While a group made plans for a protest today at Rep. Joe Walsh's suburban office, state Republican officials say they're still behind the McHenry tea partyer who's come under fire this week after allegations he owed $117,437 in child support.
"We've just adopted Joe's statement," Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady said about the party's response to news that the 8th District congressman is being sued by his ex-wife for child support payments.
That statement, which Walsh released Thursday, said he had "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.
"My children are truly the treasure of my life," Walsh continued, and he said he has "been trying to resolve this issue since January in a court of law, rather than drag my children into it. That is the appropriate venue and I will not discuss this private family issue in public."
His ex-wife, Laura Walsh, filed the claim against him in December, saying he owed the money to her and their three children, now ages 23, 20 and 16. Laura Walsh, according to court documents, has been trying to collect child support since December 2002, when she filed for divorce.
She contends that Walsh loaned his own campaign $35,000 and took international vacations but said he couldn't afford child support payments because he was between jobs or out of work.
Walsh's spokesman Justin Roth said the congressman's Washington office was receiving about 15 phone calls an hour Friday on the child-support issue, with some backing Walsh and others critical.
"A majority of calls are on the debt ceiling," he said. "The people of Illinois are more focused on their future and their pocketbooks than this baseless allegation."
This is not the first time that Walsh has faced scrutiny for his personal finances. Last fall, he came under fire for a foreclosure on his Evanston condominium as well as state and federal tax liens.
As Walsh has declined to comment further on the child-support claims, protests and petition drives have been building steam.
Round Lake resident Jeanne Marie Dauray said she suggested the idea to Catholics United on Facebook, and the group quickly put her in charge of a 10 a.m. protest today at Walsh's Fox Lake offices to speak out on the allegations Walsh failed to pay child support.
Dauray said she grew up in a similar situation after her parents divorced.
"Both my parents were college educated, and when it came time for me and my sisters to go to school, those opportunities were not there," she said.
Not paying child support, she said, "speaks to the integrity of someone."
Walsh in recent weeks has become perhaps the most visible example of resistance of tea party members to compromising with Democrats, releasing a recent video calling Obama a liar in predicting a government default and tussling with MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews in an 11-minute clip that has gone viral.
While Brady said the party supported Walsh on the child-support issue, he criticized Walsh's shots at the president.
"It's not productive for us as a party calling our commander-in-chief a liar. That's my critique. There are plenty of things we can criticize the president on," he said
The state GOP has, however, promoted Walsh's statements in a recent fundraising email blast.
Dauray, who lives in the 8th District, attended one of Walsh's "Cup of Joe" sessions to talk about the debt ceiling. She brought her 18-month-old son, Patrick, with her to last Saturday's event and said Walsh approached her, asking about the baby.
"He told me he had a Patrick, too, and said, 'The reason we have all these things in Washington is we don't want to create a burden on my Patrick or your Patrick,'" Dauray said.
Dauray said she keeps replaying that exchange over in her mind.
"Now, all I keep thinking about is 'really?'"