By Tim Johnson
McClatchy Washington Bureau
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Watchdog groups for transparent elections say they are troubled by the trend among political campaigns to present campaign messaging as if it were credible unbiased news reporting.
Despite complaints from Congress about the Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign that included “fake news” sites designed to sway voters, at least three members of Congress seeking re-election have posted similar sites designed to help them win re-election.
Three sitting senators fighting tough re-election campaigns as well as at least one House member, have created sites that masquerade as internet news pages.
Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s website, NevadaSenateUpdates.com, even has weather and calendar widgets on the top of its page, just like those of a conventional newspaper website.
The “paid for by Heller for Senate” is in dim gray type on a black bar at the bottom.
Rep. Devin Nunes earlier this year created a website called The California Republican that mimics a news site, even using the state flag as a logo.
Only at the bottom in easy-to-miss type does it say, “Paid for by Devin Nunes Campaign Committee.” Nunes is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
If the disclaimer from the Nunes campaign is difficult to spot, the one on the faux internet news site of the Missouri Democratic Party, The Missouri Download, a vehicle to boost the re-election chances of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, is almost impossible to read.
Watchdog groups for transparent elections say they are troubled by the trend among political campaigns to present campaign messaging as if it were credible unbiased news reporting, even as more legitimate news sites sprinkle their pages with “sponsored content,” ads that look like news stories with a disclaimer in visible writing at the top.