If you happen to click on a link to clintonkaine.com in the next few weeks, you may notice something peculiar–namely, the part that the bottom that says “Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President.”
No, Trump hasn’t suddenly started supporting Hillary Clinton (though, really, that would just be the latest in a long list of Trump campaign trail contradictions). His team bought the domain for $15,000; now they’ve transformed it into a site all about Clinton’s scandals. It’s like their own personal Drudge Report, complete with underlined, all-caps headlines such as “CLINTON CALLS SANDERS SUPPORTERS BASEMENT DWELLERS.”
The site is the Trump campaign’s answer to what they believe is the liberal mainstream media, says Trump’s digital director, Brad Parscale. “It allows us a nice playing field to do some opposition research and let it show,” Parscale says. “We want people to see all the truth, and not the sometimes one-sided truth that we get from the media.”
Of course, the Trump campaign has every reason to want to create its own news cycle right now. The campaign is currently in the middle of perhaps the worst stretch since it began last summer. Today the New York attorney general’s office issued a cease and desist letter to the Trump Foundation, Trump’s purported charitable foundation that The Washington Post found does not appear to have the proper certification to accept donations. This blow comes just after the New York Times‘ blockbuster report on Trump’s 1995 tax returns, which show more than $900 million in losses. All of that almost makes you forget that on Friday, news broke that Trump appeared in a softcore porn video–shortly after the GOP candidate went on a lewdm pre-dawn Twitter rant lambasting former Miss Universe and current Clinton supporter Alicia Machado.
So yeah, we’d say the Trump campaign could use a new storyline. The domain previously belonged to a Clinton supporter named Jeremy Peter Green, who offered the site to the Clinton campaign, USA Today reports. But Clinton’s camp turned him down, unwilling to engage in what could become a “whack-a-mole” situation trying to lock down every possible domain, a campaign spokesperson said. “Who’s to say someone can’t keep buying sites? It’s not really a sound investment.”
But Parscale was more than happy to take it off Green’s hands. “It was worth it for what I wanted to do.”
Parscale believes the domain will increase the Trump campaign’s clicks, because each piece of content appears more neutral than if it came from, say, Trump’s namesake site. “For people who are trying to look for real information on Clinton and Kaine this is going to look more legitimate,” he says. “The average person on Facebook is not going to know that Donald Trump owns that page.”
Sneaky, maybe, but it’s not altogether unusual. Clinton benefits from another trolling tactic via the super PAC Correct the Record, which floods social media with anti-Trump, pro-Clinton stories. In both cases, the candidates benefit from the fragmentation of traditional media and the rise of social media to misdirect and manipulate potential voters. Who says you shouldn’t trust politicians?