Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal found no legal problem with Venezuelan President Chavez's program to supply oil to Connecticut's poor:
In response to a request for a legal opinion from Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Blumenthal said the Citizens Energy Corp. of Boston and the Connecticut Association for Community Action are private, nonprofit organizations and their deal to provide oil through the Venezuela-Citgo Heating Oil Program is not subject to review by the state Department of Social Services.
Blumenthal also said the arrangement raises no antitrust concerns.
Under Chavez's oil program CITGO, the third largest refiner in the United States, and which is wholly owned by the national oil company of Venezuela, has offered to sell about 4.8 million gallons of heating oil to Citizens Energy, a Boston-based non-profit energy company, at a 40% discount from the wholesale price of heating oil. Citizens Energy will immediately sell the heating oil at the full wholesale price to a large heating oil wholesaler. Citizens Energy will use the profits from the sale of this oil to provide financial assistance to needy heating oil customers in Connecticut.
Chavez's oil program became embroiled in State politics when one of the Democrats seeking to challenge Governor Rell, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, helped set up the deal to get discounted heating oil for the poor in his city using the state's nonprofit community action agencies to distribute the oil.
Governor Rell said she wanted Blumenthal to address the "legality of the state of Connecticut sanctioning participating in this program:" before endorsing the program:
"From the very beginning, I said I had no trouble with this," the governor said Monday. "Any time that we can receive oil at a discounted price certainly we should be pursuing it. But I wanted to make sure any legal questions were answered. They have been answered, so go ahead and proceed.
According to the Associated Press, Blumenthal said he was giving a legal opinion and didn't want to discuss the politics of the program. Nevertheless, he did seem to make a political point in his opinion:
As a matter of policy or political perspective, there may be sound reason to have reservations about the source of this assistance -- a company effectively owned by a foreign government that may have questionable policies or motives. There is also sound reason to be critical of Congress, whose ill-advised neglect makes this assistance necessary. As a matter of law, there is no reason to decline or disapprove it. Indeed, it fills an unfortunate, profoundly important need for our citizens, consistent with our laws.While I understand very few politicians would dare to oppose assisting the needy with the cost of heating oil, there is something unseemly about taking aid from one who supports Castro, and Hamas.