Conservative sites were not the only ones running with a wildly inaccurate rumor about immigration reform bill providing immigrants with free phones Wednesday. The myth about the phones, which sites such as the Shark Tank and the Brietbart website dubbed "Marcophones" come from speculation based on southwest border region emergency communication grants. A Senate staffer for Jeff Sessions may have helped spread the rumor as well.
In an email that sent out to Republican policy staffers, and forwarded to BuzzFeed, Sen. Jeff Session's chief counsel Danielle Cutrona sent out the Shark Tank article on the "Marcophones." Another email mentioned Marco Rubio's chief of staff's previous lobbying for Tracfone.
Cesar Conda was a lobbyist for Tracfone. See link and/or Senate lobbying disclosure (Navigators Global was Cesar's old firm).
See the list of lobbyists for Tracphone, a company that will likely benefit from this type of government program, is based in Miami, Florida.
The provision of the immigration bill related to so-called "Marcophones" is actually aimed at helping ranchers protect themselves along with their property. It allows grants for satellite phones for ranchers and other people who work along the Mexican border.
An aide to Sessions said the emails from Cutrona serve as a sort of newsfeed, not intend on taking a partisan position.
"Our immigration staffer sends to her personal contacts dozens of articles, blog posts and news stories each day about everything happening in the immigration world. It's meant to function like a news feed for people she knows. These aren't press releases, these aren't endorsements, they are twitter-style updates to her personal contacts on everything being said in the immigration world – pro, con and neutral. That includes, for instances, statements from interest groups criticizing my boss. It's updates on everything. All that being said, she regrets that this story was included in those email updates and for the confusion it created, and everyone is glad the story has been corrected."
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.