The campaign arm for House Republicans has made a small but significant change to a line of spoof political websites that raised questions about whether they misled donors in a way that could run afoul of campaign finance rules.
The cookie-cutter websites had been made to look at first glance like sites set up for Democratic candidates, complete with campaign banners and web addresses like NancyPelosi2014.com, but they actually directed donor dollars to the National Republic Congressional Committee. The sites led at least two people to accidentally donate to the NRCC (both got their money back). But while the main pages—which include pictures of smiling Democrats—remain the same, the donation button now directs to a landing page that is more clearly one raising money for the NRCC.
When first asked about the websites by TIME, the NRCC stood by the tactic. Asked Monday why the sites had since been changed, NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said: “We recently updated our contribution pages, as we frequently do, to highlight our efforts to defeat House Democrats in 2014 and prevent Nancy Pelosi from ever being Speaker of the House again. It’s no surprise that Democrats are nervous that the truth is finally getting out about their disastrous records, but despite their whining, we plan on continuing to showcase their support for Obamacare and other failed Washington policies straight through to Election Day.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—the NRCC’s counterpart—took the opportunity to renew criticism of the sites.
“It says a lot that it takes criticism from legal experts and editorial boards across the country for the NRCC to decide it’s wrong to trick people into giving them donations,” DCCC spokesperson Josh Schwerin said.
Some campaign finance experts floated the possibility earlier this month that the sites flouted regulations against campaign materials that deceive donors, though the legal issues at play are a subject of considerable debate and only sporadic enforcement.
See an image of the new donation page below: