Joe Walsh ran as an outsider against five candidates to win February's Republican primary in Illinois' 8th Congressional district.
"I'm a bit of a rogue. I'm a bit of a loose cannon," Walsh said during a sit-down interview with Fox Chicago.
But he's not a political rookie by a long shot. In 1998, he made a run for the Illinois House as the Republican nominee of what was then the 58th District. Additionally, in 1996, he represented the GOP as its nominee in the 9th District against the late-Rep. Sidney Yates, one of Congress’ longest serving members.
Given Walsh’s experience with political campaigns, you might think he should know what paperwork he's legally obligated to file as a candidate, but a FOX Chicago News investigation discovered Walsh failed to file his personal financial disclosure form as required by federal election law.
FOX Chicago News sent a producer to Capitol Hill to check the computer database that keeps track of the personal financial disclosure records of Congressional candidates and sitting members. We noticed all of Walsh's opponents had filed this paperwork, but his was conspicuously absent, as we showed him during our interview.
"I'm not doubting the accuracy of that," Walsh said after looking at a picture of the Congressional database which showed the candidates who had filed this form, and the fact that Walsh's paperwork was missing. When asked if he was trying to hide something, Walsh said, "Oh God no. Oh God no. Not at all."
Chicago election-law attorney Burt Odelson, one of the nation's premier experts in helping political candidates get their paperwork in order, says it's a serious violation that Walsh failed to file this form.
"It's the document that creates a transparency as to the Congressman or the nominee's holdings to let the public know who he is, what he has, and do you want to vote for him, if he's voting on things in Congress that he has a conflict with," Odelson said. "It's a big deal. And the reason we know it's a big deal is because of the penalties in the Congressional Act that says if you don't do this, the Attorney General can bring suit against you, that you can get up to $50,000 in civil fines."
When politicians declare their candidacy, they automatically get a personal financial disclosure form in the mail. Under federal election law, candidates are told they must file the form no later than 30 days before an election.
Questions about Walsh's finances have recently dogged his campaign. After the primary, news surfaced that Walsh lost his Evanston condominium to foreclosure last June, because he owed more than $300,000 on the property. Walsh says he's a venture capitalist who averaged $40,000 in income the last two years but then fell on tough financial times. However, he still managed to scrape together enough money to rent a $3,300 per month house in upscale Winnetka.
"It was my own mistake. This whole foreclosure thing. I could hit myself. I should have talked about it in the primary. I wasn't hiding it, because it was a public record," said Walsh.
And now the public record shows Walsh loaned his campaign $28,500 just a half year after the foreclosure of his condo. Walsh listed the loan on his latest campaign finance disclosure form, filed with the Federal Election Commission. Walsh characterized it as a "terribly risky" loan.
"That's literally every cent we had, combined with a little extra I brought in that month to try and win the primary," he said. "Some people might say that's reckless, but so what?"
Walsh says it was too late to save his condo when he loaned the money to his campaign. But is it too late to save his own political skin?
Joe Folisi is on the Executive Committee of Schaumburg Township Republicans. Mark Cramer is one of the group's precinct captains. In the primary, that organization supported two candidates, but not Walsh. In light of the revelations in this story, both men have called on Walsh to get out of the race.
"It's a serious thing to have someone who's won his party's nomination to ask him to step down, is a big deal. It's serious business. And we take it seriously," said Cramer.
"This goes to the integrity and honesty of the candidate," said Folisi. "I mean you have certain requirements and rules you have to follow and if you can't follow those rules, then, I think you need to give serious consideration to somebody else taking the reigns who will follow the rules.
Both men say their decision to step forward is not a case of sour grapes, that instead they view this as a chance to put up a stronger Republican against three-term incumbent Rep. Melissa Bean.
"I want to put our best candidates forward. And I feel badly (Walsh) didn't come forward before the primary with some of these issues, so that the public would have had an opportunity to make a decision," said Folisi.
Walsh says he's not going anywhere.
"I won a six person primary by 10 percentage points. We're running a great general election. Not only am I not going to step down, I'm going to win this race," Walsh said.
The Walsh campaign insists support has never been stronger, and argues that's why they're facing this new criticism.
"You have a small group of people with ulterior motives spreading misinformation and attempting to enlist whoever will listen to help them blow marginal issues totally out of proportion," said Walsh Communications Director Whitney Schlosser.
Schlosser tells FOX Chicago the campaign plans to file Walsh's personal financial disclosure by the end of the week, along with the required $200 late fee.
She says the mistake was due to careless oversight and was not intentional. She placed some blame on the shoulders of former Walsh campaign manager Keith Liscio.
Reached by phone, Liscio denied it was ever his job to oversee this form.
"It was, unequivocally, never part of my job. It was the responsibility of the Campaign Treasurer, who is Joe Walsh's wife," Liscio said.