Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, a rising star in the Tea Party movement best known for his blistering criticisms of President Barack Obama "spending like a drunken sailor," is now being peppered with questions about his own financial responsibility after reports surfaced that he's being sued for more than $100,000 in unpaid child support.
Experts say whatever political star power the 49-year-old Republican previously emanated has been dimmed, if not extinguished, because for at least the immediate future it will be impossible for him to talk about anything other than his personal problems.
“Whenever he wants to go out and talk about the debt limit, they are going to want to talk about whether (he) is a deadbeat dad,” said Kent Redfield, a professor emeritus of politics at the University of Illinois-Springfield. “His individual problems become the story and he never gets to another issue.”
The news was first reported in the July 28 edition of The Chicago Sun-Times.
Walsh characterized the story about his ex-wife's effort seeking $117,437 in back child support and interest in the suit as a “hit piece.”
He suggested it was no accident that the paper would run the story about a marriage that ended eight years ago and a court case filed nearly eight months ago just as lawmakers are in the middle of contentious debate over the debt ceiling.
“I am the tip of the spear in this current debate, and I will be attacked,” he wrote in a statement issued on the morning of July 28.
Walsh, whose campaign was marked by allegations of financial mismanagement, said he thought he and his ex-wife were coming to an agreement on the money owed, according to a February court filing. And in the statement, he said he has been "trying to resolve this issue since January in a court of law.”
Walsh's attorney, R. Steven Polachek, denied that the congressman owed $117,437 in back child support and interest and said the amount was much less.
“I dispute that he owes the child support that she's claiming or anywhere near that amount,” Polachek told the paper. “Joe Walsh hasn't been a big-time wage-earner politician until recently—he’s had no more problems with child support than any other average guy.”