Rauner left US for the holidays, but staff won't say where

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner left the country for the holidays, but his staff won't say where he went or even why they don't want to disclose his whereabouts.

The wealthy businessman-turned-governor left the U.S. last weekend for a two-week vacation with family, spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said Wednesday. She said he is paying for the trip himself and plans to return to Illinois on Jan. 3, but she declined to comment further.

Rauner's staff has made clear they don't believe his schedule is public information, despite pre-election pledges of transparency. Since he became governor in January, his office has released only limited information about his public appearances, typically hours before they begin - a policy that has prompted a legal fight.

Not sharing information about his travel outside the country is just the latest example of Rauner's secrecy.

David Melton, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, called it "a little odd" for a chief executive who's away for an extended period.

"I don't think he's reconciled himself to the fact he's a public figure at this point, with all the downsides that may come with that," Melton said.

There may be valid reasons for not releasing information, whether it's security concerns or family members' privacy, Melton said.

It's also possible Rauner and his staff are concerned about the optics of the governor - who owns multiple homes, though all are in the U.S. - vacationing in a foreign country when Illinois is in the midst of a budget crisis that has hit the state's poorest residents particularly hard.

Lawmakers in Illinois and elsewhere have a mixed track record of making their travels public.

Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn took several trips to Germany to visit troops at a medical center around Christmas - well-publicized visits that he paid for with private funds. But earlier this month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ripped into a Politico reporter during a public question-and-answer session for revealing the mayor and his family planned to travel to Cuba over the holiday break, saying his family's trips are private.

Associated Press reporters in several states - including Iowa, New Mexico, Washington and Texas - said their governor's offices typically announce out-of-state or overseas travel, though some do so only if the trips are taxpayer-funded.

Even then, some governors have kept a lid on their travels - and made news nonetheless.

In January, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's office said he was taking an economic development trip overseas, but wouldn't say to which country because they were worried it could hurt his business recruiting efforts. That sparked several stories speculating on Deal's "mysterious" adventures, including a Washington Post blog item titled "The governor of Georgia is missing."

When Lincoln Chafee was governor of Rhode Island, he took a two-day trip on a nuclear submarine off the coast of New England - a jaunt that was only disclosed days after the fact, when Chafee mentioned it to a radio reporter.

When news outlets including the AP have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for Rauner's schedule his office takes several weeks to release them, and then redacts much of the information so it's impossible to see where he's been or with whom he has been meeting.

In September the Illinois Times, a Springfield-based newspaper, sued the governor in Sangamon County court. The lawsuit came after Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said Rauner must turn over his appointment calendar as requested by the newspaper.


Associated Press reporters Kathleen Foody in Atlanta and Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island contributed.

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