The Corner

O’Keefe Sting Catches ‘Obamaphone’ Salesmen on Camera: ‘I Don’t Care What You Do With It’

James O’Keefe is back. His new book Breakthrough chronicling his undercover video takedowns of ACORN, NPR, and local election officials who ignore voter fraud is being published today. He also has a new video out that should embarrass two companies who distribute government-paid-for “Obamaphones” to people who claim they lack cellular service. Company reps are seen handing them out to O’Keefe allies who say they will sell them for drug money, to buy handbags, or to pay their bills. No objection is heard. 

O’Keefe will appear on tonight’s O’Reilly Factor to discuss just how much of a scam the $2.2 billion federal program (paid for by fees tacked on to cell-phone bills) has become. The free phones offered with the program became known as “Obamaphones” last year when a YouTube video was seen by over 8 million people. It showed a woman at a campaign rally declaring she was voting for Obama because he had given her a free phone.

Representative Tim Griffin, an Arkansas Republican, has sponsored legislation to end the Lifeline cell-phone subsidy for the poor. He notes that the biggest beneficiary of the program is Carlos Slim, the Mexican mega-billionaire who owns TracFone, one of the two biggest Obamaphone providers. The free phones also entrench an already prevalent entitlement mentality. All a person has to do to get an Obamaphone and discounted monthly service is to show an income at or below 135 percent of the poverty line, or about $2,610 a month for a family of four. Recipients usually show their eligibility by producing an Electronic Benefits Transfer card that verifies their eligibility for welfare payments.

But that doesn’t mean the folks who check eligibility have any concerns about what will be done with the phones. O’Keefe allies who were sent in as prospective customers to a Stand Up Wireless store in Philadelphia were shocked by the reactions they got from salespeople there

“Once you guys give me this phone, it’s my phone?” one asked an employee “I can, like, sell it and stuff?”

“Whatever you want to do with it,” the worker replied.

“So I’m [going to] get some money for heroin,” the actor responded. 

The employee came back with: “Hey, I don’t judge.”

Another O’Keefe undercover actor asked how much the phone was worth.

“If you’re interested in learning — wanting to know how much the phone’s worth,” a salesperson said, “I recommend you go to any pawn shop. They’ll be more than happy to tell you, okay?”

“Okay,” the actor replied. “So I could get the phone and then sell it?”

“Yeah,” she said, “I don’t care what you do with it.”

Things were no different at a TerraCom Wireless booth elsewhere in Philadelphia. “Unfortunately, there are people on drugs,” a TerraCom rep told an O’Keefe undercover actor. “They get this phone, and they do get $40 . . . you basically do whatever you want with it. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

“Well, I’m not on drugs,” the actor replies, “but there is a really awesome pair of shoes at the store that I want.” The TerraCom rep quickly breaks down into uncontrolled laughter.

Representative Griffin says the Obamaphone program needs to be dismantled because it is an opening wedge for the entitlement state. “If you need a cell phone, where does it end?” he asks me. “Do you need an iPad? A computer? A printer?”

We need to hang up on this program.

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