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Utah’s Political Drama To Upstage Soap Operas Congresswoman To Speak About Future Ex-Husband, Finances

Sun., Dec. 10, 1995

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 Monday 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 the 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, and they’ve been working with the GOP to try to place the blame for her problems squarely on her husband’s shoulders.

On Saturday, the state GOP accused Joe Waldholtz of stealing 14 checks worth $1,465 made out to the party on June 18, 1993, depositing them into his personal account. Months later, he left as acting executive director of the state party to join his future wife’s campaign as treasurer.

“I think personal greed has overtaken public service,” State GOP Chairman Stan Parrish said at a news conference. “This is theft.”

Still, Democrats and Republicans agree that the congresswoman 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.

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