Last night the Chicago Sun-Times broke the story that Tea Party freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), who has spent months lecturing President Obama and Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes $117,437 in child support to his ex-wife and three children. Laura Walsh has asked a judge to suspend his driver’s license until he pays his child support. Despite loaning his own campaign $35,000 — and paying himself back at least $14,200 for the loans — Walsh claims he failed to make the payments because he “had no money.”
The tax-bashing congressman campaigned on a pledge to reject the Washington “status quo” and has bragged about his own frugality, claiming he even sleeps in his congressional office to save money. Walsh, who’s been described as “the biggest media hound in the freshman class,” has been a prominent voice in the debt ceiling showdown in recent weeks, making television appearances almost every day to denounce President Obama’s “reckless spending,” which he says has “bankrupted this country.”
“I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” Walsh says in one video. But today, when confronted in a CNN interview about his failure to support his own children, Walsh not only refused to acknowledge his hypocrisy but insisted that being a deadbeat dad meant he understood the plight of average Americans:
I know that story just broke, and it’s interesting that it just broke right now as I’m out there trying my best to fight this President and fight the Democrats and solve this debt crisis. But look, I’m the most openly vetted candidate in the world. I have had financial troubles and I talked about them throughout the campaign. This is where real America is.
This is not the first time Walsh has faced scrutiny for the disconnect between his rhetoric and the way he conducts his personal life. In 2009, Walsh lost a condo to foreclosure because he owed more than $300,000 on the property. In April 2010, an investigation revealed that Walsh failed to file his personal financial disclosure form as required by federal election law. When questions about his personal finances dogged his congressional campaign, Walsh once again claimed he wasn’t a rich man, despite managing to pay $3,300 per month for a house in upscale Winnetka.
Walsh also rejected the congressional health insurance plan for his family on principle, much to the chagrin of his current wife, Helene, who had a preexisting condition and needed surgery while the couple was uninsured. (Walsh’s Wikipedia page excludes his first marriage.) But Walsh apparently thinks he can have it both ways — claiming his own indebtedness and failure to care for his family’s needs allows him to understand average Americans, while railing against Washington for irresponsibly racking up deficits. As he put it in a recent interview, “Thank God congressmen like me are here!”