As ThinkProgress reported in July, Tea Party freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), who relishes lecturing President Obama and Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $117,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children. Despite loaning his own campaign $35,000 — and paying himself back at least $14,200 for the loans — Walsh has claimed he failed to make the payments because he “had no money.”
But yesterday a Chicago judge issued a preliminary ruling against Walsh, ordering him to explain why he is more than $100,000 behind in child support payments. The judge also scolded Walsh for not attending the hearing personally, after his lawyer suggested he deserved special treatment because he is a congressman:
Cook County Circuit Judge Raul Vega also wanted to know why Walsh wasn’t in court Wednesday — the McHenry Republican’s ex-wife, Laura Walsh, was there — and initially said he expected him to show up for the next hearing.
In court, Walsh’s attorney, Janet Boyle, asked Vega “for what purpose” he wanted the congressman in court.
Vega gave her a puzzled look — to which Boyle responded: “Mr. Walsh is a U.S. congressman.”
“Well, he’s no different than anyone else,” the judge replied.
Vega issued a “rule to show cause,” which requires Walsh to explain to the court why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for falling so far behind in child support over the past five years. The ruling means that the burden of proof is now on Walsh to prove he doesn’t owe money.
Laura Walsh has had to go back to court repeatedly since 2002 to get Walsh to honor his court-ordered child-support obligations. At the hearing, she spoke of her difficulties shouldering the financial burden for raising three children without Walsh’s support. “It’s been extremely difficult,” she said. “We get through one day at a time.”
The comments of Walsh’s lawyer are telling: Walsh, who frequently appears on television to upbraid the president for putting too much “debt upon the backs of my kids,” apparently considers himself above the law and too important to show up for child support hearings. Obviously, the court thinks otherwise.