Republicans, Democrats Have Own Questions For Congresswoman
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Romance, politics, financial shenanigans, betrayal, a divorce, a custody battle. This won’t be the scheduled soap opera, however. ``The Young and the Restless″ is being preempted by U.S. Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz.
One month after her husband’s brief disappearance, the first-term Republican is holding a hometown news conference to answer questions about her tangled personal and campaign finances.
``Essentially, what she has said is that she wants to go back and tell the voters of Utah what has happened to her over the past four weeks and why she is in the predicament she is in,″ Waldholtz spokeswoman Ladonna Lee said.
Yet it probably will take more than Monday’s news conference, to be televised live in place of ``Y&R″ and other daytime shows, to explain this puzzle.
``It’s just so broad,″ said Utah GOP executive director Russ Behrmann. ``You’re dealing with personal problems, political problems, marital problems. This is so sophisticated that I don’t see how anyone could have (just) a single question.″
Indeed, the questions include:
_ Where did the $1.8 million in supposedly personal funds that she spent to win the 1994 election over incumbent Democrat Karen Shepherd really come from?
_ Why was husband Joe Waldholtz, as his wife’s unpaid campaign treasurer, given unlimited control of her purse strings and allowed to keep them even when checks were bouncing and creditors clamoring?
_ Why didn’t she confront her husband about financial discrepancies as GOP leaders, including Gov. Mike Leavitt, urged her to more than a year ago?
``The overall riding question is, `What did you know and when did you know it?′ It’s the classic Nixonian question,″ said the congresswoman’s own 1992 campaign manager, Peter Valcarse.
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson, a political scientist at the University of Utah and a Democrat, believes it may be easier for Mrs. Waldholtz to simply resign.
``If she were my daughter, that’s what I’d tell her,″ Wilson said. ``This thing transcends politics; this thing is a personal tragedy.″
Since her husband’s disappearance, Mrs. Waldholtz has filed for divorce and for custody of their 3-month-old daughter.
A pair of recent polls show a majority of her constituents doubt Mrs. Waldholtz is telling the truth and believe she should not seek re-election in 1996. About 40 percent believe she should resign.
Joe Waldholtz is the subject of a federal investigation into an alleged $1.7 million check-kiting scheme involving two of the couple’s personal bank accounts.
Her attorneys also claim he may have embezzled thousands of dollars from the congresswoman’s campaigns.
Democrats and Republicans agree that she must fully document her account.
Perhaps the most pressing question is the source of the $1.8 million in personal funds the congresswoman spent in 1994, much of it in a late-campaign media and direct-mail blitz.
Recent news accounts suggest the money may have come from her father, who prosecutors have said gave the couple $4 million in the belief he would be repaid by Joe Waldholtz with money due from a family trust fund that apparently does not exist.
Federal election law restricts single-donor contributions to $1,000 per candidate per election. A candidate and spouse also are prohibited from spending more than half their combined assets on a race, which means Mrs. Waldholtz may not have had enough money to legally contribute $1.8 million.
Federal Election Commission spokesman Ian Stirton would neither confirm nor deny that the commission is investigating.
There were definite changes when Joe Waldholtz came on the scene between the 1992 campaign in which Mrs. Waldholtz lost and her winning 1994 campaign, former staffers said.
``I remember when she lost she was just devastated about the debt she had,″ said Chuck Warren, a volunteer in her 1992 campaign. ``She was just white as a ghost and teary-eyed.″
After the couple married the following year, members of the congresswoman’s staff believed the campaign’s financial problems were solved.
``I think she thought she married a rich man and that there was no limit to it,″ Warren said. ``I think Joe was very methodical and very shrewd. He had her so flustered that I don’t think he really ever allowed her to focus on one thing.... The Enid Greene I know was a very honest, very frugal person and somehow that changed.″