Democratic senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri has taken action in response to a recent Scripps National Investigative Team report on fraud and abuse within the Lifeline program, which was also covered by National Review Online last week. In a letter to the Federal Communication Commission, she wrote:
In light of these details, the FCC should promptly refer the matter to federal prosecutors at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine whether criminal violations have occurred. If these companies are found in violation of federal law, I expect the DOJ will prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law. . . .
The FCC’s actions to control spending and address abuse in the Lifeline program have been utterly lacking. While the FCC took action in 2012 to improve controls in the program, they have proven badly insufficient. Furthermore, the FCC has failed to conduct serious oversight or undertake adequate enforcement actions. In fact, the FCC has taken only a single enforcement action since it expanded controls, assessing a total of $1 million in fines. Notably, those fines were assessed to the same two companies whose continued wrongdoing has been exposed by Scripps. The $1 million in fines stands in stark contrast to the approximately $3 billion in expenditures under Lifeline during this same period.
McCaskill called for the FCC to “aggressively pursue its own enforcement actions” against TerraCom and YourTel, recommending that both companies be fined “the maximum permissible amount under the Lifeline program of $1.5 million and bar them from further participation in Lifeline” and other Universal Service Fund programs.
Furthermore, possibly referencing an August NRO investigation, McCaskill wrote:
The Scripps reporting should not be thought to reflect isolated wrongdoing. Other recent media reports have exposed additional fraud, waste and abuse, including providers signing up individuals ineligible for the program and subscribing multiple individuals in the same household.
Read the whole letter here.