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Political consultant allegedly behind fake Biden robocall indicted

Fake Biden call tells voters to skip primary
Fake Biden robocall tells Democrats to skip New Hampshire primary 03:03

The political consultant who admitted to orchestrating a fake robocall impersonating President Biden ahead of New Hampshire's Democratic primary earlier this year has been indicted on 26 charges in the state and fined $6 million by the Federal Communications Commission. 

New Hampshire's attorney general announced Thursday that Steve Kramer was indicted on 13 felony counts of voter suppression and bribery and 13 counts of impersonation of a candidate in multiple state jurisdictions, and additionally Kramer was fined $6 million by the FCC for the illegal robocalls.

In a recording of the call obtained by CBS News, a voice that sounds like Mr. Biden's tells Democratic Granite State voters to "save" their vote for the November general election and to stay at home. 

"Voting this Tuesday only enables Republicans in their quest to elect Donald Trump again," the voice says. "Your vote makes a difference this November, not this Tuesday."

It was the first time that "deepfake" technology became intertwined with a U.S. election, and this week, U.S. intelligence agencies warned about the threat of generative AI heading into November in a bulletin obtained by CBS News.

Election 2024 New Hampshire AI Robocalls
In this image taken from video, Steve Kramer speaks during an interview on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in Miami.  AP

Kramer is accused of orchestrating the robocall. In an interview with CBS New York, Kramer said he wanted to call attention to the need for federal and state regulation on the use of artificial intelligence in politics, adding that he spent $500 in creating the fake Biden voice. About 5,000 people received the call, according to Kramer.

"For me to do that and get $5 million worth of exposure -- not for me, I kept myself anonymous — so that the regulations could just play themselves out or at least begin to play themselves out, I don't need to be famous. That's not my intention. My intention was to make a difference," Steve Kramer told CBS New York.

CBS News has reached out to Kramer for comment on the indictment.

After the call, the Federal Communications Commission announced a unanimous ruling in early February that made AI-generated voices in robocalls illegal. The FCC also separately fined Lingo Telecom, the originating provider of Kramer's alleged calls, $2 million for "apparently violating the FCC's caller ID authentication rules."

In an interview with NBC News, a New Orleans magician said he created the robocall, and further reporting by the network showed that the creation of the call took less than 20 minutes and cost only $1 to make. 

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said in a statement that he hoped the indictments will "send a strong deterrent signal to anyone who might consider interfering with elections, whether through the use of artificial intelligence or otherwise."

In January, a spokesperson for Congressman Dean Phillips, who was primarying Mr. Biden for the Democratic nomination and spent most of his time campaigning in New Hampshire, said the campaign had no involvement with the robocall. After an NBC report detailed Kramer's work for the Phillips campaign assisting with ballot access, a spokesperson said Kramer created the call "of his own volition" and said they "absolutely denounce his actions."

"This case is a canary in the coal mine," Phillips told CBS News in a statement Thursday evening. "Congress must take immediate steps to manage the nefarious use of artificial intelligence before it surely manages us."

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