Trump’s Fed pick promoted marriage. His messy divorce tells a different story.

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April 3, 2019, 11:35 AM GMT / Source: CNBC.com

By Dan Mangan, CNBC

Court records from Stephen Moore’s divorce paint President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Federal Reserve Board as a brazen philanderer who openly talked about his mistress in front of his kids — and then continued shorting his ex-wife on tens of thousands of dollars in alimony and child support even after a judge held him in contempt of court.

“I have two women, and what’s really bad is when they fight over you,” Moore said to the couple’s children in front of his former wife, Allison, “at their son’s graduation ceremony,” court records claim.

Other court records show Moore, who is a distinguished visiting fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, has a $75,000 IRS tax lien against him for unpaid taxes on his 2014 filing. The lien relates to a deduction he took for both alimony and child support to his ex-wife. He has said he is contesting that amount.

Despite that and the revelations from the Moores’ divorce, Trump continues to back Moore’s nomination to the Fed, according to a senior White House official who spoke to CNBC.

“POTUS is completely behind him,” that official said in an email, using the acronym for “president of the United States.”

The conduct by Moore, a conservative economist, as alleged by his former wife stands in sharp contrast to his publicly published positions on marriage.

“What is irrefutable is that marriage with a devoted husband and wife in the home is a far better social program than food stamps, Medicaid, public housing or even all of them combined,” Moore wrote in a 2014 Washington Times article in which he contended the nation’s economic success would depend on a “culture of virtue,” strong families and parents, and a resurgence of the Protestant work ethic. “Name a government program that can take the place of a father.”

But more than three years before that, Moore was not acting like a devoted husband, Allison Moore said in a divorce action filed in August 2010 after two decades of marriage.

And then when the couple split, she claimed, he did not pay her — or their three children — what he had agreed to, she said. It was only after a judge’s contempt order, and a threat in that order to have Moore arrested so he could purge that contempt, that he began paying alimony and child support.

Allison and Stephen Moore on Monday both issued statements using friendly language about each other, with Allison saying they had “reconciled through our divorce.”

A nomination already under fire

Trump on March 22 said he would nominate Moore to the Fed’s board of governors, after he read a Wall Street Journal column Moore had co-authored entitled “The Fed is a Threat to Growth.” The column slammed the hike in interest rates by the central bank in the latter half of 2018, which Moore claimed was preventing the economy from maximizing the growth it should be realizing from Trump’s financial policies.

Moore, who was an adviser to Trump’s 2016 president campaign and co-wrote the 2018 book “Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy,” in December had called for Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to resign after the central bank increased interest rates. Moore’s position on interest rates dovetails with that of Trump’s annoyance with Powell and the Fed.

While Trump has called Moore a “very respected” economist, not everyone in the economics field is nearly so impressed with him. Greg Mankiw, a conservative who headed the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, said in a blog post that Moore lacked the “intellectual gravitas” for the Fed post.

An NPR article about the nomination quoted the University of Michigan’s Justin Wolfers saying of Moore, “more than possibly any other economist in modern America, he has a track record of getting the big issues wrong. … Not just occasionally but time after time.”

After the financial crisis in 2008, Moore had predicted — incorrectly — that low interest rates set by the Fed to encourage a recovery would lead to high inflation. He also assisted with the plan to slash income taxes in Kansas under Gov. Sam Brownback, which resulted in the state’s bond rating being cut and revenue falling hundreds of millions of dollars, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted in May 2017. That was the same year the GOP-controlled state legislature overrode Brownback’s veto and undid his tax cuts.

When Trump formally submits Moore’s nomination to the Senate, the Senate Banking Committee will be responsible for reviewing Moore’s nomination and for forwarding it for a vote to the full Senate.

The majority Republican committee has yet to schedule a hearing for Moore. The spokeswoman for the committee’s majority noted that Moore has yet to be formally nominated. She also noted that committee Chairman Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, “has said it’s ‘a priority to fill every seat on the board’” and that “it will receive prompt attention.”

The spokeswoman had no comment on the details of Moore’s divorce and financial dispute with his ex-wife.

The ranking Democrat on the Banking Committee, Sen. Sherrod Brown ofOhio, said last week when asked about Moore, “I don’t see him as a qualified person to be on the Fed.”

The details surrounding Moore’s divorce, contained in Fairfax County, Virginia, court files, may make his path to confirmation even trickier.

The Guardian newspaper first reported Saturday about details of the Moores’ divorce and the fact that a judge in Fairfax County had held Stephen Moore in contempt of court for failing to pay Allison more than $300,000 in alimony, child support and the balance of their divorce settlement.

Moore was first found in contempt of a court order by a judge in November 2012. In March 2013, a judge issued another order demanding he purge himself of his contempt by paying Allison what he had agreed to under their settlement. Months later, he avoided a court-ordered sale of his house by paying Allison $217,000 toward his arrearage of more than $333,300.

A bitter end, and then a reconciliation

On Monday, The Guardian posted online the case records it used for its original report hours after CNBC broke the news that the file had been sealed to public inspection at Allison’s request.

In December 2009, Allison claimed, Stephen Moore created two accounts on the dating web site Match.com, “the sole purpose of which was to connect romantically with other women.” After meeting and dating “at least one other woman” through those accounts, Stephen Moore, “by his own admission, commenced a romantic adulterous relationship with Sherri Wallmark” by February 2010, court records state.

Moore “was neither discreet nor inconspicuous with his relationship with Ms. Wallmark,” Allison claimed in her divorce action. “In fact, he tastelessly and openly spoke with [Allison] on several occasions about plans and events he was attending with Ms. Wallmark.”

Allison also claimed Stephen left documents around their house related to his relationship with Wallmark, including “bills showing extravagant dinners,” charges for gasoline purchased near Wallmark’s home, and an airline ticket bought by Stephen with Wallmark listed as a passenger. Allison’s complaint said she saw a T-shirt that Stephen had bought for Wallmark with the Nike logo and the words “Doing it.”

Wallmark, in an interview with CNBC, denied knowing Moore “when he was married,” although she did not deny having been in a relationship with him in the past.

“That’s not true,” Wallmark said when told that Allison had accused Stephen Moore of committing adultery with Wallmark. “His ex-wife is literally nuts.”

Allison Moore’s lawyer David Roop declined to comment on Wallmark’s remarks.

She said in court records that she had been “a good and dutiful wife” to Stephen, but that she “has suffered emotional and psychological abuse” from him “throughout their marriage.” Allison Moore said in her filing that in the fall of 2009, she “had no other option but to leave the marital home with” the youngest of their three children, then aged 8, “to protect herself from Defendant” and his influence on their two older kids. Her intent, she said, was to give Stephen “space … to allow him to get help and change his behavior.” At the time, she wrote, she hoped she would be able to reconcile with him.

“Since then, [Stephen] has neither altered his behavior towards [Allison] nor ended his adulterous affair,” the complaint said.

Allison’s complaint called her the “primary caretaker and role model” for their children. Stephen, on the other hand, “has recently acted indifferent towards their children,” and was providing “little or no supervision” to their two older sons, who were living with him in the marital residence, the complaint said.

In a May 2011 filing by Stephen, he wrote that he “admits all the allegations” in Allison’s complaint.

Since the divorce, however, the two have reached an understanding.

“Allison Moore and I were married for 19 years and have three wonderful sons whom we have co-parented,” Stephen Moore said in a statement provided to CNBC. “Our divorce was settled amicably many years ago and we remain on friendly terms to this day. She is a terrific mother and I hold her in the highest regard.”

He added: “Allison, our kids and my current wife would hope that the media would please respect our privacy. I am happy to speak to the media on any matters related to the economy or my views on the Fed.”

Allison Moore, in a statement released by Stephen’s spokeswoman, said: “Steve Moore and I reconciled through our divorce many years ago and we would hope the media would respect our privacy. We remain on cordial terms.”

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