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Susan Ralston gave Abramoff "inside W.H. info," but Rove walks away clean

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Human Torch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 08:56 PM
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Susan Ralston gave Abramoff "inside W.H. info," but Rove walks away clean
Rove aide quits -- she took gifts, gave Abramoff inside information

Peter Baker, James V. Grimaldi, Washington Post

Saturday, October 7, 2006

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/200...



(10-07) 04:00 PDT Washington -- A top aide to White House strategist Karl Rove resigned Friday after disclosures that she accepted gifts from and passed information to now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, becoming the first official in the West Wing to lose a job in the influence-peddling scandal. Susan Ralston submitted her resignation to avoid causing political damage for President Bush a month before the midterm elections, officials said. "She did not want to be a distraction to the White House at this important time," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. A congressional report showed last week that Ralston accepted sometimes-pricey tickets to nine sports and entertainment events from Abramoff while she provided him with inside White House information. The bipartisan report said there was no evidence that Rove knew of or approved of Ralston's actions, and sources said Friday that the White House was surprised by the report's revelations. The White House counsel's office conducted a review of the report, but with Ralston's departure, it closed its inquiry Friday.

A senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the counsel's office reached no conclusion on whether Ralston violated gift limits, because her resignation made the point moot. But the official said there were "mitigating circumstances" in her case, because she had a pre-existing relationship with Abramoff, for whom she worked before joining the White House. The official said the White House made no criminal referral in her case. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The sprawling Abramoff investigations have triggered prosecutions on Capitol Hill and among Washington lobbyists, but Ralston's resignation brought the scandal into the White House proper. The only other White House official caught up in the probe has been David Safavian, the procurement chief for the Office of Management and Budget, who was convicted in June of lying about his ties to Abramoff. As right hand to Rove, the president's most important adviser, Ralston was closer to the center of the Bush operation. She was a key organizer of presidential events, coordinating with White House political, scheduling, advance and public liaison offices.

Ralston, who earned $122,000 a year, had been a minor player in the scandal for more than a year, but it was not until her e-mails with the lobbyist were released by the House Government Reform Committee last week that her role became known. The information Ralston supplied to Abramoff often involved procedural matters, social events and possible administration appointments, the committee said. Rules ban White House officials from accepting gifts worth more than $20 from anyone doing business with the government. Exceptions can be made for pre-existing relationships, although ethics officers generally advise officials to avoid anything that might be misinterpreted. Rove has been out of town all week and declined to comment Friday. A colleague said that neither Rove nor anyone else at the White House pushed Ralston to leave. Ralston did not respond to telephone or e-mail messages Friday, and her attorney, Bradford Berenson, declined to comment. As a former Abramoff assistant, Ralston played intermediary between the lobbyist and Rove. The congressional report found 66 Abramoff contacts with the White House, more than half of them with Ralston. In addition, Abramoff's lobbying colleagues contacted Ralston 69 times.
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Geoff R. Casavant Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 10:17 PM
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1. "No evidence that Rove knew of or approved of Ralston's Actions"
So just where did Rove think Ralston was getting those great NCAA skybox tickets?

Either they were both breaking ethics rules by accepting forbidden gifts, or, assuming Rove thought Ralston was giving him gifts out of the goodness of her heart, Rove violated a slew of ethics rules regarding accepting gifts from subordinates.

Seems to me he should disclose which ethics rules he thought he was breaking.
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