President Obama is being accused of cronyism after a government contract to provide phones to low-income job-seekers went to TracPhone, whose CEO's wife was a major fundraiser for Obama's campaigns The program, which was lobbied for by TracPhone, is intended to give internet service to low-income individuals who are searching for employment. Supporters of the program said that it would help the "unemployed to learn technical skills, to prepare resumes and to search for jobs". The FCC awarded TracPhone Wireless Inc. with one of 14 pilot contracts, despite the argument by critics that the phones provided by the contract will not be "skills-boosting computers and services," but rather high-end androids better suited for playing games and browsing Facebook than helping users to get a job, reports The Washington Times.
TracPhone CEO F.J. Pollak, who has visited the White House on many occasions, and his wife Abigail have close ties to the president. Abigail is said have raised more than 1.5 million for Obama since 2007, says The Washington Beacon.
If it's true that these cellphones are not effective tools for those searching for employment, it would be very cruel to the many individuals all over the country who have been actively seeking a job for months or years. With unemployment rates so high and so many feeling discouraged over prospects for their future, the focus should be on finding common sense methods to help more Americans find work.
Republican Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas is one of the most vocal critics of this move, noting that "the cellphone spectrum is poorly suited to be a user's primary Internet portal" and predicting that resumes typed "with two fingers on a cellphone screen" would be sloppy. Griffin views TracFone's proposal to provide high-end cellphones instead of a workhorse desktop connection for the program as an "outrage".
The Miami-based TracPhone is a subsidiary of Mexico's American Movil, which is part of entrepreneur Carlos Slim's corporate empire. Slim is frequently listed as the world's richest man.
In reference to Pollak's many visits to the White House, a spokesman for Movil was quoted as saying, "That has absolutely nothing to do with business. There's been no pay-for-play Â— or even favors. What he does in his private time is his".
It is ironic that Obama is being faulted with cronyism, considering how strongly he has spoken out against it in the past. Cynics may not be surprised by this accusation, but there are still a number of people who hold their president to a higher standard than this.