DeSantis Should Take Down, Disavow Deepfakes

For Immediate Release: June 13, 2023

Contact: David Rosen,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today called on recently declared presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to pledge not to use generative A.I. or deepfake technology to mislead or defraud the electorate – and to take down a June 5 video from his campaign that includes multiple A.I.-fabricated images of President Donald Trump embracing Dr. Anthony Fauci.

In May, Public Citizen called on the two major parties and their presidential candidates to pledge not to use generative A.I. or deepfake technology to mislead or defraud the electorate. Political operatives now have the means to produce ads with highly realistic computer-generated images, audio, and video of opponents that appear genuine, but are completely fabricated.

“Generative A.I. now poses a significant threat to truth and democracy as we know it,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Every party and candidate should commit not to employ deceptive deepfakes, which definitionally involve tricking the public into believing something that is not true.”

Deceptive deepfakes are a categorical threat to democratic integrity and do not favor one candidate or party over another, according to Public Citizen.

Public Citizen in May also called for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to issue a rule banning candidates from using of manipulative and potentially dangerous generative A.I. technologies in campaign ads.

One particularly alarming scenario is that an “October surprise” deepfake video released shortly before Election Day could go viral – with no ability for voters to determine that it’s fake, no time for a candidate to deny it, and no way to demonstrate convincingly that it’s fake. Both parties, their presidential candidates, and the FEC can prevent this (and many other) easily foreseeable abuses of the technology by disavowing and banning deceptive deepfakes in political campaigns now.


Gov. Ron DeSantis Should Reject A.I.-Generated Deepfakes, Take Down Campaign Video Including Alleged Deepfake Images

Governor Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis For President
P.O. Box 3696
Tallahassee, FL 32315

Dear Governor Ron DeSantis,

We are writing to urge you to pledge not to use deepfake technology to trick voters and to urge your DeSantis War Room account on Twitter (@DesantisWarRoom) to take down the campaign video posted on June 5, which uses deepfake technology.

Twenty-five seconds into the campaign video, which Twitter statistics show has been viewed 9.1 million times, there is a collage of images juxtaposed with the words “REAL LIFE TRUMP” that includes three images of President Trump physically embracing Dr. Anthony Fauci that appear to be deepfakes created using generative A.I. (artificial intelligence). The apparent deepfakes were first identified by AFP.

Experts have noted that the three images – on the top left, bottom center, and bottom right of the collage – bear hallmarks of being deepfakes generated using deceptive A.I. technology. The unnatural poses, errors in the White House signage in the background, and smooth, plastic-seeming texture of hair and skin are among the most striking indictors that the images are deepfakes created using generative A.I. Reverse image search efforts have also failed to locate sources of the original photos – another indicator that the images were created using A.I. tools.

Generative A.I. and deepfake technology – a type of artificial intelligence used to create convincing images, audio and video hoaxes – is evolving very rapidly. This is not a technology that advantages one candidate over another. Anyone can use it to deceptive effect. That’s why all political players have an equal interest in preventing abuse of this technology.

Beyond the shared interest of all political candidates in not being victimized by a deepfake fraud, there is a broader public interest. Deepfake technology poses a genuine challenge to the future functioning of our democracy. If voters cannot trust the authenticity of what they see and hear online, it’s hard to know how our democracy can work.

We call on you to:

  1. Take down the June 5, 2023, campaign video containing deceptive deepfake imagery;
  2. Commit immediately to stop using deceptive deepfake technology;
  3. Urge all independent committees and supporter equally to pledge not to use deepfake technology to deceive voters; and
  4. Call for rapid passage of legislation making it illegal to use deepfake technology to deceive voters.


Robert Weissman
President, Public Citizen

New Hampshire Deserves Clean Elections

Statement by Aquene Freechild, Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy is For People Campaign

Note: U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today sent a letter to her general election opponent, Bryant “Corky” Messner, urging him to sign a “Clean Elections Agreement” committing to 1) denounce and report any offers of assistance from foreign entities; 2) disavow tactics intended to suppress the vote; and 3) discourage third party spending by pledging to donate 50% of the cost of any outside advertisements to charity.

We applaud Sen. Shaheen’s commitment to transparency in campaign funding. The disastrous Citizens United v. FEC ruling in 2010 ushered in an era of unfettered corporate cash to influence elections that undermines our democracy. The candidates themselves must step up and limit the influence of third-party spending in creative ways.

It should go without saying that any foreign interference attempts should be reported to the authorities, and that candidates should be on high alert for attempts by foreign governments to interfere in our democracy.

Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren signed the “People’s Pledge” in 2012 as candidates in the Massachusetts Senate race, agreeing that if either candidate benefited from outside group advertising, that candidate would donate half the cost of that ad to charity. The Clean Elections Agreement offers an expanded version of that pledge and we urge Mr. Messner to sign it.

Through pledges like the Clean Elections Agreement, candidates can declare their independence from election meddling. Citizens United left us with a Wild West campaign finance environment. By pledging to ensure that their campaigns are funded transparently, and not by outside groups that can spend unlimited amounts, candidates can help restore clean elections for the people.

Top Presidential Candidates to Outline Views on Democracy at Citizens United Forum in Des Moines

Eight Advocacy Groups Host ‘We The People 2020: Protecting Our Democracy a Decade After Citizens United’ Forum; HuffPost to Moderate

Contact: Angela Bradbery, Public Citizen,, (202) 588-7741
Jay Riestenberg, Common Cause,, (202) 736-5741
Laurie Kinney, People For the American Way,, (202) 467-2307
Bawadden Sayed, End Citizens United Action Fund,, (202) 798-5253
Anna Zuccaro, MoveOn,
Liam Sullivan, Brady,, (202) 370-8128

DES MOINES, IOWA – Top presidential candidates will speak at a forum to mark 10 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and discuss their plans to end the dominance of big money in politics, protect the right to vote, ensure fair courts and create a democracy that works for all of us. The event, “We The People 2020: Protecting Our Democracy a Decade After Citizens United,” is hosted by a diverse group of advocacy organizations and will be moderated by HuffPost. It will be held in Des Moines, Iowa, two days before the 10-year mark of the court’s decision and just weeks before the Iowa caucus.

Candidates scheduled to attend include U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., will also appear via livestream.  Additional attendees may be added, and attendees are subject to change.

HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel and Kevin Robillard will moderate. Press can RSVP here. An ASL interpreter will be available at the event.


Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
Common Cause
End Citizens United Action Fund
MoveOn Political Action
People For the American Way
Progress Iowa
Public Citizen

WHERE: Des Moines Curate Event Center
322 E. Court Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa

WHEN: 3 p.m. CST, Sunday, Jan. 19. A livestream of the event will be available. 

SUBJECTS ADDRESSED: Candidates will address the most pressing issues facing our democracy, specifically relating to:

  • Campaign finance reforms, including corporate PAC donations and how candidates have opted to finance their campaigns.
  • Anti-corruption and ethics issues, including lobbying restrictions and corporate influence in politics.
  • Voting rights, including access to polling locations, early voting, felon re-enfranchisement, the restoration of the Voting Rights Act and gerrymandering.
  • Election security, including cybersecurity and election infrastructure.
  • Fair courts and appointing judges who believe the Constitution protects all of us, not just the wealthy and powerful.

These issues go to the heart of our democracy. They impact whose voice is heard and whether progress can be made on issues that a majority of Americans want to see addressed, such as access to health care, ending gun violence and education.

About Brady:

Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands. Learn more: 

About Common Cause:

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process. Learn more: 

About End Citizens United:

End Citizens United Action Fund works with four million members to call their elected officials, host petition drives, participate in letter to the editor campaigns, and join coalitions of other grassroots advocacy groups to pass legislation to help get big money out of politics. Learn more: 

About MoveOn Political Action:

MoveOn Political Action represents the collective will of MoveOn’s millions of members at the ballot box by using people power to help elect progressive candidates. MoveOn members live in every congressional district in the country and come from all walks of life. We organize together to advance a vision of a world with a place of honor and dignity for everyone—where all are welcome, where we take care of each other, and where everyone is set up to thrive. 

About the NAACP:

The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons. Learn more: 

About People For the American Way:

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunity. Learn more:

About Progress Iowa:

Progress Iowa is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization. Year-round, we promote progressive ideas and causes with creative earned media strategies, targeted email campaigns, and cutting-edge new media. Learn more: 

About Public Citizen:

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people – not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country. Learn more:

Warren Proves Medicare for All Is Affordable

Statements From Public Citizen Experts

Note: Today, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released her plan for paying for Medicare for All. She estimates total systemwide costs of around $52 trillion over the next decade, with most of the cost covered by existing funding. To cover the additional federal government spending, she is proposing a series of mechanisms, including an employer Medicare contribution, where companies would pay Medicare for All instead of insurers, which would save companies around $200 billion compared to current projected spending. She also proposed that states continue to help fund our health care system. Finally, there would be several additional tax reforms, including a tax on Wall Street trades, tax increases for wealthy individuals with more than $1 billion in total assets, closure of tax haven loopholes, tax enforcement improvements, cuts to military spending and savings from immigration reform efforts.

“While the cost argument against Medicare for All is almost always being made in bad faith by those who profit from our broken health care system, Warren shows that paying for Medicare for All through commonsense changes to how we pay for health care in America can work, while saving huge amounts of money. We can either continue spending wastefully and leaving tens of millions of Americans uninsured even more underinsured, and more than 100 million at the whim of employers and greedy insurance companies, or we can use that money to create a health care system that would improve Medicare and expand it to everyone in the U.S., and reap huge savings while improving the health and well-being of Americans for generations.”

– Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs

“We applaud Warren’s plan to pay for Medicare for All. It highlights just how much we are wasting on our inefficient for-profit health care system and how much we could save through Medicare for All. Further, it shows that middle-class Americans are spending far too much while getting far too little, with tens of millions of Americans going without the care they need. Warren’s plan would bring down spending for families and businesses, which continue to struggle to complete because of the burden that health care places on their bottom line. Finally, the plan highlights that through progressive taxation mechanisms, we can pay for Medicare for All, which finally would guarantee access to health care for everyone in the U.S. without cost barriers.”

– Eagan Kemp, health care policy advocate

“Bloated and horribly wasteful at well over $700 billion every year, the nation’s Pentagon budget is begging to be reallocated to priority domestic and human needs. We are excited that Warren has identified needless and harmful Pentagon spending as a source of funds to pay for health care and look forward to her and other candidates’ additional proposals to shift money away from the Pentagon to meet the country’s urgent priorities.”

– Robert Weissman, president

Democracy First, Senator Warren’s New Plan

Statement of Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Public Citizen

Note: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today released a campaign finance reform plan that would require disclosure from presidential campaign bundlers and outside finance committees, lower contribution limits and elevate small-donor financing.

A commitment to ensuring a fair and representative democracy to rebuild faith in government and create a system that works for people should be a must-have for every presidential candidate. Restoring our democracy has taken on new and historic importance as America grapples with the most fundamentally corrupt administration in our history and the resulting impeachment inquiry.

As both a senator and a candidate, Elizabeth Warren has been out in front on this issue, making it clear that fixing our democracy, calling out corruption, addressing money in politics and restoring voting rights will be top priorities if she wins the White House. In her newly released campaign finance plan, she lifts up the need for small-donor public financing, disclosure of secret political spending and a Federal Election Commission that functions to enforce our laws, among other critical reforms. We applaud these essential moves.

Biden’s Loud Democracy Platform Speaks Volumes

Statement of Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Government Affairs, Public Citizen

Note: Today, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that if elected, he would introduce comprehensive democracy reforms including legislation requiring small-donor public financing, the establishment a Commission on Federal Ethics (CFE) – a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and ethics laws – and strengthening conflicts of interest laws.

With our current backdrop of presidential impeachment due to egregious unethical conduct, the need for candidates to be on the record loudly discussing reforms to fix our system of democracy is obvious.

President Donald Trump, with his abuse of his office for personal enrichment, is the corrupt capstone on our dysfunctional system. We need renewed commitment to checks and balances, anti-corruption and to fixing our system of campaign finance.

Biden’s commitment to small-dollar public financing is significant. This policy is included in H.R.1 and would help ensure that regular Americans have a loud voice in politics. We’re excited to see its inclusion in Biden’s plan.