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McCaskill Presses Pai on Missing Lifeline Fines

Sen. Claire McCaskill, ranking member of the Homeland and Government Affairs Committee, has a bone to pick with a specific government affair: The case of the missing Lifeline fines.

McCaskill has been on of the biggest critics of the FCC's Lifeline low income communications subsidy program and serious waste and fraud identified in a Government Accountability Office report earlier this year that she had called for.

In a letter to Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who shares her concerns about waste, fraud and abuse and has taken steps billed as trying to rein it in, McCaskill "demanded" answers for why almost $90 million fines against Lifeline providers who profited from rule violations had yet to be collected.

A divided FCC voted two weeks ago to revise the Lifeline program, including various efforts addressing waste and fraud, including a proposed cap on the fund and better eligibility verification.

McCaskill pointed out that the majority of those companies continued to receive almost $2.5 billion in support between 2014 and 2016.

Related: Groups Make Last Ditch Lifeline Pitch

"Between September 2013 and February 2014, the FCC proposed more than $94 million in fines to 12 Lifeline providers for enrolling ineligible subscribers. Only one of the companies has publicly agreed to pay money back to the FCC, and 10 of the companies continue to receive Lifeline payments from the FCC," McCaskill's office said.

McCaskill said she wanted answers from Pai on what he is doing to hold companies accountable, and wants a bunch of information by Dec. 22, including why six of the cases against the providers had been closed without "further" enforcement action by Pai's predecessor, Tom Wheeler, and the FCC's ability to cut off Lifeline participants who have gotten a notice of apparent liability.

An FCC spokesperson said the commission had received and was reviewing the letter.