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Political operative linked to AI Biden robocalls facing charges in NH, FCC fines

josh rogers / nhpr
New Hampshire Attorney General Formella said his office continues to investigate the robocalls sent to residents in the days leading up to the presidential primary. (file photo)

A New Orleans-based political operative is facing more than two dozen criminal charges and a $6 million federal fine in connection with an AI-generated robocall that urged New Hampshire Democrats to skip the presidential primary.

The robocalls mimicked President Joe Biden’s voice and reached thousands of New Hampshire homes just before the Jan. 23 primary, urging them to “save their vote for the November election.” It isn’t clear exactly how many New Hampshire residents received the phone message, but 13 residents are named in court records as the recipients of the call.

Grand juries in Belknap, Rockingham, Merrimack and Rockingham Counties handed down separate indictments this month, which were made public Thursday by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office.

They allege that 54-year-old Steven Kramer worked to suppress votes and impersonated a political candidate when he coordinated the robocalls. In total, he’s facing 26 charges, including 13 felonies. He is set to be arraigned on June 5 in Belknap Superior Court. He has three other arraignments scheduled for later in the month in other jurisdictions.

Kramer did not respond to a request for comment Thursday morning, and no attorney is yet listed in legal filings. He has previously admitted to making the calls to media outlets, saying that he hoped the robocall could serve as a warning about the dangers of unregulated artificial intelligence.

In addition to the local indictments, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday that it is seeking a $6 million fine against Kramer for allegedly making it appear that the phone calls were coming from a prominent New Hampshire Democrat. Lingo Telecom, which allegedly delivered the calls, is also facing a potential $2 million fine for violating caller ID regulations. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

In a statement, FCC enforcement official Loyaan A. Egal pledged that the agency would “act swiftly and decisively to ensure that bad actors cannot use U.S. telecommunications networks to facilitate the misuse of generative AI technology to interfere with elections, defraud consumers, or compromise sensitive data.”

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said his office is committed to protecting elections from “unlawful interference,” and that he hopes the recent enforcement actions “send a strong deterrent signal to anyone who might consider interfering with elections, whether through the use of artificial intelligence or otherwise.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.