One of the more aesthetically pleasing hit sites, the Democratic National Committee's BPRepublicans.com offers a series of downloadable posters that can be printed or shared online, featuring Republicans it claims are "Big Oil's best friends" - many of whom are running for office this year. Using the green, yellow, and white hues of the BP logo, the poster images are coupled with text explaining why each candidate or officeholder is a "BP Republican." GOP Senate candidate from Kentucky, Rand Paul, "leaped to the defense of BP, calling President Obama's efforts to hold the British company accountable for the Gulf Coast oil spill 'un-American,'" says the site.
Who do the Dems crown "The Original BP Republican?" It's none one other than Sarah "Drill, Baby, Drill" Palin.
Paid for by New York State Democratic Committee
New York Democrats created a catch-all attack site in GOPRealityCheck.com. The site takes aim at several candidates running for state and federal offices, including Randy Altschuler, Republican challenger to Representative Tim Bishop, who represents New York's 1st district. New York State Assemblyman Jack Quinn III is targeted in a video on the site for his "empty campaign promises." The site has become dominated with rhetoric slamming Carl Paladino, the controversial tea party candidate and Republican nominee for Governor. Paladino "is waging a campaign of apology and the forwarded beastiality e-mails may have 'crossed the line into criminal behavior,'" suggests the site. Before Paladino stunned the GOP with is primary election win, the site also slung mud at Rick Lazio, the Republican Party's endorsed candidate for Governor: "Lazio is dodging media questions about his role as the 'Managing Director of JP Morgan,' involved in shady insider deals, pay-to-play politics and a botched quid pro quo," said the blog-style site.
Paid for by the Nevada State Democratic Party
Nevada State Senator Joe Heck likes state taxpayer money, according to Nevada's Dems. The Republican state legislator is a "Serial Triple Dipper," says the Nevada State Democratic Party site, which points to various positions held by Heck through which he garnered payment from the government.
Paid for by The Indiana Democratic Party
It may not be your standard political sex scandal, but according to LobbyistDanCoats.com, a site from the Indiana Democratic Party, Dan Coats - the GOP's nominee for U.S. Senate in Indiana - "is in a relationship with" Hugo Chavez, lobbyists, the countries of Yemen and India, and - perhaps the most appalling - Wall Street. (You know, the place where all those donations to Republicans and Democrats come from?)
Paid for by Friends of Tarryl Clark
The soundboard site is a web convention, but it's not often politics observers are treated to candidate soundboards. Democrat Tarryl Clark, running for Minnesota's 6th District U.S. Congressional seat, uses the soundboard approach to poke fun at Republican incumbent Michele Bachmann. Cartoonish word bubbles link to audio of an array of Bachmann soundbytes, including, "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous," and "It was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat President Jimmy Carter....I just think it's an interesting coincidence."
Paid for by Nevada State Democratic Party
The Nevada Dems' site calls Sharron Angle "so extreme she would eliminate the Department of Education at a time when our classrooms are already overcrowded and we rank 50th in education nationwide." The site, which can be translated to Spanish with the click of a button, also focuses on immigration issues. "Sharron Angle has a two word solution to immigration in America: get out," states the microsite, which says Angle wants so "shut down opportunities for legal immigrants to achieve the American dream."
Paid for by Alexi for Illinois
Why did Illinois Republican Mark Kirk's campaign create its "RealTruthAboutAlexi" site? It may have been because plain old TruthAboutAlexi.com was not available; the Giannoulias campaign may have beat Kirk's people to the domain-name-buying punch. The Illinois Democrat's Senate campaign created the TruthAboutAlexi.com site to fire back at what it calls "myths" regarding his connections to a banking scandal and a controversial college savings program. While not an attack site, TruthAboutAlexi.com is used to counterract attacks, listing specific "myths" such as, "Alexi misled the public about the extent of Bright Start losses," and "Alexi will walk away with millions in tax refunds after the bank failure..." and refute each.
Paid for by the Democratic Party of Virginia
The Virginia Democratic Party may have taken a page out of the Republican National Committee's book with its assortment of e-cards poking fun at Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican running for reelection as Virginia's Attorney General. The site suggests that, along with current GOP governor Bob McDonnell, Cuccinelli is "Moving Virginia Backward" One e-card featuring an illustration of Cuccinelli reads, "Thinking of you...while I waste your taxpayer dollars on frivolous lawsuits!" In February 2009 and again in 2010, the RNC created GOPValentine.com to promote Valentine's Day e-cards mocking Democratic heavyweights including Senator Harry Reid, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and President Barack Obama. One picturing Reid and Pelosi stated, "We crafted this Valentine's Card behind closed doors."
Paid for by Alexi for Illinois
WhoIsMarkKirk.com parodied the Jeopardy! game show, featuring responses intended to answer the question, "Who is Mark Kirk?" Considering the source, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias's campaign, none painted Republican Senate hopeful Mark Kirk in a positive light. Answers fell into categories including Iraq & Afghanistan, Military Miscellany, Teaching, Health Insurance Reform, and National Security & Foreign Policy. One Kirk-aimed attack from Alexi for Illinois: "Using scaremongering tricks that would make Sarah Palin proud, this Washington Republican warned that health care reform legislation would 'cut Medicare for seniors.'" The site was taken down in July.
We hope to add to this gallery in the final weeks leading to the November 2 elections. If you know of an attack site created by a campaign or official party organization that we missed, please contact Kate Kaye at email@example.com.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
March 19, 2014