Well, isn’t this just cozy? TracFone, the company that is one of the government’s major suppliers of free cell phones (or as one supporter called them, Obama Phones) is run by big time Obama donors.
Since 1985 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has operated a program called Lifeline, originally designed to provide free landline phone service for low-income individuals. The government subsidizes telecommunications firms providing the service, and those firms also pass on costs to customers via the “Universal Service Charge” on their phone bills.
The program expanded to include cell phones in 2008. That change has rapidly increased the cost to the federal government—$1.6 billion in 2011, up from $772 million in 2008. The number of Lifeline beneficiaries rose from 7.1 million to 12.5 million during the same period; cell phones account for roughly half of that 12.5 million.
One of the major providers of the free cell phones—3.8 million subscribersas of late 2011—is Miami-based TracFone Wireless, a company whose president and CEO, Frederick “F.J.” Pollak, has donated at least $156,500 to Democratic candidates and committees this cycle, including at least $50,000 to the Obama campaign.
Pollak’s wife, Abigail, is a campaign bundler for Obama who has raised more than $632,000 for the president this cycle, and more than $1.5 million since 2007. She has personally contributed more than $200,000 to Democratic candidates and committees since 2008.
The Pollaks hosted Obama at their Miami Beach home in June for a $40,000-per-plate fundraising dinner, and hosted a similar event with Michelle Obama in July 2008. The couple personally donated a combined $66,200 to Obama’s reelection effort that year.