Washington, D.C.—Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), for authorizing the NRCC to create and maintain fraudulent campaign fundraising websites.
The websites are designed to appear as if they belong to Democratic House candidates, but donations made through the sites go to the NRCC.
“Rep. Walden and the NRCC have become online scam artists, tricking people out of their campaign donations. Rep. Walden’s support for such activity violates House ethics rules, and OCE needs to act quickly to protect the House’s credibility,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.
CREW cited “John Lewis for Congress,” accessible at http://johnlewis4congress.com, as one example of NRCC deception supported by Rep. Walden. The title of the site is, “John Lewis for Congress.” The site’s graphic heading is, “John Lewis for Congress.” Until recently, the donation page linked to by the “DONATE” graphic was titled, “John Lewis for Congress 2014.” John Lewis is a Democratic House candidate in Montana. Donations made on pages linked to from http://johnlewis4congress.com go to the NRCC.
At least 17 other NRCC sites, including sites aimed at Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), http://sheaporterforcongress.com, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), http://sinemaforcongress.com, and NY Democratic House candidate Sean Eldridge, http://seaneldridgeforcongress2014.com, follow the same pattern.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits anyone from falsely suggesting they are soliciting funds to support a candidate when they are not. FECA also bars the unauthorized use of a candidate’s name unless the use unambiguously shows opposition to the candidate. This prohibition extends to the title of a website. By using Democratic candidates’ names on websites intended to deceive supporters into making donations to the NRCC, the NRCC has violated campaign finance law.
Violating campaign finance laws also violates House ethics rules. The House Ethics Manual specifically warns members they are responsible for ensuring the outside organizations they lead comply with the law. By approving and continuing to support the NRCC’s deceptive sites, Rep. Walden appears to have violated House rules.
“These websites are clear-cut efforts to deceive voters. Rep. Walden and the NRCC need to understand that candidates and parties must win elections fair and square, not by hook or by crook,” Ms. Sloan added.
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