Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

In all the Abramoff business I'm surprised there has not been more mention of Susan Ralston. In Jack Abramoff's heyday at Preston Gates and then later at Greenberg-Traurig, Ralston was Abramoff's executive assistant, the one who helped dole out the skyboxes, basically administratively ran his whole shop as near as I can figure.

Then when Karl Rove came to town, she took pretty much the same job with him, becoming his gatekeeper at the White House. She was of course one of many Team Abramoff players who got seconded into the 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.

I've been a little unclear on whether Ralston still works for Rove. And today when I called the White House I was told that she's no longer his 'executive assistant'. When I asked what her title was I was told only that she now worked for him "in a different capacity."

We're hearing a lot now about David Safavian, another White House appointee who just got arrested on multiple charges of obstruction of justice. But I'm surprised we haven't heard more about the Ralston connection to Rove and Norquist since she must have known about pretty much everything Abramoff did in his high-rolling years prior to mid-2001.

Just as an example, recently I've been working through a sheaf of emails exchanged betwixt and between various members of Team Abramoff back in the days while Ralston was still working for Abramoff.

In this one from April 20th 2000 (just added to the TPM Document Collection), for instance, Ralston writes to a colleague explaining the guidelines and rules for how Abramoff's various skybox tickets will be distributed.

In this one, from three months later, Abramoff writes to Ralston (just added to the TPM Document Collection). He explains that Adam Kidan, with whom he was then in the process of buying the now-defunct SunCruz casino boat line, wanted to get SunCruz to buy into the skybox operation. He asks for details about just which Indian tribes paid for which allotments of skyboxes and how much -- information Ralston duly provides.

It seems like Ralston was right in the thick of all this. And she's been a top Rove aide for years, seemingly continuing to be involved in various of Abramoff's and Norquist's projects.

Thoughts? We're discussing it here.

Late Update: As of two months ago, National Journal gave Ralston's title as "Special Assistant to the President & Assistant to the Senior Advisor."

From the National Hurricane Center, 2 AM ...


A TPM Reader checks in ...

You may want to point out that Gerhard Schroeder is using the Bush-Cheney 2000 playbook in Germany. He knows the fracture point in that coalition is between the CDU and the CSU and he’s playing a Rovian game all the way. He got on national TV at the same table as Merkel and said to her face that he was the only one who could form a government. Even the hosts were shocked. To say that his type of talk makes conservative Bavarians squirm is an understatement. Look for Stoiber to chuck Merkel soon, especially if the SPD wins in Dresden’s election. Irony of ironies.

Interesting observation.

My kingdom ... well, I have no kingdom, but a TPM mug for anyone who will bring me one single Republican member of the House willing to co-sponsor H.R. 3763, the bill to overturn President Bush's Gulf Coast Wage Cut.

Now, if a member of the GOP Caucus is willing to come forward themselves and claim their mug on the basis of changing their vote, that works for me. But of course what I'm thinking is that eventually some Republican has to stand up against President Bush's decision to dock the wages of the folks who are going to rebuild the Gulf Coast. And if you're the first emailer to notify me, the prized mug is yours.

As we told you this morning, Rep. LoBiondo (R-NJ) is apparently circulating a letter calling on the president to rescind the wage cut. And Rep. Walsh (R-NY) is making pretty clear he's likely to sign it. So maybe keep an eye on those two as possible high-potential mug quarry.

I'm focusing on Republicans since H.R. 3763 already has 171 cosponsors. And every single one is a Democrat.

Yet, even in their sadly depleted state, admittedly, there are more than 171 members of the Democratic caucus.

So I thought I'd send along this list of those House Dems who haven't yet signed up. 'FFA' signifies a Fainthearted Faction Alumna/us, a member who was at one point or another a member of the Faction, even if they later achieved Social Security redemption ...

Mr. John Barrow of Georgia Mr. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia Mr. Dan Boren of Oklahoma Mr. Rick Boucher of Virginia Mr. Allen Boyd of Florida (FFA) Mr. James Clyburn of South Carolina Mr. Robert E. "Bud" Cramer Jr. of Alabama (FFA) Mr. Henry Cuellar of Texas Mr. Jim Davis of Florida Mr. Lincoln Davis of Tennessee Mr. Chet Edwards of Texas Mr. Bob Etheridge of North Carolina Mr. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania Mr. Harold E. Ford of Tennessee (FFA) Mr. Charles A. Gonzalez of Texas Mr. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina Ms. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia Mr. Martin Meehan of Massachusetts Mr. Gregory Meeks of New York Mr. Dennis Moore of Kansas (FFA) Mr. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania Mr. Ed Pastor of Arizona Mr. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina Mr. John S. Tanner of Tennessee (FFA) Mr. Melvin L. Watt of North Carolina

Hard to figure where Marty Meehan isn't going to oppose the Wage Cut. But as far as I hear, he's still a hold out.

Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-NH) got <$NoAd$> asked about the Gulf Coast Wage Cut at a townhall meeting last weekend. And Bradley said ... well, not clear what he said precisely.

But here's how the Laconia Citizen recounted the conversation ...

Resident Mike McGuigan said he was angry to hear that Halliburton — a huge construction company with ties to the Bush administration — already has "its hooks in the relief process" despite past problems with how it handled rebuilding in the Middle East.

McGuigan said he takes great issue with possible plans to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act (minimum wage law) to allow companies like Halliburton to provide faster relief.

One woman said the response is already showing a trend toward America becoming a country dominated by the "have and have nots."

Bradley said he supports moves to get construction crews into the area as fast as possible.

"You need to get people on the ground," said the congressman.

However, he noted that he is committed to ensuring that the long-term rebuilding process won't include a "no-bid" process.

Sounds like a Wiggler.

(ed.note: Special thanks to TPM Reader PS for the catch.)

H.R. 3763 is Rep. George Miller's bill to overturn President Bush's Gulf Coast Wage Cut. The bill currently has 171 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats. So if you want want to know where your member of Congress stands on this issue, that's a good place to start.

Over at Auction House, Ellen Miller explains why that indictment of David Safavian had Rep. Ney's (R-OH) name written all over it.

I heard from a member of Sen. Obama's staff this afternoon. And as you'd expect, the senator does oppose the president's Gulf Coast Wage Cut.

I've also gotten more than a few emails from present and former hill staffers, many of them friends, on this matter of calling and trying to find out where your member of Congress stands on a given issue.

So a few words.

First, as many of these folks point out, the folks who field phone calls from the public are often interns or new hires working for more or less dismal wages. They are often under instructions not to get into conversations about what their boss's position on an issue probably is until the press or communications folks have put together a release or some definitive statement.

This doesn't change the essential calculus of the importance or utility of trying to get the person who represents you to tell you where they stand on a key issue. But it is a good reason, as I'm sure you already are, to be polite and courteous with the person on the other end of the phone because their hands are often tied in terms of what they're allowed to say.

So, briefly, be nice.

Having said that, though, members of Congress generally like to keep their options open as much as possible. On many issues, all things being equal, they'd just as soon not take any position at all, certainly not a definitive one.

And it is telling (with all respect to my friends) that on an issue so clear-cut on the substance and so potent on the politics that so many Democratic offices still don't know what the issue is even about when constituents call -- or at least haven't prepared a statement from the member or senator.

Voters have every right to ring up their member of Congress and ask where they stand on a given issue. And they should get answers -- not just have their opinion marked off as for or against on the issue in question.

So yes, a bit of understanding is in order. Maybe your Rep. or Senator is still putting together a statement. And maybe the person answering the phone doesn't know the boss's position or doesn't want to say before they've been given the go-ahead.

But this is a clear-cut issue. You are not a bystander. You're part of the process. And asking your representatives where they stand puts them on notice that you're watching and want answers.