A bill clearly inspired by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh's child support issues would forbid people owing more than $10,000 in back child support from running for office in Illinois.
House Bill 3932, filed Tuesday by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, would require statements of candidacy to include a statement that the person running for office is not delinquent by $10,000 or more.
Walsh, a tea party Republican freshman representing the 8th Congressional District, is facing allegations in court by his ex-wife that he owes her more than $100,000 in back child support. Walsh has not been found delinquent or in contempt of court in the ongoing dispute.
While Franks said Walsh, R-McHenry, was his inspiration for the bill, he wants to make sure that people holding office are taking care of their family responsibilities.
"I think it's important for people to take care of their families first, and preclude people from public office if they fail to take care of their primary obligations," Franks said. "Nothing is more important than taking care of your family."
Walsh spokesman Justin Roth said Tuesday that he did not see the need to bring Franks' bill to Walsh's attention "as it is a state issue."
The bill, if passed, will not sideline Walsh's 2012 re-election campaign for his relocated 8th District – the filing period for Illinois congressional candidates starts Friday. A panel of federal judges pushed the filing period back as they reviewed, and last week rejected, a Republican lawsuit challenging the post-census redrawing of district boundaries by Springfield Democrats.
Walsh's ex-wife, Laura, filed a lawsuit in December 2010, a month after he won the 8th District by 290 votes, alleging that he owes her $117,437 in back child support for their three children. The Chicago Sun-Times reported the story last July, as Walsh was making a name for himself on cable news outlets blasting the Obama administration for fiscal irresponsibility.
The lawsuit alleges that Walsh, who has been obligated to pay $2,135.75 a month since November 2005, has not paid anything between March 2008 and December 2010. Laura Walsh alleges that during that time, he took trips to Mexico and Italy and lent his campaign $35,000.
Child support payments resumed after his January swearing-in and are deducted from his congressional salary, according to Laura Walsh's attorney.
Walsh in an October filing accused his ex-wife and her counsel of "knowingly submitting false information" to the court in "an attempt to tarnish the congressman's reputation." The filing alleges that both parties agreed in March 2008 that neither would have to pay the other child support.
Walsh announced Dec. 8 that he would run again for the 8th District, which the new map moves from northeastern McHenry County to more Democratic-friendly areas of Cook, DuPage and Kane counties. His earlier decision to run in the 14th, which will include almost all of McHenry County under the new map, would have forced a primary race against fellow Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren.
Franks downplayed suggestions that the bill is politically motivated, noting that it will not prevent Walsh from running if it becomes law. Walsh, if he wins the March 20 primary, would face off against the winner of the Democratic primary, either Tammy Duckworth or Raja Krishnamoorthi.
"If I wanted to get political, I would have filed it six months ago," Franks said. "This will not preclude Joe Walsh from getting on the ballot."
What it means
House Bill 3932, filed Tuesday by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, would prevent anyone who owes more than $10,000 in back child support from filing to run for office in Illinois. It also would ban such people from being appointed to a government board, authority, commission or task force if they also are found in contempt of court for failing to pay.
You can see a copy of the bill at shawurl.com/57x.