Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chair Of House Energy Committee Fuming At Citgo's Low-Cost Heating Program For Poor

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, launched an investigation last week into possible antitrust violations by a major oil company.

Barton isn't probing whether oil companies like ExxonMobil, which had record profits last year, are doing anything wrong. Instead, Barton is investigating a program started by Citgo last year to provide discounted heating oil to low-income communities.

In a Feb. 15 letter to Citgo, Barton demanded that company officials produce all records, minutes, logs, e-mails and even desk calendars related to the program, which began last year in Massachusetts and the South Bronx, and has since expanded to low-income communities in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island.

Local politicians have welcomed the program, so why is Barton so upset?

Because Citgo is owned by the Venezuelan government, and conservatives are famously angry with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, one of the most strident opponents of the Bush administration. Late last year, you may recall, conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Chavez, before backing away from the statement.

Beyond that, Barton is a top recipient of campaign donations from the energy industries -- a traditional ally of Republicans. In 2004, Barton was second only to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) in contributions from the oil industry, and since joining the House in 1989, he's received $1.9 million in campaign contributions from oil, gas and electric companies.

So the question is, who is Barton actually defending? Is he working for his constituents in Texas, or is he working for his campaign coffers?


Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at Barton's callousness.

The Republican-led Congress has failed to provide adequate funding for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In FY 2005, funding only allowed for 5 million Americans received assistance, out of 32 million eligible.

Last year, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was to increase funding for the energy assistance program. One problem: neither the House nor Senate ever followed through by appropriating the money.

Maybe if low-income Americans turned record profits and filled Republican coffers, Congress would pay attention to them.


Anonymous flamin lib said...

I'm in Barton's district and if there is ever a conflict between what is good for people and what is good for the Petrochem or Telecom industry he will side with business every fucking time.

We have a Democrat running against him--one of the fighting dems--David Harris.

Barton has referred to Harris as "that guy in the military costume." I can only say that Harris, Major USAR, is made of sterner stuff than I am 'cause I would have punched the MF out.

1:04 PM  

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