The following is the letter from former Rep. Joe Kennedy sent to Rep. Connie Mack, provided by Kennedy's office:

Dear Congressman Mack:

I appreciate your interest, however misguided your conclusions may be, regarding our efforts to provide low-cost heating oil to thousands of low-income people, whose federal fuel benefits, by the way, you voted to cut by over $1 billion just a few months ago.

I also appreciate the kind of moral leadership you're attempting to show in spite of the hypocrisy of your argument. If, in fact, your objection to our program is the politics of President Chavez and the actions that he's taken — which you feel threaten our democracy — I would suggest you hold all 558 million barrels of oil we import annually from Venezuela to the same moral standard and not just the small slice we provide at a discount to the poor.

If you moral indignation requires that we not accept the discount oil to distribute to our most vulnerable families, then that same high moral standard should require that you not drive your car because it, too, probably uses gasoline made from Venezuelan oil. Nor should you be willing to fly to Washington because the airlines are using Venezuelan jet fuel. Heaven forbid that critics of our program stay warm with Venezuelan heating oil as they compose diatribes against charity. And you certainly shouldn't flick your Bic because it fires up Venezuelan benzene.

Since you express concerns with a non-profit energy company doing business with a Venezuelan-owned oil company to help the poor, I'm sure you have letters in the mail to Exxon/Mobil, BP, Shell, Conoco Phillips, Valero, and even Halliburton objecting to the billions of dollars in oil profits they've made in Venezuela to benefit their executives and shareholders while helping the economy of Venezuela under the leadership of President Chavez. By the way, the same oil that we have, only a bit more expensive, is used in running U.S. planes, trains, and automobiles — I'm sure you want all your constituents to give up their oil as well as my constituents whose oil you're trying to grab. Perhaps I also missed the press release in which you urged them to devote a tiny slice of their record profits to help those least able to shoulder the burden of rising energy prices. We wrote every major oil company and every OPEC nation asking them to share some of their bounty with the poor. They all refused, but I would be happy to include you as a signatory the next time we make an appeal. Your signature perhaps would convince them to finally do something.

I would also gladly join you in trying to turn back President Bush's current proposal to cut the federal fuel benefit by 44 percent in spite of record demand from families suffering winter's bite in the Northeast or buried under tons of snow in the Midwest. We could also form a moral coalition to make oil companies pay their fair share of royalties and use some of the windfall from rising royalty revenues and taxes on skyrocketing energy prices to help those in need. Maybe the fact that you live in Florida diminishes your concern for those who have to forgo food or medicine to pay for heat or turn to dangerous heating sources to stay warm, risking their lives to brave the cold. If so, maybe you could advocate that they move to your district to alleviate the need to figure out ways to protect them. There are a lot of disagreements I have with President Chavez, but what are we supposed to do in the absence of adequate help from the federal government or of any help from other oil companies — turn down the fuel for those in need?

Your logic, which vaguely resembles the purity of the neocons who got us into the war in Iraq, would have us focus our wrath on countries you consider undemocratic. If that's your concern, then where is your blistering statement denouncing oil from Saudi Arabia, a country run by an unelected monarchy and which produced 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers? Perhaps I missed your letter renouncing oil from Kuwait because of its socialist policies of universal health care, education, and food for its citizens. Russia, I'm sure, is also in your doghouse because of President Putin's growing tendency to clamp down on democracy. And while you're at it, I'm sure you have every intention of ending our country's $310 billion a year trade with China, the largest communist power on earth.

Once we've followed the Mack Doctrine and refused oil from every country that fails to meet our disciplined moral standards, I'm sure you'll enjoy your walks to Washington, because there certainly won't be fuel to fly you there. Incidentally, your strolls would make an enormous contribution to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions — another one, I'm sure, of your moral crusades.

Thank you again for your letter. I would love to join with you in dealing with the real threat to this country — our system of a kind of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor — a system that has granted billions to oil companies and their executives.

Sincerely,

Joseph P. Kennedy II