AP review shows that Gov. Quinn often paid own travel expenses

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Hours before he was removed as Illinois governor, a bitter Rod Blagojevich insinuated that his successor, Pat Quinn, was not the straight shooter many believed him to be and had abused the perks of office by frivolously traveling “all over the world” for his job.

In fact, Quinn made overseas business trips – 10 in his six years as lieutenant governor – but he billed the state for just two of those treks.

An Associated Press review of the Democrat’s travel records shows Quinn never accepted the $32 daily meal allowance for traveling state workers and often paid his own lodging, even when on state business.

The records match Quinn’s penny-pinching image, which he highlighted on his first day in office by flashing his Super 8 preferred customer card for reporters. On several state-reimbursed trips, he stayed at cut-rate hotels, including Super 8.

“I try to be thrifty for the public,” Quinn told the AP last month in a telephone interview.

Quinn became governor in January after lawmakers impeached Blagojevich and removed him from office for a variety of alleged misdeeds, including charges that he tried to sell his power to appoint someone to President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.

Flying home on his last day, Blagojevich told The New York Times, “We should have been more selfish, not selfless. … My successor has done a whole bunch as the lieutenant governor, taken all kinds of trips all over the world and trade missions, like he’s got anything to do with anything as lieutenant governor.”

Quinn’s ardent support for military servicemen and women, veterans and their families took him on overseas trips seven times, four of which he paid for himself and one for which the state reimbursed him.

The federal government picked up the cost of a New Year’s 2004 trip to Iraq, and he paid out of pocket for expeditions to South Korea, Poland and Germany to visit troops, pay tribute to Illinois service members killed in action or call on wounded combat veterans.

Through November, records show Quinn had been reimbursed about $17,800 for travel in six years, an average of $250 a month.

Including the federally funded visit to Iraq, four of Quinn’s overseas trips were covered completely or partially by someone other than Illinois taxpayers or himself, such as a July 2008 journey to Israel paid by the Jewish United Fund of Chicago.

“Our state has had a tough economic time,” Quinn said. “Traveling abroad, I think each of these are legitimate public trips, but I just chose not to bill the taxpayers.”

He attended the National Lieutenant Governors Association conference in New Orleans, then flew to Denver to accept an award. He slept in hotels four nights on that trip but sought reimbursement for only two.

The thrifty image is in contrast to Blagojevich, who was criticized for his frequent use of state aircraft, including spending more than $80,000 on private flights between the capital and his Chicago home.