The ex-wife of freshman Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh is suing him for $117,437 in unpaid child support for his three children, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday.
Laura Walsh, who filed for divorce from the congressman in 2002, asked a judge in December to suspend Rep. Walsh’s driver’s license until he paid the amount.
His ex-wife’s efforts to collect child support have dragged on for years. In 2004, Laura Walsh alleged in court documents that despite his inability to pay child support he had taken vacations with a girlfriend to Mexico and Italy.
In 2005 a judge ordered Walsh to pay child support within seven days or have his wages garnished.
According to the Sun-Times, Walsh had his driver’s license suspended twice for failure to appear in court in 2008 — he was busted in 2009 for driving on a suspended license.
The amount that Walsh will pay is currently being negotiated out of court, with each side’s attorneys claiming the other is slow-walking in scheduling a meeting.
“I dispute that he owes the child support that she’s claiming or anywhere near that amount,” Walsh’s lawyer R. Steven Polachek told the Sun-Times.
Polachek said that the congressman has “had no more problems with child support than any other average guy.”
The public airing of the allegations could not come at a more awkward time for Walsh, who has taken a tough line in negotiations over raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
The Sun-Times excerpted a statement Walsh made in a Web video on the national debt, in which he said: “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 currently earns $174,000 as a member of Congress. According to a report issued Wednesday by taxpayer watchdog groups, congressmen actually receive annual compensation of $285,000 when benefits are included. (RELATED: Report: Members of Congress earn 3.4 times the average U.S. salary)
Before entering Congress, Walsh had a spotty employment history. A report released earlier this year by the Center for Responsive Politics indicated that Walsh may be the poorest member of Congress — with an estimated net worth between negative $481,994 and negative $153,001.
His ex-wife complained in court documents that Walsh lent $35,000 to his 2010 congressional campaign while neglecting child support payments.
In a June interview with The Daily Caller, Walsh said that he slept in his congressional office when in D.C. and said of his personal finances: “I ran for Congress two years ago because I just felt like I was losing my country. Was I financially in a position to run? Probably not.” (RELATED: Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh is on a mission to stop the Obama agenda)
In a Thursday press release issued after the Sun-Times article, Walsh said the disclosure’s timing was clearly motivated by the debate over raising the country’s debt limit. “I am the tip of the spear in this current debate, and I will be attacked,” Walsh acknowledged.
“My children are truly the treasure of my life, which is why I’ve been trying to resolve this issue since January in a court of law, rather than drag my children into it,” Walsh said in the release. “That is the appropriate venue and I will not discuss this private family issue in public.”
Walsh implied that not all of the characterizations reported by the Sun-Times are accurate, referring to the article as a “hit piece.”
“These latest attacks against me are false and I will fight them in the appropriate venue,” Walsh said. “And as your Congressman I promise you that I am going to put my head down, get back to work and continue to fight for our freedoms and our children’s future.””