Fake Political Websites, Fake Political Social Media Accounts, Fake PACs, Real Problems

According to the New York Times, the most popular Joe Biden site is a Biden parody site. But, apparently, some are mistaking the site for the actual Joe Biden site. I’m not sure how this is possible. At least to me, the parody element seems pretty obvious from the main page seen below.

If this isn’t clear enough, at the end of the site is this disclaimer.

Yeah, I think we get it. That said, it is also a site that focuses on some of Biden’s most disreputable behavior. So it’s, admittedly, kind of a hit site. The site’s designer is Patrick Maudlin who, not surprisingly, is a Republican, but it’s not clear if he holds any official position in the 2020 Trump campaign.  

However, the writer of the Times’ article on this parody site, Matthew Rosenberg, seems to take the site as a serous affront, complaining that, “Mr. Mauldin’s website hews far closer to the disinformation spread by Russian trolls in 2016 than typical political messaging.” Yeah, except that Joe is responsible for the behavior that is featured on the site. Rosenberg goes on to assure us that “the New York Times is not linking to Mr. Mauldin’s websites to avoid further boosting them in search rankings.” That seems to be taking sides in the election, but I suppose this really doesn’t surprise anyone.

Trump has more anti-Trump sites than he knows how to deal with. One of the most known is The Lincoln Project, run by George Conway, husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. Then there’s Republican Voters Against Trump, a site of testimonials from Republicans who have changed their mind since 2016. The site is organized by Bill Kristol, not surprisingly, a strong anti-Trump Republican.

Most of the Trump parody sites are simply too obscene to show here; however, this Facebook satire site has one-third of the followers that the actual Biden Facebook site has.

The number of followers should not be so surprising when one considers that Trump has over ten times more followers on both Facebook and Twitter than Biden has. Keep in mind, however, that people may follow someone for a number of reasons. Trolls simply want to be the first to make negative comments on the latest tweet.

Popularity, as measured by social media, is not necessarily a good thing. Trump is hampered as much by fake pro-Trump sites as by anti-Trump sites. Last week, Facebook took down over 30 accounts it claimed were pretending to be from black Trump supporters. In addition, it removed more than 300 accounts pushing disinformation about Trump’s campaign and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

There is also a hazy line between the parody sites, fake sites, and real sites. If you look at the graphic below, you might be led to believe that it was pulled off some parody site. However, I made this with the help of the official Joe Biden website.

Yes, it’s true. As a way to collect information on visitors, the Biden website invites you to put your photo on a template. But with a temporary email address and any U.S. zip code, you’re in without giving away any information. Others have done far worse with this template than I have. Any meme created here can later be shared on social media.

You’d think Team Biden would have stopped access to this meme generator. However, if you go to Joe’s site, you’ll still get to access it here.

Fake PACs

Trump has problems with scammers using his name to trick people into sending them money. He also has trouble with fake PACs that pretend to be supporting him but are, in fact, just using his name to make profits for themselves. Donors believe they are helping the Trump campaign but are really just donating to the PAC organizers. Politico gave a list of PACs that they claimed were profiting from the Trump name. I looked into several of these PACs to see if I could find what they were doing with the money they raise. Keep in mind that anyone can register a PAC ; however, they do have to report on how they use the income they get from donations over $200.

One PAC I looked into was the Tea Party PAC. This PAC has received $1,738,098 so far this year.  Here is a graph of their expenditures.

Most of this money goes to a shell company in Wyoming called, RetroMedia. In other words, it’s a company that does nothing but hide money. It is owned by Capital Administrations, LLC which has the same exact address as RetroMedia. In fact, over 250 ‘companies’ share the same Cheyenne, Wyoming address.

In other words, they have post office boxes in the same building. No one actually works for these companies. They are all organized by a company called, Wyoming Corporate Services, which, not surprisingly, is located in the same building. They offer packages which will surround your “company” with a network of other shell companies and fake services that will help make whatever it is you are hiding look legitimate.

Now, you may think that the site below is collecting donations for the Trump campaign.

However, if you read the fine print, you will find this.

“Tea Party Political Action Committee is registered with the Federal Election Commission as an independent-expenditure only committee, also known as a Super PAC. We do not make contributions to any candidate or parties; however, we are engaged in unlimited political expenditures independent of any campaign. We can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size.”

I’m not an accountant and this is all probably legal. Politico, however, considered it a fake PAC site that is diverting money from the Trump campaign. But here’s the rub. It’s run by Nancy Watkins of Tampa Florida who has a reputation for keeping Republican political campaigns legal. So why is the money going to a shell company in Wyoming and how are the donations being used?

Ok, here’s the breakdown.

As noted previously, Retromedia is the shell company that gets most of the donations. Stella Management is connected to a conservative news website called the Daily Grind. The site is used to gather information and send emails. Robert Watkins is Nancy Watkins’ husband. He runs an accounting firm. Stripe Inc. is a company that processes online donation. Again, there may be nothing illegal in all of this. Ethics is another question.

And although Trump is targeted more than Biden by these dubious PACs, the Democrats and Biden have their fair share of problems. Americans for Progressive Action USA is a PAC that has raised almost $5 million for Democrats. However, according to Politico, it was all fake. The PAC made off with the donors’ money. They, oddly, even filed an FEC report that seems to substantiate this. After they were outed by Politico, they filed this last report to show, apparently, that they had returned the donors money. Sadly, there is no evidence of this.

All of these obstacles will make the 2020 election campaign difficult for voters to navigate. Fake news, fake sites, and fake media posts will increase dramatically before the election. PACs and Super PACs will continue to muddy the waters. All of these will cause final vote totals to be questioned and may delay the declaration of an official winner. Chaos will ensue. No matter which side is the victor, the other will contest it, and they appear to have ample reasons for doing so. There is no light at the end of this tunnel.

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