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Lynn Sweet

Jack Ryan holds back in biography

November 27, 2003

BY LYNN SWEET WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF

Jack Ryan is making selective use of his business biography in his Republican primary bid for the open U.S. Senate seat.

A lot of Ryan's appeal is his biography, as well as his multimillions of dollars, his puppy-dog earnest personality and his good looks. Ryan's campaign labels his bio "The Jack Ryan Story.''

After making millions at the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs, Ryan walked away to teach at Hales Franciscan High School, a parochial school on Chicago's South Side.

It is a few things that he does not mention on his campaign direct-mail pieces -- which a lot of people see --but does list in his required Senate financial disclosure report --which is not mailed to potential GOP primary voters -- that's worth noting.

Ryan taught at Hales Franciscan from September 2000 to January 2003 and donated most of his $21,717 salary back to the school. During this period, however, Ryan was not out of the business world.

Starting in September 2002, Ryan joined the board of First Health Group Corp., headquartered in Downers Grove. The publicly traded company handles group health insurance plans for large private and public employers, an industry that is heavily influenced by federal laws and regulations.

Ryan received a $35,000 director's fee for attending meetings. He also was given options to buy 48,000 shares of the company at a strike price of $25.99 for 32,000 shares and $25.22 for 16,000 shares. A strike price on an option, when exercised, sets the value for a share no matter what the stock is trading at on a particular day.

It's not clear when Ryan can exercise his options, but if it is soon, he may let his options sit, since the stock was hovering near $20.43 on Wednesday afternoon. Ryan's disclosure shows he already holds First Health Group stock worth between $250,000 and $500,000.

In January 2001, Ryan joined the board of a company called K-12 Inc., based in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington. The company is a privately held for-profit educational firm providing supplies to people who home-school their children. K-12 markets materials for a home "virtual academy.''

Ryan's disclosures show he has a stake in K-12 that is worth between $500,001 and $1 million. Ryan also holds 50,000 options for K-12 stock, at a strike price of $1.34. Ryan also reports getting interest income of between $5,000 and $15,000 from K-12 for a bridge loan he made to the company.

A cornerstone of Ryan's campaign is education. Ryan's financial interest in home schooling -- which takes a child out of a private or public school -- is absent from his direct-mail literature and on his Web site.

It should not be, because someone running on an education platform, as Ryan is, should be clear when they have a financial stake in one of their most important issues. Home schooling, and federal policies regarding school choice, is a subject worthy of debate in a U.S. Senate race.

Jason Miller, Ryan's campaign manager, said those boards were excluded from Ryan's biography because "Jack's work experience and his giving to Hales is impressive enough.''

Ryan's strategy calls for him to use his money -- he has put in at least $1.25 million of his own funds in his Senate bid -- to go on television early and define himself before his opponents do, and his money has given him an edge. Part of Ryan's appeal to national and state Republicans was his potential to self-fund his campaign. But Ryan told me this week, and Miller repeated on Wednesday, that Ryan will spend only $3 million of his own money in the race. We'll see.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar, Illinois GOP state Chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka, the state treasurer, and Mike Stokke, who handles politics for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), all told me in recent days that they consider the Senate race wide open.

The multimillionaire Ryan can well afford one thing: to level with the voters.





 
 











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