Political Consultant Admits to Using AI for Voter Suppression

A political consultant, formerly associated with Democratic Representative Dean Phillips' presidential campaign, has come forward admitting to orchestrating a robocall campaign.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Political Consultant Admits to Using AI for Voter Suppression
© Getty Images/Anna Rose Layden

A political consultant, formerly associated with Democratic Representative Dean Phillips' presidential campaign, has come forward admitting to orchestrating a robocall campaign. This campaign wasn't just any robocall effort; it utilized an AI-generated voice mimicking President Joe Biden, urging voters in New Hampshire to abstain from participating in the state’s January 23 primary.

The Technology Behind the Deception

Steve Kramer, the consultant in question, confessed to deploying an automated call to 5,000 Democrats deemed most likely to vote, just two days before the New Hampshire primary. "Using easy-to-use online technology, an automated version of President Joe Biden's voice was created," Kramer revealed in a statement first reported by NBC News.

This startling admission sheds light on the sophisticated capabilities and accessibility of artificial intelligence tools in creating highly convincing fake audio content. Paul Carpenter, a street magician from New Orleans, disclosed in an interview with CNN that he was commissioned by Kramer, then working for Phillips’ campaign, to generate the fraudulent audio.

Carpenter backed his claims with text messages, Venmo logs, and other records, painting a comprehensive picture of the operation's mechanics. The calls were fabricated using an AI tool named ElevenLabs in "less than a half-hour" and were distributed by a Texas-based company, Life Corporation, which Kramer asserts was unaware of the robocall’s misleading content.

Legal and Ethical Repercussions

This incident, involving more than 20,000 robocalls, marks a significant and concerning milestone: the first major attempt to leverage AI for impersonating a US president to influence voter behavior.

It has sparked investigations by law enforcement and raised alarms over the future implications of AI in the political arena. In response to the controversy, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving to outlaw AI-generated robocalls.

Simultaneously, House Democrats have proposed legislation aiming to double the fines for US robocall violations that involve impersonating individuals through AI. The repercussions of this incident are far-reaching, prompting New Hampshire’s attorney general to initiate a criminal investigation linked to a pair of Texas-based telecommunications firms.

Federal law enforcement is also scrutinizing the case to ascertain the potential breach of federal law. In the aftermath, Representative Phillips clarified that while Kramer had been contracted for ballot access efforts, the campaign was unaware of his involvement in the robocall scheme.

Kramer, a seasoned political consultant with a history of producing robocalls, including for Kanye West’s 2020 presidential bid, has had his tactics and the ethical boundaries of political campaigning brought into the spotlight.

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