In 2005, Skyterra was viewed by Wall Street as a way to speculate in the public markets on the fortunes of MSV, which provides testimony and white papers to Congress about the value of satellite communications to the U.S. military and the Department of Homeland Security.
Obama's purchase came right around the time that MSV received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to construct a nationwide wireless network with both satellite and terrestrial components. That ruling raised the prospect that MSV would form an alliance with a major terrestrial phone carrier, such as Verizon (VZ - Get Report) or AT&T (T - Get Report).
Like other investors, Obama may have purchased the stock in February based on the company's new prospects, but MSV also got a huge influx of public money that year.
"Satellite has tremendous value to the public interest, especially in times of emergency, because you're not dependent on the terrestrial infrastructure for communications," says Dale Hatfield, an independent consultant and telecommunications professor at University of Colorado who was recently commissioned by MSV to write a white paper for policymakers. "If everything else fails, you can still make a satellite call."According to OMB Watch, which tracks the spending habits of the federal government, MSV received $167,064 in federal funds in 2004, and 28% of that money came from so-called no-bid contracts.