(Billy Hallowell) The so-called “Obama phone” has caught the ire of American conservatives for quite some time (after all, who could forget the infamous Obama phone lady?). And now, an explosive, new undercover video is set to reinvigorate debate, as it shows alleged corporate distributors of free cell phones giving the units out to people who pledge to sell them for drug money, to pay their bills — or simply to bring in some extra dough.
As the Daily Mail reports, the Federal Communications Commission’s “Lifeline” program is responsible for these distributions of phones to low-income Americans. According to the FCC’s web site, the program is “a government benefit program that provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income consumers to help ensure they have the opportunities and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and 911 services.”
The government’s intention in providing these services is that people with low resources will have access to 911, while also having a phone to communicate on necessary fronts, including for job interviews and other related needs.
But James O’Keefe, a conservative activist who has produced a plethora of controversial, undercover videos, decided to put these stated goals to the test to see how companies would respond to other intents for using these phones.
So he hired an actor and sent the individual down to a Stand Up Wireless store to try and get one of these phones. The faux Lifeline seeker and the cell phone company:
“Once you guys give me this phone, it’s my phone?” [the actor] asked an employee inside a Philadelphia brick-and-mortal Stand Up Wireless location. “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,” he offered.
The employee coolly responded, “Hey, I don’t judge.”
This wasn’t the only instance of this happening, though. Rather than complying with the program as it is intended for those receiving the phones, actors — who went to both Stand Up Wireless and another company called TerraCom wireless — made it clear that they would immediately sell the phones for profit.
And the salespeople, it seems, were willing to hand the units over, despite knowing how they would be used. In the short, five-minute video, a number of employees tell male and female actors to simply keep their intent with the phones to themselves.
One woman does, indeed, tell an actress that her intent to sell the phone is illegal, but, according to the footage, no refusal to provide service occurs. In another scenario, the store worker tells the actor that he could “go to any pawn shop” if he wants to find out the exact value of the phone.
“Okay, so I could get the phone and then sell it?,” the actor asked.
“Yeah, I don’t care what you do with it,” she responded.
Watch the five minute compilation, below (warning: language):
And here’s a longer version of the raw footage: