Man admits to paying magician $150 to create anti-Biden robocall

Steve Kramer claims the whole thing was a ruse to regulate AI in politics

A political consultant admitted to paying a magician to create a fake anti-Biden robocall urging people not to vote in a Democratic primary election.

Steve Kramer was reportedly paid over $250,000 to rally support for Dean Phillips (D-MN), a Congressman up against Biden to become the Democratic nominee for the US presidency. He claimed to have written the script for the robocall mimicking Biden, and gave $150 to a New Orleans magician named Paul Carpenter to clone the President's voice using the magic of AI. Later, he hired telemarketing firm Life Co. to spread the fake message to more than 5,000 voters.

The robocall spoofing Biden's voice told people to not bother voting in the New Hampshire primary. "What a bunch of malarkey. Your vote makes a difference in November, not this Tuesday," it said, and claimed it was sent by the treasurer of a political committee supporting Biden's campaign to fake credibility.

The call prompted local and federal government agencies to investigate amid rising concerns of generative AI meddling in elections. Kramer claimed that he spread the fake robocall in an attempt to bring attention to the perils of using AI in politics, and reportedly compared himself to American Revolutionaries like Paul Revere and Thomas Paine.

"This is a way for me to make a difference, and I have," Kramer told NBC News. "For $500, I got about $5 million worth of action, whether that be media attention or regulatory action."

The Federal Communications Commission has served Kramer with a subpoena, he said and he believes he might get sued and even potentially face jail time. "I'm not afraid to testify, I know why I did everything," he said. "If a House oversight committee wants me to testify, I'm going to demand they put it on TV because I know more than them."

Phillips' campaign team reportedly had no idea of Kramer's plans, condemned the anti-Biden robocall, and said it was against attempted to suppress voting. It's not the first time Kramer has pulled off such a hoax. He admitted that he was behind another AI-generated robocall that spoofed Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) voice that asked voters in South Carolina who they supported in a GOP primary election.

Kramer said he didn't think his anti-Biden robocall impacted the Democratic primary election in New Hampshire, but warned that "even individuals acting alone can quickly and easily use AI for misleading and disruptive purposes." 

If he really did create the scandal to push for regulation of the technology, he may have been successful. Weeks later, the FCC made AI-generated robocalls illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) immediately, without having to pass any new legislation. 

The Register has reached out to a spokesperson from Phillips' team and the FCC for comment. ®

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