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Political consultant behind fake Biden AI robocall faces charges in New Hampshire

Originally Published: 23 MAY 24 11:13 ET

Updated: 23 MAY 24 12:39 ET

By Rashard Rose and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) — New Hampshire prosecutors filed 26 criminal charges against the political consultant behind a robocall that used artificial intelligence to impersonate President Joe Biden and urged voters not to participate in the state’s primary this year.

The Federal Communications Commission also imposed a $6 million fine against the consultant, Steve Kramer, because the robocalls used call-spoofing technology that violated federal caller-ID laws.

Kramer, 54, was named in several indictments in different New Hampshire counties, according to court documents obtained by CNN. He faces 13 charges of felony voter intimidation or suppression. He also faces 13 counts of impersonating a candidate, which is a misdemeanor, according to the court documents.

The indictments, filed by the New Hampshire attorney general, allege that Kramer “sent or caused to be sent a pre-recorded phone message that disguised the source of the call, or was deceptive in using an artificially created voice of a candidate, or provided misleading information, in attempting to prevent or deter” voters from participating in the New Hampshire primary.

A spokesperson for Kramer declined to comment on the charges. He hasn’t yet entered a plea, and court filings indicate that his arraignments are scheduled for June.

CNN affiliate WMUR was first to report on the indictments.

The criminal charges have been filed in Merrimack, Rockingham, Grafton and Belknap counties, where some of the voters who received the robocalls reside.

Kramer, who worked for Rep. Dean Phillips’ longshot Democratic primary campaign against Biden, previously admitted that he was behind the robocall, which was sent to more than 20,000 voters and urged them to “save” their vote for the November election instead of casting ballots in the January primary. Phillips’ campaign denied having any role in the robocalls.

The robocall is believed to be the first major effort to use AI to imitate a president’s voice in an attempt to suppress votes and it has spurred law enforcement investigations and worries about the future of AI’s impact on American politics.

FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that Kramer is being fined $6 million because “the scam calls he set up to defraud voters using call spoofing technology that violates the Truth in Caller ID Act.”

The FCC also said it was issuing a $2 million fine against the carrier that transmitted the robocalls, Lingo Telecom, which the commission heralded as a landmark moment in its efforts to combat “spoofed, deepfake illegal robocalls.”

These proposed fines could be reduced pending negotiations or other settlements. The joint moves by federal and state authorities was one of the most aggressive responses yet to AI-generated election interference.

“New Hampshire remains committed to ensuring that our elections remain free from unlawful interference and our investigation into this matter remains ongoing,” New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said in a statement, adding: “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.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

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