This will be a hoot. From a press release earlier today, here is Sen. Vitter’s response to Gen. Wesley Clark’s attack on him on the Obamaphone issue…
U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is challenging Gen. Wesley Clark to debate the merits of the free government cell phone program called Lifeline. Clark was in Louisiana this week promoting his support for the Lifeline program, and criticized Sen. Vitter for his efforts to end the fraud-ridden free cell phone part of Lifeline. Click here for the news report. Vitter questioned who was paying for Clark’s trip and campaign.
“Thank you very much for coming to Louisiana and calling increased attention to Lifeline, the fraud-ridden free government cell phone program for welfare recipients,” Vitter wrote to Clark today. “I look forward to a public discussion with you about Lifeline and my efforts to end the waste, fraud, and abuse surrounding it.”
Also this week, the Federal Communications Commission who administers Lifeline, announced major penalties against Lifeline companies totaling $14.4 million for the violation of companies’ signing up the same persons multiple times. Click here to read more.
Vitter also asked Clark, “Do any companies who receive funds from the Lifeline program (classic corporate welfare kings) financially support the public affairs company who paid for your trip, you, your liberal political PAC, or any company in which you have a significant interest?”
On May 7, 2013, Vitter introduced legislation to end the welfare subsidy for mobile phone service in the Lifeline Program. Vitter also introduced this legislation as an amendment to the Senate budget resolution in March. The amendment failed 46-to-53. Click here to see the vote results.
The text of Vitter’s letter is below.
October 2, 2013
General Wesley K. Clark
Wesley K. Clark & Associates, LLC
P.O. Box 3276
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Dear General Clark:
Thank you very much for coming to Louisiana and calling increased attention to Lifeline, the fraud-ridden free government cell phone program for welfare recipients. I’m sorry that I was in Washington and missed seeing you in person, but the more attention we can bring to this out-of-control entitlement program and all of the documented problems with it the better.
Your visit was particularly timely. As I’m sure you know, on the exact same day as your Louisiana visit, the FCC announced major penalties against Lifeline companies totaling $14.4 million for the gross violation of companies’ signing up the same persons multiple times. (See attached FCC press release.) And this FCC action doesn’t cover ineligible subscribers or those who get cell phones from multiple companies fraudulently, so it surely only scratches the surface of the fraud problem.
As I’m sure you also know, this follows the program mushrooming from $143 million per year in 2008 to nearly $2 billion per year now. During that exponential growth, the FCC itself concluded that the top five companies benefiting from the program could not even verify the eligibility of 41% of the people they give free government cell phones to. Nevertheless, every time these companies hand one out, they receive on average $9.25 per phone per month.
I write with two specific questions.
First, the attached press report of your Louisiana visit quotes your spokesperson as saying vaguely that a “public affairs company that represents veterans advocacy groups” sponsored your trip. Who are this company and its financial backers? In particular, do any companies who receive funds from the fraud-ridden Lifeline program (classic corporate welfare kings) financially support this public affairs company, you, your liberal political PAC, or any company in which you have a significant interest?
Second and following up on your request through the media that I contact you to discuss the free government cell phone program, can you join me in Louisiana to debate this issue publicly? I would be available October 25 in Lafayette and/or Shreveport and November 1 in Baton Rouge. If these dates don’t work, please let me know on what other dates when Congress is not in session you can expand your Louisiana public relations tour, and I will join you there in an effort to bring increased attention to this out-of-control entitlement program.
Thank you again for helping me highlight the free government cell phone program for welfare recipients and my efforts to end the waste, fraud, and abuse surrounding it. I look forward to a public discussion with you on this important topic soon.