One would think that the scandals would start to go away, or at least wear thin. Yeah, no. Just when it seemed that the Obama Administration couldn’t sweep anything else under the rug since it’s getting awfully crowded under there, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, Republican Ajit Pai, parted ways with his colleagues at the FCC and claimed that the commissioners were ordered NOT to reveal that they were about to claim damages from a cell phone company in relation to the ObamaPhone controversy, until AFTER the vote to extend the program was over. Via Fox News:
The Federal Communications Commission on Friday announced that it would seek $51 million in damages from a cellphone company that allegedly defrauded the federal Lifeline program of nearly $10 million.
The commission’s five members unanimously backed the Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL), but Republican commissioner Ajit Pai parted from his colleagues in a partial dissent. According to Pai, he and other 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.
“Commissioners were told that the Notice of Apparent Liability could not be released or publicly discussed until April 1, 2016, conveniently one day after the Commission was scheduled to expand the Lifeline program to broadband,” Pai wrote. “That’s not right.”
The Lifeline phone program is the federal service that provides smartphones to qualified low-income individuals. One of the main complaints about this service is that people can use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) cards as identification to enroll. After so many decades of misuse, food stamps themselves emit the aura and odor of fraud.
The company that is being investigated by the FCC is Total Call Mobile, a Lifeline provider in 19 states, where the FCC found systemic fraud. From Washington Free Beacon:
According to the commission, Total Call employees enrolled tens of thousands of duplicate Lifeline beneficiaries and pocketed the extra subsidies. The FCC caught onto the scheme when the company enrolled an undercover FCC investigator in the program without asking for any eligibility documentation.
“Since 2014, Total Call has requested and received an estimated $9.7 million dollars in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund for duplicate or ineligible consumers despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees, in some cases compliance specialists, that company sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud,” the FCC said in a news release.
And, of course, many of those fraud instances involved a single SNAP card. Mr. Pai of the FCC objected to embargoing this information until after the program was voted extended.
“I must once again lodge my extreme frustration that the Commission continues to rely on SNAP as an entry point in the Lifeline program, and has the gall to claim that it is a highly accountable program, when it is painfully obvious to anyone paying attention that SNAP is riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse,” he wrote in a partial dissent in the Total Call case.
So now the welfare people get broadband, not just simple talk and text. Wow.
Pai would not say who made the gag order. It is completely believable with the Obama White House, but a name would lend credence to the situation.