What Oklahoma Lawmakers Are Doing To Stop Fraud In Federal Lifeline Program

Monday, July 29th 2013, 11:51 pm
By: News 9

We're holding Oklahoma congressmen accountable, asking who's doing what about the government subsidized cell phone program and the rampant fraud our team has uncovered.

The problem is worse in Oklahoma than any other state, and as 9 Investigates found out, two members of the stat's congressional delegation are co-sponsoring a bill to essentially gut the Lifeline program.

In October 2012, we brought you our first of many investigations into the federal Lifeline program, uncovering widespread fraud at free cell phone tents across the state.

10/25/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma Is Ground Zero For Government Cell Phone Fraud

Millions of dollars are being wasted because of the fed's clear lack of oversight.

We brought this to the attention of lawmakers, even the FBI, but still, nine months later, the program remains intact and on pace to waste millions more this year.

Seven months into his freshman term, Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin says the program should be gutted.

"The thing I can't understand is why this hasn't already been taken care of, why Congress hasn't acted," Mullin said.

Mullin is now among 60 others in the House cosponsoring a bill by Arkansas Congressman Tim Griffin: the Stop Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act.

Congressman Jim Bridenstine also became a cosponsor this month and Senator Jim Inhofe cosponsored the Senate version of the bill.

Senator Tom Coburn, earlier this year, tried to pass a budget amendment that would have paid back some of the wasted Lifeline money, but it failed.

7/1/2013 Related Story: Oklahoma Company Makes Millions Off Government Cell Phones Despite Red Flags

So what are Oklahoma's three other Representatives doing?

Frank Lucas's staff said he'd look into becoming a cosponsor of the bill. Tom Cole's staff said he will review it and make the most informed vote when and if the time comes. And James Lankford's press secretary said he has no immediate plans to sponsor any bill, but wants reform.

Still, partisan politics could ultimately stop the bill from passing.

"This is one of those things that's right in front of us that we could save the taxpayers literally a billion dollars overnight by doing what's right, and it still comes down to perception and politics," Mullin said.

Lifeline paid out $424 million in just the first three months of this year.

Congressman Griffin's bill to cut Lifeline subsidies is currently in subcommittee. Meanwhile, he is asking citizens to become "citizen sponsors" of his bill by signing up on his website.

You can do that here.