MARCH 09, 2011
Led by a famous politician who pimps oil for a sworn enemy of the United States, a pair of congressman are denouncing cuts to a fraud-infested government program that gives low-income residents money to pay heating and cooling bills.Known as Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the welfare project gets around $5 billion annually despite documented waste and corruption that’s been repeatedly exposed in congressional probes and the media. Just last summer the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), detailed many of them in a report that blames lack of oversight for the costly problems.Investigators found that a number of dead and incarcerated people receive LIHEAP funds as well as 1,100 federal employees whose salary exceeds the maximum income to qualify for the handouts. One federal employee quoted in the report admitted that she requested her “free money” after seeing the “long lines” of applicants. Even when GAO investigators posed as applicants with fake documents, benefits were always paid out.Instead of eliminating the scandal-plagued program altogether, President Obama has only proposed to reduce its funding in fiscal year 2012. This has outraged self-described advocates of the poor, including two Massachusetts congressmen (Democrats Michael Capuano and Jim McGovern) and a former lawmaker (Joseph Kennedy) who capitalizes on his family name to promote his agenda.Kennedy, who served in the U.S. House for more than a decade, runs a nonprofit (Citizens Energy) that provides discounted and free home heating services for the poor. A few years ago Kennedy formed a partnership with Venezuela’s America-bashing communist leader, Hugo Chavez, to provide heating oil for his charity. Kennedy came under fire for starring in television commercials praising Chavez, who has referred to a U.S. president as the “devil” and has close ties to Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.Evidently, Kennedy’s friends in Venezuela aren’t providing enough free oil for all the needy folks in his state because this week he demanded that the president and Republicans “find some heart and soul and recognize the terrible impact” of the proposed LIHEAP cuts. To make his point, Kennedy showcased an elderly couple at a Boston press conference this week.They 80-something man and woman will be devastated this winter if Uncle Sam doesn’t subsidize their energy bill, according to Kennedy and his congressmen pals beside him at the podium. Capuano, who represents Boston in the U.S. House, acknowledged that the government is facing serious budget issues but pointed out that it’s not right to start with cutting “the most basic needs in this country,” referring to heating oil.
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