Hardliners in debt talks have debt problems of their own
Utah Sen. Mike Lee
July 28th, 2011
08:29 PM ET
11 years ago

Hardliners in debt talks have debt problems of their own

Washington (CNN) – They’re hard-charging, compromise-damning members of Congress, and they’ve changed the debate in Washington over the size and spending of the government.

In recent days, Republican hard-liners in the debt ceiling talks have been vociferous in their rhetoric.

At a tea party rally, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said his faction needs to push forward a balanced budget amendment and other measures “… in order to save our country from a Congress that for decades has been burying our children and our grandchildren, both born and unborn, under a mountain of debt.”

But according to recently released disclosure forms, Lee and others in his caucus have some significant personal debt of their own.

The documents — annual personal financial disclosure forms that were released in June — show that Lee had amassed at least $15,000 in credit card debt and had a $50,000 line of credit at a Utah bank as of late last year.

He’s not alone. Republican Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas had at least $15,000 of debt accumulated on an American Express card, according to the forms. Griffin, who won his seat with tea party support, has recently said Washington has “a spending addiction.”

Rep. Kevin Yoder, a freshman Republican from Kansas, said in a recent press release, “Washington needs to cut up the credit cards.” But Yoder’s own form shows he amassed at least $15,000 in what’s called a “revolving charge account” with Citigroup.

The forms are not exact. They do not reveal exact amounts of assets or liabilities. They only list ranges; for example, the form for Griffin shows his credit card debt to be between $15,000 and $50,000.

The disclosures, added to the recent language these congressmen have been using to stoke the debate in Washington, have drawn criticism from at least one watchdog group.

Ryan Alexander, president of the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense, says, “It raises that question: How are you managing your personal debt? You're telling us how to manage our debt as a country, you're making ultimatums, and we don't know what you're doing with your personal debt. And they're holding credit card debt. Not every American does that. That's a choice that you made, to put that kind of debt on your own personal finances.”

CNN contacted the offices of Griffin and Yoder for comment. They didn’t respond. An aide to Lee said the senator could not do an interview with CNN, but the aide did push back hard on the criticism.

“Senator Lee's personal finances are in order. Like many Americans who are not independently wealthy, Senator Lee is managing his debt responsibly,” said spokesman Brian Phillips.

Separately, Phillips told CNN he thought the criticism of Lee was “crackpot.” He said given that the senator is managing his debt responsibly and there is no evidence of financial impropriety, who are the critics to question his role in the budget debate.

Then there’s the case of freshman Rep. Joe Walsh, Republican from Illinois. Walsh is another tea party favorite who has pushed for a tougher line with Democrats in negotiations.

This week Walsh told CNN, “Thank God congressmen like me were here. Imagine - step back and imagine - if Republicans hadn’t taken over Congress, this city would have raised the debt limit who knows how much.”

But Walsh’s ex-wife Laura Walsh says he needs to pay up on a big debt: $117,437 in child support. That figure is part of a lawsuit against Walsh she filed.

CNN could not reach Walsh’s attorney, R. Steven Polachek, for comment. But Polachek told the Chicago Sun-Times the claim of a $117,437 debt is “unfounded”: “I dispute that he owes the child support that she’s claiming or anywhere near that amount.”

Contacted by CNN, Walsh issued a statement saying in part: “It is not lost on me that a court case filed almost 8 months ago regarding a marriage that ended more than 8 years ago would be brought up today … I’ve always given everything I have to meet my financial obligations to my children and I will fight until my last breath against anyone who says otherwise … These latest attacks against me are false and I will fight them in the appropriate venue.”

The attorney for Laura Walsh told CNN that Walsh has not paid any child support since 2008.

In an interview with CNN, Walsh admitted that he had struggled financially and had lost a home. “Look, I’m the most openly vetted candidate in the world. I have had financial troubles and I have talked about them throughout the campaign,” he said, “This is where the real America is.”

Filed under: Congress • Debt • Deficit • Tea Party movement
soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Alex in Wisconsin

    Come on America, are we really surprised? A group of self righteous people banding together to tell America how to live while they can't even set a good example, that has been the M.O. for every Tea Partier from Sarah Palin to Granny Tea Hat. The Tea Party was neever about fiscal responsibility, they were about opposing Barack Obama. Personally, I firmly believe that if these exact same policies came from President McCain or President Palin or even President Clinton, there would be no significant Tea Party movement today.

    July 29, 2011 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  2. ss26mar

    a democrat oriented hit piece on republicans - totally unbiased of course

    July 29, 2011 05:09 am at 5:09 am |
  3. Don

    Enough already... Get off your damn high-horses and do the job we pay you for...

    It is sad as all hell in this day and age that we have politicians, "supposedly" well educated and again "supposedly" good at what they do, who can't sit in a room together and balance a damn budget...

    All of you keep spouting polls stating this poll says the American people are blaming this group and that poll says the American people are blaming that group... Well, I'll tell you what... here is a clue for all of you, the American people are blaming all of you!!!! Get rid of your "ELITIST" attitudes and put the blame squarely where it belongs, on every single one of you there in Washington!!! It was never the American people in general who put us where we are at financially, it was politicians with their own agendas and their own greed who put us here!!!! It is you, the politicians, who have come up with all these programs, enacted them and then funded them... It is you, the politicians, who think you know what is best for our country... Well I'll tell you what, you guys have done a piss pour job!!! Quit pointing fingers and quit trying to sway the public this way or that...

    So listen up... We don't want a resolution you think should be spread over the next 10 years, we THE PEOPLE want it fixed now... Work on fixing the deficit and truly getting the US on a balanced budget... And work on getting the economy stimulated now not later... Get off your collective asses and do something!!!! Who cares if you think it will sink you politically, it's about us the American people not you!!! Put your noses to the books and start cutting... It's diet time across the boards!!!!!

    July 29, 2011 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  4. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    This can be done very easily. Stop this agenda...compromise with the side of the American people. I am sure that a fair deal with taxes and cuts would make the other 80 percent happy and you would look like heroes. Right now I am getting pretty angry and for me....that takes quite a bit.

    July 29, 2011 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  5. PJ

    Pay your child support Walsh before trying to manage the country's debt!!! No excuse for that. The children should come first even if you have to moonlight. Don't be a dead beat dad.

    July 29, 2011 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  6. TheZogNJ

    Who is John Galt?

    July 29, 2011 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  7. rdarkchild

    Ladies and Gentleman meet the heroes of the TEA PARTY!
    When you get in the boat with nuts!
    Don’t be surprised when they row you over the waterfall.

    July 29, 2011 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  8. Name Rose Marie Junge

    We thought,assumed,Hopes,and maybe believed that
    people who aspire to be representatives of the people would be honorable and responsible people. For that we scrutinize them before the elections, they
    have to tell us about their finances and beliefs. How
    is it, that these people make it through this process
    undiscovered? Now, if there is sexual misbehavour, that in most cases only affects a small group of people

    July 29, 2011 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  9. Sagebrush Shorty

    Shoot the messenger

    July 29, 2011 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  10. Leonard Clark

    Not sure that anyone should be surprised by this. The unfortunate thing is that these "tea party" activists are no better than religious extremists wanting to force there viewpoint on the American electorate. You get what you vote for. This degt issue was on the mend right after Clinton left office. Bush, the business owner and so called "decider" ruined the economy in less than 8 years. He handed Obama a mess that now requires a significant tax increase at all tax levels and significant reduction in expenditures to include descretionary and defense. Increase in the tax for Medicare and eliimination of "for profit medicine" is needed. Elimination of all tax loopholds is an absolute necessity. Ideolgy is a great thing if you live in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan.. The United States is a country built on core beliefs and ultimately the able to adjust and change in adapting environments. Unfortunately when you voted you got a bunch of people who have no sense of Country... Just a desire to enforce their ideology on the rest of the counrty. Congrats!! We will survive but at what cost?

    July 29, 2011 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  11. Ron

    LOL. Walsh needs to pay up immediately or go to jail like every other deadbeat dad!! We know where he hides out. Why isn't he in handcuffs right this instant??

    As for the others, keep your eyes on their credit cards. If we default, their interest rates had better go up just like everyone else's! If not, they need to go to jail for receiving special treatment for big banks!! LOL. Republican Leadership: "Do as I say, not as I do."

    July 29, 2011 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  12. AEK

    Do as I say, not as I do? Always seemed a little hypocritical to me, but seems to fit the Republican Party now days perfectly.

    July 29, 2011 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  13. sue

    If this man does owe child support whether it be $117,000 or $17,000 it is unexceptable....he's no better than the rest no matter what his excuses are.....he's a dead beat dad.....just like he is performing in the House now..... a Dead Beat Tea Party backed Republican.....if he can't and won't support his kids what makes you think he will support the people of this country and do what is best.......

    July 29, 2011 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  14. Anthony

    I don't know what else to say. These Republicans believe in forcing people to abide by their rules, but their rules don't apply to themselves.

    July 29, 2011 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  15. KatR

    It seems to be ok for TP members of Congress to sign pledges of marital fidelity but not appropriate for our free press to question how they can be so adamant about the complex job of govt finances when they cannot handle their personal finances w/o borrowing money. In essence, they are denying the federal govt the ability to borrow money while at the same time they borrow money in their personal lives.

    July 29, 2011 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  16. franny

    If Joe Walsh is not paying his child support? What kind of character in any man does that show? What an apparent louse!

    July 29, 2011 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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