When Jeb Bush, who is now evaluating a potential presidential run, was governor of Florida, he was known for being highly responsive to his e-mails – especially if you were a GOP donor of note. New e-mails released by the American Bridge last week show that the latest Bush had a cozy relationship with Carnival Cruise Line and that the relationship may have produced a nearly $240 million contract for the company following the disaster of hurricane Katrina.

Just two days after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Ric Cooper, an advertiser for Carnival at the time the contract was made, reached out to the then-governor Bush, writing, “None of us have any idea how to reach out to FEMA or whoever is appropriate. I decided to to my usual ‘I’ll give Jeb a heads-up.’”

What followed was an effort to utilize “two or three” of Carnival’s ship as part of the response effort. The company would be able to recoup income that the ships would generated, would they have otherwise been at sea, under the pretense that the ships would house between 6,000 and 10,000 people.

Cooper, who started this engagement, paid $50,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2004 in an effort to help re-elect Jeb’s brother – President George W. Bush.

Within a matter of minutes, the proposal was sent on to the director of FEMA, Mike Brown.

The contract pushed through and days later Carnival ships moored and open their doors to Katrina victims. They remained, despite high hopes to the contrary, largely unused. Rarely even reaching half-capacity, the ships were seen as an example of post-Katrina waste. The contract was noted as a “boondoggle” by Representative Henry Waxman in a letter to Jeb in 2006.

According to Waxman, the cost of sheltering a family of five with Carnival was nearly $240,000. “At this price, the federal government could have built permanent homes for the families.”


Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.