The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, an unmarried 58-year-old and Republican candidate for governor, took an unprecedented number of international trips with his 28-year-old assistant, Joshua Lanning. Both men, pictured above in Israel, drew taxpayer-funded salaries during their overseas adventures. Now Rutherford is facing sexual harassment charges from a mystery (and male) staffer.
In late January, Rutherford announced that an unnamed staffer was threatening to go public with claims of sexual harassment. (The treasurer attributed the threat, which was delivered by a lawyer speaking on behalf of the staffer, to a political opponent.) Two days later the Sun-Times reported that the staffer in question was a man and had resigned from Rutherford’s office, citing the “intimidating news conference” at which the treasurer announced his threat to go public.
It’s not clear that Lanning is the same staffer. Neither he nor Rutherford acknowledged our requests for comment. But it’s certainly true, as the Sun-Times reported the same day, that Rutherford had an unusually close relationship with Lanning, taking the young staffer on exotic trips that Rutherford documented on his expansive Facebook page. (In the moment captured above, the pair are “about to take a swim in the Dead Sea.”)
Most of Rutherford’s overseas trips were paid for by third parties. But one of his aides bragged to the Sun-Times that, in order to save on travel expenses on domestic trips to New York and Washington, the treasurer’s officeoften booked Rutherford and Lanning to a single hotel suite. When the men were sleeping in the same room, at least Illinois taxpayers were getting their money’s worth.
To address the obvious question: Rutherford seems comfortable enough with the idea of being gay. While he remains opposed to gay marriage for religious reasons, he was the sole GOP member of the Illinois State Senate to vote in favor of recognizing civil unions in 2010. Nonetheless, Rutherford has repeatedly denied persistent rumors that he is himself gay.
No other staffers accompanied Rutherford on these trips, which totaled 32 days and included jaunts to China and South Korea. (The previous treasurer, who served three terms, told the Sun-Times that she never left the country for official state business.) And while Rutherford has kept mum about any feelings for his underling—good or bad—Lanning has been nothing but positive toward his boss in the past. In 2011, he told an interviewer at his alma mater about his duties in Rutherford’s office:
There are not a lot of people who get to be with the Treasurer or State Senator for his job all day long and I really, really enjoy working with [Rutherford] and being there with him. Of course, there are hard times, there are a lot of hard times, but in the long run when the day is over with and you get home you're like, “Wow, that was cool, that was a good week!” So I really did enjoy being known as Josh the Road Warrior and being able to spend that time with the Treasurer.
“Treasurer Rutherford, I tell you, he is more than just a boss to me,” Lanning added. “He really is a friend.”
[Photo credit: Facebook]