Man Faces Charges, $6M Fine Over Fake Biden Robocalls

He claims he wanted New Hampshire calls to serve as a warning about the dangers of AI
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2024 8:08 AM CDT
Man Faces Charges, $6M Fine Over Fake Biden Robocalls
Steve Kramer speaks during an interview, Feb. 26, 2024, in Miami.   (AP Photo)

Earlier this year, political consultant Steve Kramer admitted he was behind robocalls impersonating President Biden and said that if authorities want to come after him, they should "bring it." They have now brought it. Kramer has been fined $6 million by the Federal Communications Commission and indicted on 26 counts in New Hampshire, NBC News reports. In the calls two days before the New Hampshire primary, the AI-generated Biden voice told Democratic voters they should stay home and save their vote for the November election.

  • A first-of-its-kind fine. The FCC said the proposed fine is its first involving generative AI technology, the AP reports. The agency said Kramer violated a federal caller ID law with the "scam calls he set up to defraud voters." Weeks after the New Hampshire calls, the FCC outlawed robocalls with AI-generated voices.
  • Another fine. Lingo Telecom, the Texas company accused of transmitting the calls, faces a $2 million fine but it strongly denies that it had any role in producing them or violated any federal regulations. The FCC says settlement or negotiation is possible with both fines.

  • The charges. Kramer faces 13 felony counts of voter suppression and 13 misdemeanor counts of impersonation of a candidate, connected to 13 voters in four counties who received the calls, WMUR reports. In a statement, New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said: "I hope that our respective enforcement actions send a strong deterrent signal to anyone who might consider interfering with elections, whether through the use of artificial intelligence or otherwise."
  • Kramer's background. NBC describes Kramer as a "veteran get-out-the-vote consultant" who has worked mostly with Democrats. His firm had a contract with Rep. Dean Phillips, a longshot candidate who dropped out after the New Hampshire primary, but he strongly denies that the Phillips campaign asked him to create the calls or knew anything about them.
  • He says it was a warning. Kramer, who paid New Orleans street magician Paul Carpenter $150 to use AI to create the call, told the AP in February that he wanted the robocalls to serve as a warning about the dangers of the technology. "Maybe I'm a villain today, but I think in the end we get a better country and better democracy because of what I've done, deliberately," he said.
(More robocalls stories.)

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