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As the Washington Times reports, the “Obamaphone” program, a federal government welfare gambit officially known as the “Lifeline Program,” was a massive fraud. Of the 10.6 million people with Obamaphones, a full 36 percent had dubious qualifications for the handout. Some 5,500 people had two Obamaphones and the program gave 6,400 Obamaphones to people who were in fact dead. Though Obamaphone was a federal program, the funding came from private carriers, so the program, as the Times notes, “has stashed some $9 billion in assets in private bank accounts rather than with the federal treasury, further increasing risks and depriving taxpayers of the full benefit of that money.” And as it turned out, “the FCC didn’t even have a good yardstick to measure whether the program was meeting its goals.” In other words, no accountability.
The FCC is seeking $51 million from a carrier that ripped off the program for $10 million but according to a Fox News report, Ajit Pai and other FCC commissioners “were told not to reveal the details of its investigation until April 1, a day after the FCC voted to expand the Lifeline program.” This directive had “the effect of preventing public knowledge of widespread fraud in the Lifeline program ahead of a contentious vote on expanding it despite persisting concerns about a lack of internal safeguards.” FCC mouthpiece Will Wiquest, a former press secretary for socialist Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, claimed the timing of the enforcement action was “in no way related to the timing of the vote on the program modernization.” Whatever you say Willy. In typical style, secrecy and obfuscation followed massive waste and fraud, with taxpayers on the losing end.
The Obamaphone scam, which launched in 2012, prompted imitation in California. As we noted, the California Public Utilities Commission handed out cell phones to homeless and low-income people in the hope that they would be better able to look for jobs. The Golden State also provided 250 minutes of call time a month and 250 free text messages. No reports on how many gained jobs through the plan, but when it comes to waste and fraud governments everywhere tend to phone it in.