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USA: FCC proposes $6M fine against political consultant for robocalls

On May 23, 2024, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published its Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture in case FCC 24-59, in which it proposed a fine of $6 million against Steve Kramer, a political consultant, for violations of the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, codified at section 227(e) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (Communications Act) and the FCC rules. 

Background to the decision

The FCC stated that two days before the New Hampshire presidential primary in January 2024, robocalls that included a deepfake audio of President Joe Biden's cloned voice were sent to voters encouraging them not to vote in the primary election. The phone number to callers appeared to belong to a prominent local political consultant. The FCC highlighted that Kramer reviewed records on the Federal Election Commission website where he found the name and phone number of the local political consultant used to make the robocalls. The local political consultant became aware of the robocalls after being contacted by someone who received a call and, as a result, contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General (AG). As a result, the FCC launched an investigation into the calls with the New Hampshire AG, the bipartisan Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force (Task Force), the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), and US Telecom's Industry Traceback Group (ITG).

Findings of the FCC

The investigation determined that other organizations were engaged in conducting the calls. Lingo Telecom, LLC was the originating provider in the call path. Lingo identified Life Corp. as the party that transmitted the calls to Lingo. Lingo then identified Video Broadcasting Corp. as the organization that used Life's services and equipment to transmit calls at the request of its client, Steve Kramer. The FCC highlighted that email and text correspondence obtained revealed Kramer's organization of the illegal robocall campaign that affected thousands of potential New Hampshire primary election voters. The FCC alleged that Kramer violated the Communications Act by knowingly transmitting misleading or inaccurate call identification information with the intent to harm and defraud.

Outcomes

The FCC noted that the proposed action is not final and Kramer will be allowed to respond and have evidence and arguments considered by the FCC before further action is taken.

You can read the press release here and the Notice of Apparent Liability here.