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Jack Ryan (born October 6, 1959) is a Republican from the state of Illinoismarker who was forced to withdraw from the 2004 United States Senate race due to an alleged sex scandal involving his relationship with his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan. His eventual replacement, Alan Keyes, would go on to lose the general election to State Senator and future President of the United States, Barack Obama.


Ryan spent his childhood in Wilmette, Illinoismarker, with his five siblings, and attended New Trier High Schoolmarker. He graduated from high school in 1977 and went on to Dartmouth Collegemarker, where he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business Schoolmarker, and his JD from Harvard Law Schoolmarker. After this, he worked for Goldman Sachs as an investment banker and eventual partner, first in New York City, and then in the Chicago branch.

In 2000, after Goldman Sachs went public, Ryan's net worth was in the hundreds of millions. He retired from Goldman and taught part-time at an inner-city Chicago Catholic parochial school, Hales Franciscan High Schoolmarker. He later became a full-time teacher at the school. Currently, he is running a news media company, 22nd Century Media, which publishes six separate localized newspapers in the greater Chicago area.

Political platform

During his Senate campaign, Ryan was a proponent of across-the-board tax cuts and tort reform, an effort to limit payout in medical malpractice lawsuits, as well as a proponent of school choice.

2004 U.S. Senate race

Ryan hoped to succeed retiring Republican Peter Fitzgerald in the United States Senate. On March 16, 2004, he won the Republican primary, thus pairing him against Democrat Barack Obama. However, after his divorce records containing damaging allegations were unsealed and made public, he withdrew his candidacy on June 25, 2004, and officially filed the documentation to withdraw on July 29, 2004.

Controversially, in 2004, Ryan had Justin Warfel (a campaign worker) follow his opponent, Barack Obama, throughout the day and record everything he did in public on videotape. The tactic backfired when Barack Obama and others, including Ryan's supporters, criticized this activity. Ryan's spokesman apologized, and promised that Warfel would give Obama more space. Obama acknowledged that it is standard practice to film an opponent in public, and Obama said he was satisfied with Ryan's decision to have Warfel back off.

Campaign demise

Ryan married actress Jeri Ryan in 1991; together they have a son, Alex Ryan. They divorced in 1999 in Californiamarker, and the records of the divorce were sealed at their mutual request. Five years later, when Ryan's Senate campaign began, the Chicago Tribune newspaper and WLS-TVmarker, the local ABC affiliate, sought to have the records released. On March 3, 2004, several of Ryan's GOP primary opponents urged release of the records. Both Ryan and his wife agreed to make their divorce records public, but not make the custody records public, claiming that the custody records could be harmful to their son if released. On March 16, 2004, Ryan won the GOP primary with 36 percent to 23 percent against Jim Oberweis who came in second. Obama won the Democratic primary, with 53 percent to 23 percent against Dan Hynes, who came in second.

On March 29, 2004, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider ruled that several of the Ryans' divorce records should be opened to the public, and ruled that a court-appointed referee would later decide which custody files should remain sealed to protect the interests of Ryan's young child. The following week, on April 2, 2004, Barack Obama formally established his position about the Ryans' soon-to-be-released divorce records, and called on Democrats not to inject them into the campaign. The Ryan campaign characterized Obama's shift as hypocritical, because Obama's alleged backers had been emailing reports about the divorce records prior to Judge Schnider's decision.

In May 2004, a statewide Chicago Tribune poll found Ryan trailing Obama 52% to 30%.

On June 22, 2004, after receiving a report from the referee, Judge Schnider released the files that were deemed consistent with the interests of Ryan's young child. In those files, Jeri Ryan alleged that Jack Ryan had taken her to sex clubs in several cities, intending for them to have sex in public. The decision to release these files generated much controversy because it went against both parents' direct request, and because it reversed the earlier decision to seal the papers in the best interest of the child. Jim Oberweis, Ryan's defeated GOP opponent, commented that "these are allegations made in a divorce hearing, and we all know people tend to say things that aren't necessarily true in divorce proceedings when there is money involved and custody of children involved."

Prior to release of the documents, Ryan claimed he had told leading Republicans that the divorce file could cause problems for his campaign. But after the documents were released, GOP officials including state GOP Chair Judy Baar Topinka said they felt Ryan had misled them, saying the divorce records would not be embarrassing. That charge of dishonesty led to calls for Ryan's withdrawal, though Topinka said after the June 25 withdrawal that Ryan's "decision was a personal one" and that the state GOP had not pressured Ryan to drop out. Ryan's campaign ended less than a week after the custody records were opened, and Ryan officially filed the documentation to withdraw on July 29, 2004. The same party leaders who called for Ryan's resignation chose Alan Keyes as Ryan's replacement in the race; Keyes lost to Obama, 27% to 70%.

In retrospect

Subsequent to his withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race in Illinois, Jack Ryan has characterized what happened to him as a "new low for politics in America". According to Ryan, it was unprecedented in American politics for a newspaper to sue for access to sealed custody documents. Ryan opposed unsealing the divorce records of Senator John Kerry during Kerry's race against George W. Bush in 2004, and Kerry's divorce records remained sealed. Ryan has made this request: "let me be the only person this has happened to. Don’t ask for Ted Kennedy’s. Don’t ask for John McCain’s. Don’t ask for Joe Lieberman’s. Just stop. This is not a good precedent for American society if you really want the best and brightest to run."


  1. Broder, David. "In Illinois, a Contest of Contrasts: Millionaire to Face Son of Kenyan Immigrant for Senate Seat", Washington Post (2004-03-17).
  2. Fornek, Scott; Herrmann, Andrew. “Senate rivals urge Ryan to unseal divorce records”, Chicago Sun-Times (2004-03-04).
  3. Davey, Monica. “From Crowded Field, Democrats Choose State Legislator to Seek Senate Seat” (2004-03-17).
  4. Ford, Liam. “Some Ryan divorce files should be unsealed”, Chicago Tribune (2004-03-30).
  5. Fornek, Scott. "Obama: Back off divorce files", Chicago Sun-Times (2004-04-03).
  7. Martinez, Michael; Pearson, Rick. "Court sets release of Ryan's divorce file", Chicago Tribune (2004-06-18).
  8. Pearson, Rick; Ford, Liam. "GOP leaders say they felt misled on Ryan file", Chicago Tribune (2004-06-23).
  9. Ford, Liam; Bush, Rudolph. "Ryan Quits Race", Chicago Tribune 2004-06-26.
  10. Sangwan, Rahul. “Jack Ryan '81: The Conservative Idealist”, The Dartmouth Independent (2004-10-01).

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