Susan B. Ralston
Susan Bonzon Ralston, Special Assistant to the President & Assistant to the Senior Advisor Karl Rove, resigned October 6, 2006, "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." According to officials, Ralston "submitted her resignation to avoid causing political damage to President Bush a month before the midterm elections," Peter Baker and James V. Grimaldi reported in the Washington Post.
- 1 Background
- 2 Skybox Keeper
- 3 Gatekeeper
- 4 Plamegate
- 5 Bush-Cheney '04
- 6 Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling Scandal
- 7 Salary
- 8 Personal Profile
- 9 Related SourceWatch Resources
- 10 External links
Ralston was Abramoff's executive assistant at Preston Gates and Ellis and later at the Greenberg Traurig law and lobbying firm, where "she served as the assistant director of governmental affairs. Before moving to the nation’s capital, she was an office administrator for M&J Wilkow, Ltd., a commercial real estate firm in Chicago, Illinois." 
Ralston assisted Rove "in overseeing the strategic planning, political affairs, public liaison, and intergovernmental affairs efforts of the White House." 
Ralston is cited as being the highest ranking Filipino-American in the George W. Bush White House. The Philippine News Online reported September 22, 2004, that "Ralston, who was promoted special assistant to the president last July, is also actively involved in courting the Asian American vote."
"On April 20th, 2000, Jack Abramoff's personal assistant Susan Ralston wrote a memo outlining guidelines for doling out skybox seats to clients, politicians and Capitol Hill staffers," Josh Marshall wrote.
"As presidential adviser Karl Rove set up shop in the West Wing in 2001, he was looking for an assistant to serve as the trusted gatekeeper of his new fiefdom. Superlobbyist and Republican fundraiser Jack Abramoff was happy to lend a hand. Abramoff knew just the right person for the job: his own assistant, Susan Ralston. She interviewed with Rove and got the position," Peter H. Stone wrote in the March 27, 2004, National Journal. "For a staunch conservative and smooth GOP operative like Abramoff, losing a valuable aide was well worth the opportunity to ingratiate himself with the president's senior political adviser."
Ralston "was of course one of many Team Abramoff players who got seconded into the [Bush] administration. Given the close relationship between Abramoff and Grover Norquist, it's probably not surprising that she also had an arrangement with Norquist in which he gave her direction on who to let through to Rove," Josh Marshall wrote in his Talking Points Memo September 21, 2005.
Marshall, being "a little unclear on whether Ralston still works for Rove," called the White House September 21, 2005, and "was told that she's no longer his 'executive assistant'. When [he] asked what her title was [he] was told only that she now worked for him 'in a different capacity.'"
In December 2005 Cristina DC Pastor and Rita Gerona-Adkins reported in Philippine News.com that Ralston "has reportedly moved to the Department of Commerce, Philippine News learned from a source close to Ralston. Asked for the reason for the transfer, the source quoted Ralston as saying, 'Too much pressure (on the job).' The media office of the Commerce department said they are not making any statement. A White House operator says Ralston remains in the White House roster."  This move followed Ralston being compelled to testify before a grant jury into the Plame affair. 
Along with former Rove aide Israel Hernandez, Susan B. Ralston testified before a separate federal grand jury "about grand jury testimony given on July 13 by Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine," David Johnston reported in the August 3, 2005, Washington Post. "Cooper has said that he testified about a July 11, 2003, conversation with Mr. Rove" in which the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame "was discussed."
"The reason Ralston, 37, was asked to testify remains unclear, but it has heightened suspicions that the locus of the investigation still centers on Rove," Johnston wrote, although he did say that "At one point, the aides were asked why Mr. Cooper's call to Mr. Rove was not entered in Mr. Rove's office telephone logs. There was no record of the call, the person who has been briefed said, because Mr. Cooper did not call Mr. Rove directly, but was transferred to his office from a White House switchboard."
Ralston told Jennie L. Ilustre in a pre-presidential election 2004 interview for Asian Fortune that she was then "the White House Liaison to the Bush-Cheney ’04 (BC’04) campaign. As such, she has been very much involved in the reelection campaign. 'I work on the coordination of all activities between the campaign and the White House, including the Republican National Convention,... I spend 95 per cent of my physical time at the White House, but do go over to the campaign headquarters for meetings.'"
Ralston, "who worked for Jack Abramoff, the K Street super lobbyist that allegedly swindled Indian tribes out of millions of dollars with the assistance of Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, is a trusted Rove aide. The buzz is, Ralston is the tie that binds Rove to the Indian casino swindle as tightly as U.S. Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX)," Blogger "Amy" wrote August 4, 2005.
"According to a White House report to Congress, Ralston's salary [for 2004] was $67,600. In an interview last September  with Asian Week, she said that she took a 'significant pay cut' in 2001 from her job working with a prominent lobbyist," Sam Coates reported in the September 13, 2005, Washington Post.
Alexis Simendinger reported on White House Staff salaries in the July 26, 2005, National Journal. At that time, Ralston was shown as "Ralston Susan B. $92,100. Special Assistant to the President & Assistant to the Senior Advisor." There is no accounting for an approximately 25% annual increase in reported salary.
"Susan is the eldest of four children of Teotimo D. Bonzon, originally from Rizal province in the Philippines, and Purificacion Lagman Bonzon of Quezon City. She’s married to Troy Alan Ralston, Regional Director of Operations for Keller Graduate School of Management." 
"In an interview with PeopleAsia magazine [in 2003], she narrated that she grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and in Chicago in a 'very close-knit community with a lot of Filipinos.'" 
"She earned a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Loyola in Chicago and has an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management." 
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Jennie L. Ilustre, "Susan Ralston, on Top at the White House," Asian Fortune, undated (pre U.S. presidential election, 2004).
- Sol Jose Vanzi, "At the Inaugural: Spotlight on Fil-Am in U.S. VIP Delegation," STAR (Newsflash), July 1, 2004.
- Susan B. Ralston, Advisory Council Member, Filipino-American Republicans of Virginia, Inc., 2006-2007. 
- Special Report: Susan B. Ralston, Special Assistant to the President & Assistant to the Senior Advisor The White House; video on USWTV.com, posted on Air China website, July 2005. She categorizes people in the White House according to animals and tasking.
- "Senior White House staff member, Susan B. Ralston celebrates with Augustus Alzona at the most important formal event of the year for Filipino Americans." Last updated October 27, 2005.
Articles & Commentary
- Jennie L. Ilustre, "Filipinos in White House circle of power," The Philippine News, May 21, 2003. Includes photo of Ralston with President George W. Bush.
- Peter H. Stone, "K Street Stumble," National Journal, March 24, 2004.
- "Campaign for a Cleaner Congress: Rove tied to House Lobbying Scandal through Former Aides," U.S, Newswire, July 14, 2005.
- David Johnston, "2 Aides to Rove Testify in C.I.A. Leak Inquiry," Washington Post, August 3, 2005.
- "Rove aides testify about phone call with reporter," Kansas City Star (New York Times), August 3, 2005.
- Lakshmi Chaudhry, "The Chronicles of Rove, Part CLXI. The latest tidbit of information is receiving all the undue attention it so clearly doesn't deserve," AlterNet, August 3, 2005.
- Sam Coates, "The Costly Price of Facing a Grand Jury. White House Staffers Suffer Stress, Fees," Washington Post, September 13, 2005.
- Josh Marshall, "Start the Abramoff conflict-of-interest discussion here," The Hill, September 22, 2005.
- Adam Entous, "Leak Case Announcement Seen Friday," Reuters (truthout), October 27, 2005.
- Anne E. Kornblut, "Name of Rove's Aide Appears in Two Washington Inquiries," New York Times, October 27, 2005.
- Rita Gerona-Adkins, "Top Rove aide ‘critical’ in CIA probe," Philippine News, November 9, 2005: "Ralston, Rove’s right-hand man, is scheduled to appear again before Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald who is investigating the circumstances surrounding the leak of Plame’s identity in the media."
- Jason Leopold and Larisa Alexandrovna, "Rove aide called back to testify as inquiry into Rove's role wraps up, lawyers say," The Raw Story, November 10, 2005 (updated December 20, 2005).
- Rita M. Gerona-Adkins, "Ralston gets more community support," Philippine News, November 15, 2005.
- eriposte, "Treasongate: Rove and Ralston," The Left Coaster, November 28, 2005.
- Jason Leopold and Larisa Alexandrovna, "Testimony from Rove's former assistant may solidify case that he misled leak inquiry, lawyers say," The Raw Story, November 28, 2005.
- Cristina DC Pastor and Rita Gerona-Adkins, "Is Ralston still at the White House?" Philippine News, December 7, 2005. Ralston "reportedly moved to the Department of Commerce."
- Cristina DC Pastor, "Ralston still 'at her desk working:' White House," Philippine News, December 7, 2005.
- Phil Tajitsu Nash, "Ralston May Be More than a Footnote. Asian Face at the White House," Asian Week, December 16, 2005.
- Rita M. Gerona-Adkins, "'Upset' Ralston says she's not going anywhere," Philippine News, December 21, 2005.
- Peter Baker and James V. Grimaldi, "Rove Aide Linked To Abramoff Resigns. Scandal Claims Its First West Wing Job," Washington Post, October 7, 2006.
- Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, "From 'Evans-Novak Political Report': "Susan Ralston, is currently seeking immunity to testify before Waxman's committee," May 16, 2007.
- "Former Rove 'gatekeeper' seeking immunity," Think Progress, May 16, 2007.
- Michael Roston, "Former Rove aide pleads Fifth on White House contacts with convicted lobbyist Abramoff," The Raw Story, May 22, 2007.
- Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel), "Shorter Henry: Nice Try, Brad Berenson," The Next Hurrah Blog, May 22, 2007.
- "Waxman denies Ralston immunity, for now," Think Progress, May 22, 2007.