Treasurer's tweets show mix of work, politics

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm •  Published: November 1, 2013
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Dan Rutherford's Twitter account chronicles the Illinois treasurer fixing home appliances, jogging on the treadmill and eating his sister's famous goulash.

It also highlights the gubernatorial candidate's regular practice of tacking political events onto official government travel funded by state taxpayers.

Most politicians go to great lengths not to publicize when they switch between government and campaign work — even in Illinois, where experts say ethics laws separating them aren't as specific as the federal government's rules.

Rutherford, however, uniquely broadcasts even the most mundane details of the trips through Twitter, a catch-all for his personal, government and campaign activities.

"Just arriving to the DuPage Township Republicans Sunday Brunch fundraiser where I will be the guest speaker," Rutherford tweeted one Sunday last fall. Hours later, he posted that he was speaking at a Joe Neal for Illinois Senate event and at a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling.

Those fundraisers came during his stay in the Chicago suburbs to promote the I-Cash program, which reconnects Illinois residents with financial property they misplaced. While the costs were hardly exorbitant — he stayed at a Red Roof Inn for $70 a night — the reports that Rutherford filed with the state don't mention the political events but justify the expenses for "performing duties as state treasurer."

Rutherford explains his constant tweeting as an attempt to bolster his human side during the campaign. He also defends his mixing of activities as the byproduct of him working long hours for Illinois.

"I don't apologize for any of the travel I or my staff put in," he told The Associated Press in an interview. "I do personal stuff sometimes during the work day because I'm working 24/7."

The AP found more than 20 such mixed purpose trips by Rutherford over an 18-month period through a review of his social media posts, expense reports and official schedule. Half a dozen were in Chicago, where the treasurer has an office, but the others were in smaller towns across the state tied to the unclaimed property events.

Now one of four Republicans running for governor in 2014, he topped all six state constitutional officers for state-paid trips during that time, according to the state comptroller's travel records. Even Gov. Pat Quinn spent less, as he seldom makes overnight trips when he doesn't stay in the governor's mansion in Springfield or his home in Chicago.

In all, Rutherford spent $8,319 on travel in 2012, according to the comptroller's office. Quinn spent $4,469 and Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon $6,919. In the first six months of 2013, Rutherford spent $4,614 — twice as much as Simon and nearly four times as much as Quinn. Rutherford is unique in that the vast majority of in-state travel expenses were for hotels.

Rutherford, of Chenoa, said his office's I-Cash events are the important "anchor" his political schedule is based around while traveling. He said he doesn't claim per diems, and he regularly turns down a security detail. And he said his campaign committee and other party funds pay for lodging, including when he was Illinois chairman for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign in 2012.