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'Obama phone' scam finally outed by mainstream media

Obama phones

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(NaturalNews) You may recall that, during President Obama's second White House bid, a video depicting an African American woman who opposed GOP candidate Mitt Romney, in which she says she was given an "Obama phone" after signing up for federal entitlements, went viral.

Well, to be fair, the program that the woman was referring to in the 2012 video -- which was taken outside of a Romney campaign event -- really has nothing to do with President Obama; it's been around for years (1996 to be exact).

It's technically called the Lifeline Assistance Program, and it is administered by the Federal Communications Commission, via the Universal Service Administrative Company, a corporate non-profit entity established by the FCC. Persons making less than about $15,000 a year, or families less than about $30,000, can qualify for a free phone through the program.

The program is financed by telecom companies themselves, not tax money, but here's the catch: Many companies fund their contributions through a universal service fee on phone bills, so while technically the fee is not a "tax," certainly taxpayers who have phone services through participating telecoms that charge the Universal Service Fund are footing the tab.

Okay, so what does all this have to do with anything? Well, it seems as if a portion of the program has become rife with waste, fraud and abuse.

Another government give-away, compliments of the private sector

As reported by CBS Denver:

A nationwide cellphone company distributing phones and cellphone plans in Denver as part of a massive government program says it is "outraged by the unacceptable actions" uncovered by a CBS4 undercover investigation.

That response, from a company called Total Call Mobile, came after a three-month undercover investigation by the local CBS affiliate, which revealed several examples of fraud and abuse in the phone distribution program.

"The Lifeline program is aimed at providing free cellphone service to the poor and needy. It handed out more than 13 million free cellphone plans in the first six months of 2014," the news team reported on its local website. "In Colorado, the program handed out more than 117,000 free cellphone plans in the first half of 2014 or about 20,000 cellphones every month."

The local report stated that the program was actually started in 2005, during the Bush Administration, but "exploded" after Obama took office. Again, as I reported above, the program appears to have been around much longer, since the 1980s, when landline phones were offered. The program was expanded in 1996 during the Clinton Administration to include cell phones as well. The FCC's website does not say when the program began.

Nevertheless, as CBS Denver further reported, in order to qualify for the phones, you have to also qualify for one of several government programs like Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance -- details that we were able to confirm on the FCC website.

However, the local CBS affiliate reported, on a number of occasions its news team managed to locate phone agents in Denver who were circumventing strict federal rules designed to ensure that only the truly poor or needy were able to get free phones.

"Vendors, like Total Call, receive massive government subsidies to hand out the phones and the accompanying monthly plans," said the report.

"We are outraged"

CBS Denver further reported:

In one case a Total Call agent used someone else's food stamp card to provide eligibility for a CBS4 producer. On another occasion another Total Call agent said it would be perfectly fine to use a friend's food stamp card to establish eligibility and obtain a free phone.

Total Call has since responded to the local report.

"Total Call Mobile is outraged by the unacceptable actions shown in the broadcast. The broadcast depicted both agents and applicants seeking to improperly participate in the Lifeline program. They were both engaged in fraudulent activity... to enroll in the Lifeline program among other improper actions," the company said in a statement published by the local news site.

And by the way, the "Obama phone lady"? Her name is Michelle Dowery, from Cleveland, and she's not such a big Obama supporter anymore, as you can see here.








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