Report: Illinois Gov. Investigated

Tuesday, February 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) — A federal grand jury is investigating gifts that Gov. George Ryan and his wife accepted but did not disclose when Ryan was secretary of state, a newspaper reported.

Anthony De Santis, a land developer and owner of a theater and convention center, has been subpoenaed to testify about $2,500 in personal checks he gave the Ryans, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

Ryan refused to comment on the gifts Tuesday, citing an ongoing investigation. Aides said the checks, deposited in the Ryan family bank account, were personal gifts to Ryan and his wife for Christmas or other occasions.

The money, given in 1997 and 1998, was not reported as a gift on Ryan's state-mandated ethics disclosures, which Ryan spokesman Dennis Culloton called an oversight.

The report came a day after Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, a fellow Republican, urged Ryan not to run for a second term, warning he could drag down the entire GOP ticket in 2002.

``I think he's had a rough four-year term, and I think it would be difficult given all that's gone on with his administration for him to win re-election,'' Fitzgerald said Monday.

No other major Republican leader has so flatly said Ryan should step aside when his current term expires.

The governor on Tuesday played down the importance of Fitzgerald's advice. ``But I've had a lot of people encourage me to run again, and, as I've said, I haven't made my mind up about that and won't for some time to come,'' he said.

Since Ryan was elected in 1998, more than 30 people have been convicted in a federal investigation of bribery in the secretary of state's office, which Ryan ran for eight years.

Ryan's failure to disclose the De Santis payments was discovered recently when attorneys reviewed his finances, and Ryan told aides to amend those statements to list the gifts, Culloton said.

``Nothing was hidden then or now,'' Culloton said.

The checks were in increments of about $500, and free theater tickets also may have been given to the Ryans, Culloton said.

State law requires elected officials to identify anyone who gives a personal gift or speaking fee worth more than $500.

Culloton said Ryan and De Santis are personal friends, and that De Santis does not do business with the state and has no business relationship with Ryan.

De Santis, 87, said he considered the checks political contributions, but didn't care what Ryan did with the money as long as his name was not listed among Ryan's contributors because he works with both Republicans and Democrats.

De Santis appeared in a previous Ryan campaign report as contributing $500 in 1994, and has been listed in federal election reports as contributing about $12,000 to GOP causes.

He would not say if he has appeared before the grand jury, and Culloton would not say whether Ryan has been subpoenaed to testify about the checks.

``As always, the governor is cooperating with the U.S. attorney's office, but refers questions about investigative details to that office,'' Culloton said.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar, declined to comment to The Associated Press and the Tribune.