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Ear to the Ground

Don’t Want to Pay Child Support? Get a GOP Rep. to Change the Law After a Hefty Donation

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Posted on Jan 14, 2014
shahbasharat (CC BY 2.0)

Wisconsin’s state constitution.

Millionaire Michael Eisenga decided he was tired of giving his ex-wife and three kids $216,000 a year in child support but, unsurprisingly, the judicial system did not sympathize with his plight. So what was a poor rich Republican to do? Have a GOP puppet change the law apparently.

Wisconsin state Rep. Joel Kleefisch and his wife, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, received at least $10,000 in donations from Eisenga, a small price to pay for the business owner whose assets are valued at $30 million. After that, Rep. Kleefisch drafted a bill that proposed a cap on child support payments, which are currently income based. According to Mother Jones:

A set of documents unearthed Saturday by the Wisconsin State Journal shows Eisenga and his lawyer, William Smiley, supplying detailed instructions to Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch on how to word legislation capping child support payments from the wealthy. Kleefisch began work on the legislation last fall, weeks after an appeals court rejected Eisenga’s attempts to lower his child support payments.

For example, in a September 13 letter, a drafting lawyer with Wisconsin’s legislative services bureau complained to a Kleefisch aide, “It’s hard to fashion a general principle that will apply to only one situation.”

...Current law instructs judges to calculate child support as a percentage of income, with no cap and the option to include assets. Under Kleefisch’s bill, which making its way through the Wisconsin statehouse, payments would top out at $150,000 annually, and judges would be prohibited from taking assets into account when determining child support. The bill also includes language that would allow Eisenga to restart court proceedings over his child support payments, as it requires courts to slash such payments if they are 10 percent higher than they would be under the new cap…

The drafting documents, available on the Wisconsin legislature’s website, leave little not doubt that the bill was written to Eisenga’s specifications. According to the documents, on September 5, Eisenga’s lawyer briefed him on changes he was suggesting to a draft of Kleefisch’s bill. “We focused only on the portion that would require the court to modify your child support order based solely on the passage of the bill,” Smiley wrote. Eisenga then forwarded that letter to Kleefisch and one of his aides, saying, “Please have the drafter make these SPECIFIC changes to the bill.” The next day, Kleefisch’s aide forwarded the letter to the legislative lawyer drafting the bill.

A hearing for the bill is scheduled Wednesday before the Assembly Family Law Committee.

Rep. Kleefisch holds that he writes laws with the help of “many, many constituents” and their donations do not “make a difference.” However, methinks something’s rotten in the state of Wisconsin when a stingy millionaire can seem to circumvent his children’s legal rights by throwing some money at politicians.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

 

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