New Hampshire

Political consultant who admitted to deepfaking Biden's voice is indicted

Steve Kramer, the Democratic consultant whom NBC News first linked to the robocall impersonating the president, is facing five counts in New Hampshire

Steve Kramer.
AP Photo

Steve Kramer, the political consultant who admitted to NBC News that he was behind a robocall impersonating Joe Biden's voice, has been indicted in New Hampshire. 

Kramer faces five counts, including bribery, intimidation and suppression, according to Manchester TV station WMUR, which first reported the indictment. It is unclear how he is pleading to the charges.

Kramer could not immediately be reached and his spokesperson declined to comment.

The robocall, which went out to thousands of New Hampshire voters in January, just ahead of the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, used artificial intelligence technology to deepfake the president, telling voters to stay home and "save" their votes for the November general election.

The call was the first known example of a deepfake used in national American politics. It prompted outcry from officials and watch dogs, propelling the Federal Communications Commission to put forward a new rule banning unsolicited AI robocalls.

Law enforcement officials in New Hampshire and federally took the call seriously, eager to send a strong message that they would not tolerate misuse of the new technology, while advocates say new rules are needed.

New Hampshire law enforcement officials quickly indicted two out-of-state telecom companies that they said were involved in distributing the robocall, but the creators of the call remained unknown until a nomadic street magician came forward to NBC News.

Paul Carpenter, who holds a world record in straitjacket escapes but no fixed address, said he was hired by Kramer to create the audio of Biden's voice used in the call, providing screen shots of text messages and Venmo transactions to corroborate his account.

Confronted with the evidence, Kramer admitted that he commissioned the call, but he insisted he only did it to prompt stricter regulations of AI deep fakes. 

“This is a way for me to make a difference, and I have,” he said, adding that he was not worried about potential legal repercussions. “I can tell you they’re not used to me. I wrestled in college.”

Kramer is a veteran get-out-the-vote consultant who has mainly worked for Democrats, especially in New York. At the time, he had a six-figure contract with the campaign of Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who was running a long-shot primary challenge to Biden.

Kramer and the Phillips campaign both adamantly denied that the campaign had any knowledge of the robocall or directed him to create it.

Phillips dropped out of the presidential race shortly after his poor performance in the New Hampshire primary.

Deepfakes, in which artificial intelligence is used to impersonate someone, are feared to become a larger part of political campaigns and society in general.

This week, actress Scarlett Johansson accused Open AI of imitating her voice without her authorization as part of a new product launch. The company denied that but removed the voice. 

This story first appeared on More from NBC News:

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