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GOP defends tricky campaign contribution websites

Republicans are defending a series of websites they established that appear to support Democratic candidates for Congress, but instead direct contributions to the GOP.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said its websites were not confusing, and accused Democrats of crying foul because their candidates were struggling.

The sites, like this one for Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, feature a "Kyrsten Sinema for Congress" banner, and a picture of the first-term congresswoman from a competitive Maricopa County district.

The sites also display a clear, but smaller secondary banner, urging contributions to "help defeat" (in this case) Sinema. At the bottom of the page, it features an NRCC disclaimer.

"Democrats are clearly pitching stories on these effective websites because they are worried about voters learning the truth about their candidates' disastrous records," said NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek. "Anyone who reads the website understand these are negative attacks. Also as required our disclaimer is at the bottom."

Asked whether the website was potentially confusing to a potential donor seeking to support a Democratic candidate for Congress, Bozek said: "I think we give voters a little more credit than that."

The issue was highlighted by Democratic groups and reports in both National Journal and the Tampa Bay Times. The latter's report focused on an individual donor who had sought to give money to Florida Democrat Alex Sink's campaign ahead of a special election in the Tampa Bay area last month. The report had indicated that the NRCC had declined to return a donor's errant contribution.

Bozek said the report was published, though, before they heard from the donor featured in the piece. His contribution was refunded, and Bozek said the NRCC would refund anyone's contribution in error.

"Anyone who asks for a contribution or who was confused, we'd be happy to refund," she said.