- Associated Press - Monday, February 3, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - State Treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford spent 32 days traveling overseas in an official capacity during 2011 and 2012 - more than any of his predecessors in nearly a quarter century.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1imZ8hp) that Rutherford’s travels included a 15-day trip to China, nine days in Israel and an eight-day trip to Korea. Details of the trips were disclosed through an open records request filed by the newspaper.

Rutherford is vying for the GOP nomination for governor against state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and businessman Bruce Rauner.

He is the first state treasurer in at least 24 years to accept third-party funded travel overseas as part of his job, a practice he defended as appropriate.

“It’s been done for educational purposes, when he went as a guest to Israel, Korea and to China,” said spokeswoman Mary Frances Bragiel. “No taxpayer dollars have ever been used.”

Rutherford received his taxpayer-funded state salary during the trips. He said he was in “constant contact” with his office while he was traveling and that when he took some personal time for sight-seeing - including scuba diving in the Red Sea during his trip to Israel; he paid for those expenses himself.

He noted state lawmakers also were on the trip to China.