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Neil Bush & Crest  -  Another Profiteering Scheme

Neil Bush, has a $60,000-a-year employment contract
with a top adviser to a Washington-based consulting
firm set up to help companies secure contracts in
Iraq, according to the Nov 11, 2004 Financial Times.

Neil disclosed this employment during a divorce
deposition on March 3, 2003. He testified that he was
co-chairman of the Houston-based, Crest Investment
Corporation, which invests in energy and other
ventures, and said he received $15,000 every three
months for a average 3 or 4 hours of work a week doing
"miscellaneous consulting services."

"Such as?" his ex-wife's Attorney asked, "Such as
answering phone calls when Jamal Daniel, the other
co-chairman, called and asked for advice," Neil
answered.

Crest's co-chairman, Daniel, sits on the advisory
board of New Bridge Strategies, a firm set up in March
2003, just in time to cash in on the Iraq
reconstruction contracts, by a group of businessmen
with close ties to the Bush family, and both Bush
administrations. The firm's chairman is Joe Allbaugh,
who was W's campaign director in the 2000, and who was
appointed Director of FEMA once Bush took office.

In addition to paying him for "consulting" work, Crest
has provided funding for Neil's educational software
company Ignite!  In fact, Daniel sometimes introduces
himself as a founding backer of the company, and has
persuaded the families of prominent leaders in the
Middle East to invest in Ignite, according to the Dec
11, 2003 Financial Times.

Overall, Crest goes to great lengths to show Neil how
much it values his membership on the team.  For
instance, when Neil got remarried in 2004, Daniel held
a wedding reception at his home, and Crest arranged a
5-year rent-free cottage for Neil and his new bride in
Kennebunkport, Maine, so they could spend time near
Mom & Pop Bush whenever they wanted to.

Another Jackpot  -  Thanks To Brother W

As usual, during his deposition, Neil forgot to
mention a few facts about his earnings potential with
Crest.  First of all, he didn't mention that he
attached his signature to letters soliciting business
for New Bridge in obtaining contracts in Iraq, and
two, that he attached his name as a reference for an
extremely lucrative proposal submitted by Crest to
obtain a lease on a parcel of property located on the
island of Quintana, Texas, that will result in
payments of at least $2 million a year to Crest.

When W took office in 2001, he vowed to make it easier
for companies to build coastline facilities to store
liquefied natural gas (LNG), a cooled and condensed
form of natural gas, shipped in from countries around
the world.

That promise sent US companies scrambling to secure
coastline property on which to build the LNG
processing facilities. One company looking to enter
the market was Crest. Although the firm had no
experience whatsoever in LNG processing, it had a very
influential asset, a co-chairman by the name of Neil
Bush.

One property of specific interest was Quintana Island,
located in the Texas gulf, because it was accessible
to cargo ships. The right to grant a lease to the land
belonged to the Brazos River Harbor Navigation
District.

If it could gain approval, the Crest LNG facility
would be the first such facility in Texas, and only
one of a few in the entire country.

The Harbor Commission was so enthralled with a
proposal from Crest, that it offered the company an
all-exclusive lease without soliciting for any other
bids.  The proposal was approved even though
ExxonMobil owned the right to a first refusal on that
part of the island, under a 1998 agreement, and even
though the Commission knew that another company,
Cheniere Energy, was interested in building a nearly
identical facility on the exact same parcel of land.

When asked why the commission chose to grant the
initial deal to Crest, Phyllis Saathoff, managing
director of the Commission, said, "We worked it out
and could accommodate [the Crest proposal], so we
did," according to the LA Times on Oct 29, 2004.

To this day, Neil's connection to the firm is not
widely known. However, Saathoff said that when Crest
approached the commission with the project, it
provided Neil's name as a reference.

How Did Crest Pull It Off?

The chronology of events that led to the Commission's
approval of the Crest proposal is contained in court
documents from a lawsuit filed against Crest, by
Cheniere Energy, a firm with experience in LNG
processing.

In 2000, Crest and Cheniere began discussing the
possibility of a joint venture to build an LNG
facility. After W's election, negotiations picked up
speed and Cheniere provided a detailed, "confidential"
briefing on its plans to Crest, according to court
records.

In early 2001, Cheniere submitted an initial proposal
for the project to the Commission.  However, without
telling Cheniere, Crest went forward and submitted a
similar proposal to the Commission, according to court
records.

The commission set a date of March 22, 2001, to meet
with Cheniere officials about the firm's proposal, but
the meeting was abruptly canceled.  The very next day,
on March 23, 2001, the Commission held an emergency
session and met with Crest representatives, and
granted the company, with no experience in LNG
processing, an exclusive, 3-year lease option on the
island property.

Cheniere then filed the lawsuit against Crest. But the
two companies ended up settling out of court by
becoming partners on the project.  After other
partners were added, the Freeport LNG consortium was
created.

Crest To Handle Political Permits

An internal Freeport memo specified that Cheniere
would be responsible for operational aspects of the
project, and to no one's surprise I'm sure, Neil's
company, Crest, was designated to "handle the
political permitting side."

Crest has supported W in his campaigns and some of the
firm's representatives have key Washington
connections. According to harbor commission memos,
Daniel is friends with Energy Secretary, Spencer
Abraham, and Crest executive, Dee Osborne, was a guest
of Commerce Secretary, Don Evans, on a 2002 US trade
mission to Chile and Peru, the Times reported.

In addition to Neil's obvious inside track with W,
Crest was able to garner other political support for
the project's approval by the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC). House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay (R-TX), was one of 4 members of Congress who
signed a letter in support of approving the project,
and Daniel's buddy, Spencer Abraham, also lent the
backing of his office at the Department of Energy.

On Dec 12, 2002, the Commission approved the terms of
a 30-year lease. However, Texas law required that it
solicit for bids on any lease extending beyond 10
years. The Commission claimed it advertised for
proposals in late December, 2002, but said no other
bids were submitted.

The Crest-Quintana project was one of the first to
benefit from the Bush administration's changes in
regulations that streamlined federal permitting,
relaxed financial reviews and made it easier to comply
with safety standards.

Although the changes in the regulations were made
after Freeport filed its initial application, the
changes were applied retroactively to the project. In
June, 2002, the FERC approved the project and gave the
company a 5-year completion date.  The final version
of the lease was signed on March 28, 2003.

An important fact that Neil forgot to mention in his
deposition is that once the plant goes into operation,
Crest is guaranteed payments of at least $2 million a
year from the partnership.  However, unless Neil
decides to dump his new wife, which might require his
participation in another deposition, we will likely
never know how much of the $2 million ends up in the
Bush trough each year.

James Smith, director of Public Citizen-Texas, a
watchdog group focused on energy issues, described the
Crest profiteering scheme correctly when he told the
LA Times on Oct 29, 2004, that the deal appeared to be
"another classic example of Bush family cronyism
paying off."

Evelyn Pringle
[email protected]
Miamisburg OH

(Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media
TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing
government corruption)

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