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Illinois congressman in high-profile child support dispute

A congressman from Illinois has been embroiled in a headline-grabbing child support dispute for the past week or so. Joe Walsh, who represents the state's 8th District, meets the stories with accusations of political backlash. Court documents from December show that Rep. Walsh owed $117,437 in child support payments to his ex-wife. The 8th District includes portions of Lake, McHenry and Cook counties.

What caught our attention in the story was a statement made by Walsh's attorney: "[H]e's had no more problems with child support than any other average guy." So we would like to put politics aside here to look at the actual support issues.

The couple separated in 2002 after 15 years of marriage. They have three children. He and his current wife have five children, according to his campaign biography. Also according to that bio, before his narrow victory in last fall's election, Walsh worked for an investment banking firm.

In court filings, Walsh's ex-wife contends that he made partial child support payments between November of 2005 and March of 2008. That was the last she saw.

Between 2008 and 2010, what she did see were two international trips, a personal loan to his campaign and allegations of campaign fund mismanagement from former staff members.

The loan appears to be most troubling. The aspiring congressman wrote a personal check to his campaign for $35,000 while simultaneously telling his wife he couldn't afford the support payments. Almost half of the loan has been repaid, but she has yet to receive another payment.

The allegations from campaign workers include that Candidate Walsh failed to disclose a home foreclosure and traffic citations to his potential constituency. One worker sued for $20,000 in unpaid wages.

Walsh's attorney doesn't address these last issues, but he does deny that Walsh is in arrears or in arrears as much as his ex-wife claimed in her court filing. Walsh himself objected to the press latching onto stories about a court case filed eight months ago and a marriage that ended eight years ago.

The Walshes were reportedly getting close to a settlement as long ago as February.

When you look at the facts, the case does look like so many child support disputes. The question is, though, why didn't he ask the court to modify the support agreement if he honestly couldn't afford the monthly payments?

In the end, to misquote F. Scott Fitzgerald, politicians really aren't that different from you and me.

Source: Huffington Post, "Joe Walsh sued for more than $100,000 in child support," July 28, 2011

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