Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea-Party darling who has made a name for himself on the talk show circuit lecturing Democrats to get the nation’s finances in order, has been under fire in recent weeks over charges that he’s a deadbeat dad, owing more than $100,000 in child support.
Last Thursday, Walsh told constituents at a townhall that he plans to “privately and legally” fight his ex-wife’s claims that he owes more than $100,000 in child support, which he called “wildly inaccurate.” A recent Chicago Sun-Times article reported that his ex-wife is suing him for $117,000 in unpaid support.
Yet, even if Walsh owes just $10,000 in unpaid child support, he could face the added headache of House Ethics Committee scrutiny. Walsh, who was elected in 2010 in a narrow victory over former Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL) in the Tea Party-induced wave, does not list any child support debt on his financial disclosure form, as required for any liability worth more than $10,000.
“Rep. Walsh is required both by law and by congressional ethics rules to list debts in excess of $10,000 on his financial disclosure forms, including child support back payments,” said Public Citizen’s Craig Holman.
“Technically, he could be taken to task by the Ethics Committee or even the Justice Department for failure to file proper disclosure forms, but in all likelihood the Ethics Committee and Justice would be satisfied if Walsh were to file amended forms,” Holman explained.
But Walsh is in a bit of a bind. Filing an amended form would require him to admit to owing at least $10,000 in back child support, what would amount to an ugly political liability that could knock him out of his role as one of the top spokesmen for the Tea Party GOP freshmen class.
Some talking heads are already taking action. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell last week said he had banned Walsh from his show until the Republican pays the child support he owes his wife and children. He also played a video of Walsh saying, “I won’t place one more dollar of debt on the backs of my kids” before noting that Walsh allegedly owes those kids $117,347 in child support, the Huffington Post reported.
Walsh’s ex-wife, Laura Walsh, says he failed to provide full child support for roughly five years from 2005 to 2010, from 2008 to 2010, the time of his election, she said he paid no support. After he was elected to Congress, which pays a salary of $174,000 a year, Walsh resumed full payments for their three children.
Laura Walsh’s suit also accuses Walsh and a girlfriend of taking international vacations while Walsh said he was too poor to pay child support.
Laura Walsh filed for divorce in December 2002 after 15 years of marriage. According to her suit, Walsh was $1,000 a month short of his commitment for 28 months during November 2005 to March 2008. Walsh allegedly paid nothing from 2008 until resuming in late 2010. She has asked the court to garnish his wages.
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