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Profiles in Courage

[ 101 ] January 13, 2014 |

Wisconsin Republican Joel Kleefisch does the bidding of his masters:

A set of documents unearthed Saturday by the Wisconsin State Journal shows [Republican donor Michael 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. […]

The drafting documents, available on the Wisconsin legislature’s website, leave little doubt that the bill was written to Eisenga’s specifications.

This would be Wisconsin, a state that Scott Walker and other Republicans have already turned into an exclusive playground for The People Who Give Them Money. Michael Eisenga is a well-to-do Wisconsin businessman; Michael Eisenga had previously contributed $10,000 to Kleefisch and his wife (Rebecca Kleefisch, the current lieutenant governor); Michael Eisenga got to have his lawyer advise Kleefisch on how precisely to craft a bill that would get Michael Eisenga out of having to pay $216,000 a year in child support.

Rep. Kleefisch, for his part, wants you to know that he is not in fact a two-bit statehouse whore because while the bill was crafted according to Eisenga’s specifications, Eisenga wanted the bill to be retroactive to his own case, and Kleefisch bravely declined—except Kleefisch appears to be lying about that part, given that the bill indeed “requires” judges to lower current payments that would be above the newly set cap. It seems that the good man does not know what is in his own bill; he probably should have read it.


Comments (101)

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  1. MAJeff says:

    Ah, the party of “personal responsibility.”

  2. Gwen says:

    His wife Rebecca is the lieutenant governor, lol. And she’s gotten like twice as many contributions from Eisenga as Joel.

  3. Davis X. Machina says:

    Constituent service often requires servicing your constituents.

    • GoDeep says:

      I like the Anthony Kennedy quote from Citizens United they stuck in over at DailyKos:

      The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.

      I doubt the stuff they’re smoking in Colorado rivals Kennedy’s Kush.

  4. Nobdy says:

    Do liberals like you not believe in customer service? When one buys a service, be it from a barber or a butler or a state legislator, one expects them to have pride in their work and do their very best to provide quality customer service to their client.

    I swear, you liberals just do not understand good, clean, capitalism!

  5. Another Holocene Human says:

    Put GOPers in power, get corruption. Stupid corruption. The Southie Dem machine was corrupt as fuck but employed more subterfuge. (Plus, they wouldn’t have gotten away with as much as they did if educated, middle class white people of the non “ethnic” variety hadn’t silently gone alone with it.)

    In my county we have a dumb GOP county commish who texts during public meetings and who thought it was a great idea to shred up the county zoning/approvals process because one abutter had a sad.

    • Another Holocene Human says:

      Needless to say, we’re talking about Michelle Bachmann/Gohmert! levels of derp. Pretty sure we’re also talking about Yoho voters. If you haven’t heard of Derp Yoho and you’re a Washington junkie, you will.

      • KatWillow says:

        Since the Wisconsin media is owned by the same folk who got Kleefisch elected, the Wisconsin voters probably won’t hear/read the story. Or maybe they really don’t mind having their state run by the Kochs&Co.

        • dn says:

          I was actually pleasantly surprised to see this come out in the State Journal, a declining paper which has long been notoriously addicted to Broderist faux-centrism (they endorsed Walker in 2010, claiming that he would be a responsible moderate, and then refused to make an endorsement during the recall election).

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      The Southie Dem machine was corrupt as fuck but employed more subterfuge

      Naming everyone ‘McDonough’ was a stroke of genius — herd immunity via camouflage.

  6. John Protevi says:

    Quoth Molly Ivins:

    As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can’t drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against ’em anyway, you don’t belong in office.

  7. GoDeep says:

    This is from the original article:

    According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eisenga’s current child support payments for the three children he has with his ex-wife are set at $216,000 a year. (Per the couple’s prenuptial agreement, the divorce settlement left his $30 million in assets untouched.)

    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.

    $70K per kid now vs $50K per kid under this bill. Its hard to characterize $50K as skimping on the child support.

    • brewmn says:

      Nice to see someone stand up for the filthy rich guy buying legislation and legislators.

      Sadly, you’re doing it for free.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        What a surprise that he’d defend the plutocrats.

        • GoDeep says:

          If you’d read my above 2 posts you’d recognize I was doing no such thing. The rank bribery here is deplorable.

          Aside from that I don’t think its accurate to suggest that these kids are missing meals. The law might be in need of some tweaking. There are entire families in this country who live on $50K a year. I think 1 kid should be able to get by fine on $50K. Me & my 4 sibling got by on less. And if I recall the posts abt your childhood correctly, Erik, your family did as well.

          • brewmn says:

            Aside from that I don’t think its accurate to suggest that these kids are missing meals.

            Show a single comment here that suggests anything of the kind. Or better yet, just shut up.

            • GoDeep says:

              Since you & Erik attacked me for suggesting that $50K per kid was plenty for child support, I took your ‘critique’ to mean that you thought the guy was some Deadbeat Dad. I’m glad you don’t think that. I guess your attack was b/cs…I had the temerity to suggest that *maybe* the law is worth re-visiting.

              • Aimai says:

                The children have rights to their father’s income and assets that are completely independent of their mother’s marital relationship with the father. If the children’s mother had died and they were living with the father they would be entitled to live at his level, socially and economically, and could sue him for support if he tried to abandon them or force them to live elsewhere on some other equivalent.

                That the amounts seem large to you is completely irrelevant.

                • DrDick says:


                • GoDeep says:

                  The children have rights to their father’s income and assets that are completely independent of their mother’s marital relationship with the father.

                  You may well be right in a moral sense, Aimai. Its certainly a legitimate point. I don’t *think* its true in a legal sense, tho. I also look askance at the entitlement & privilege that $70K in ‘income’ breeds in a kid.

                  My friends tend to throw $$$ at their kids…I don’t have kids but I’ve joked with them that when my kid turns 16 I’ll buy them the safest, most reliable car money can buy–and then I’ll get a hammer & dent it up really good so that they know what its like to drive a hoopty. Whether or not the law is good as is is for me an open question; you raise good points. But I also think there’s real value in the kids being raised in a upper middle class lifestyle as opposed to a 1% lifestyle. To be precise in the case of WI we’re talking abt a 4% lifestyle vs a 2% lifestyle.

              • brewmn says:

                The point of all the criticism of this story was based on the fact that a rich guy could buy legislation that directly benefits him at the expense of his own children.

                You are the only commenter here or at Daily Kos that jumped in to say Eisenga may have had a valid complaint about the law. A reasonable person could easily conclude that you are more concerned about the “injustice” being visited upon Eisenga than the “rank bribery” you claim you deplore – especially since you chose to deplore the amount of the child support payments before you deplored the rank bribery.

                • (Shakezula) says:

                  I’m not even sure what valid complaint he had. Eisenga was free to petition the court for a reduction in payment, although I’m not sure I’d recommend doing so now.

              • EH says:

                But then maybe not worth revisiting, right? After all, that $20K/kid probably isn’t killing the dad.

          • (Shakezula) says:

            Fortunately for countless kids “Why in my day we made do with less,” isn’t the way CS payments are calculated.

            One of the things that child support payments do is minimize the impact of the divorce on the kiddies.

            So if Junior was taking music lessons and had a pony and an allowance of $25 while mommy and daddy were married, child support payments will help spare him the additional trauma of having to sell Trigger and go without music lessons. Could the kid survive without those things? Sure. Should he have to just because his parents have split?

          • yak says:

            Actually, the bills caps the income on which child support may be granted at 150k — the support would be much less

      • somethingblue says:

        Sadly, you’re doing it for free.

        Are we sure about that?

    • Malaclypse says:

      Its hard to characterize $50K as skimping on the child support.

      And yet a judge, with access to income, and asset lists, and the law, did exactly that. Go figure.

    • Nobdy says:

      Whether or not the change in law is appropriate or justified is not the issue here. The issue is that it was purchased for cold hard cash. If this law were offered without the obvious quid pro quo issue it probably wouldn’t be worthy of singling out. Republicans promote worse laws every day.

    • carolannie1949 says:

      That you would defend a guy who wants to cut back on supporting the fruit of his loins, children he supposedly loves/d makes my bones shiver. What man wants to give his kids less? A man’s man! A manly man, who kicks children and women to the curb using his superior strength to show them who’s boss!


      • N__B says:

        A manly man, who kicks children and women to the curb using his superior strength

        Fixed to be more to the point with these people.

      • GoDeep says:

        I’m not defending the guy. I don’t know him to defend him. I’d already registered my disappointment at the bribery. Sounds like he’s prolly a SOB. And I imagine his kids will hold him accountable for that fact, if not now then later. My point is simply that the law *prolly* shouldn’t force him to pay $70K per kid.

        • James Gary says:

          Your moral outrage is duly noted.

        • Aimai says:

          Its a percentage. Why shouldn’t it force him to pay a percentage of his income to his own children? He voluntarily chose to have them. IF he doesn’t want to share his income and assets with his children he can give it all away and live simply, without anything himself. I can assure you that if his wife were widowed, had all those assets, she would be required to support the children in the manner to which they had become accustomed and not treat the children of her first marriage as second class citizens.

          • Nobdy says:

            Can you assure him of that? Because it’s not what I remember from my family law course. Is that the law in Wisconsin? In many states courts are loathe to interfere in the raising of children and as long as you meet certain standards you are free to lavish money on some and be relatively stingy with others.

            • GoDeep says:

              Yeah, parents treat some kids one way & other kids another. My father’s first wife lost custody of the kids (that was a difficult feat in the early ’60s). When my oldest brother turned 13 she tried to woo him to stay with her by buying him a car. She didn’t buy any of my other siblings a car. She also promised him that if he stayed with her he wouldn’t have a curfew. The pitch worked. Unfortunately I’ve heard multiple versions of this same story from others.

              • James Gary says:

                I really hope you had a few drinks before posting your 8:27 comment, because its complete irrelevance to the topic at hand would make it fairly embarrassing if written by a sober adult.

              • Malaclypse says:

                We can’t bust heads like we used to. But we have our ways. One trick is to tell stories that don’t go anywhere. Like the time I caught the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for m’shoe. So I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt. Which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. Gimme five bees for a quarter, you’d say. Now where was I… oh yeah. The important thing was that I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the style at the time. You couldn’t get white onions, because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones…

          • Malaclypse says:

            Its a percentage.

            Not only that, but this is almost certainly a low percentage of his income. I routinely get garnishment orders for people making 10 bucks an hour that require me to send 65% of their pay (the statutory max) to the state for child support.

      • maybe says:

        Anyone trying to get out of child support is likely a scumbag. Doubly so for those who are loaded. That being said,
        there are a fair number of men and women (myself included occasionally) who probably should be giving their kids less in terms of material things and more in terms of time and attention.

    • somethingblue says:

      That’s deep, man.

    • (Shakezula) says:

      Its hard to characterize $50K as skimping on the child support.

      This might be a valid point if “skimping” entered into the calculation of CS payments are calculated.

      However the calculation is based on both parents’ incomes. Either parent is free to request an adjustment in payment.

    • djw says:

      Its hard to characterize $50K as skimping on the child support.

      No, it isn’t. See Shakezula’s and Aimai’s comments above. If you want to argue that the purpose of child support should be no more than keeping children out of poverty, you are free to do so, but that is not the way child support laws have been written, and would be a very big change to the current regime. One welcomed by “men’s rights” cranks, no doubt, but also one that abandons the goal of minimizing the impact of divorce on children.

      • KatWillow says:

        Its hard to characterize $50K as skimping on the child support.

        Actually it IS if the father has $30 million in assets, and lord-knows-how-much income. He’s obviously a horrible cheapskate. Poor kids.

      • GoDeep says:

        OK, the $210K the kids now get places them in WI’s Top 2%. The $150K proposed would place them in the Top 4%. These kids ain’t gonna be in poverty by a long stretch.

        But I get what you’re saying. Aimai & Shakezula make good points above. Its just not a slam dunk case to me. The father may be a SOB b/cs he’s so stingy, but is it the business of the law to prevent assholes? I don’t know in this instance.

  8. N__B says:

    The best part is the fact that this bill was introduced into the WI lege more or less simultaneously with the bill to eliminate seven-days-per-week work. I love the way people keep saying that the second bill would allow people to work “seven days in a row.” Actually, it would allow people to work 365 days in a row.

    The juxtaposition of these two bills makes the lege priorities pretty clear.

    • Johnnie says:

      About Grothman’s bill.

      As it stands, enforcement of the 24 hour rest period is minimal at best, I work for the agency that enforces that law and without any complaints of a violation there is no way for any enforcement proceedings to take place. I know for a fact, in my prior life as a barista, that I have worked nine or ten days in a row without any knowledge that it was a violation of state labor law.

      Getting beyond whether or not employees are aware of the law (the potential silver lining to this crap is that, if the bill fails or is vetoed many more employees will be aware of the law as it is currently written), they also have to be willing to risk retaliation for filing any sort of complaint. The process for pursuing a separate retaliation complaint is also beset by red tape and evidentiary rules that favor the employer, so even if you’re willing to make a go of it, there are still pretty good odds you get fired, use a lot of time attempting to enforce anti-retaliation measures, and end up with nothing to show for it.

      • N__B says:

        Fair enough. But removal of the law would, it seems to me, encourage asshole bosses to further abuse workers.

      • DrS says:

        I know for a fact, in my prior life as a barista, that I have worked nine or ten days in a row without any knowledge that it was a violation of state labor law.

        From what I read about the law, working 9 or 10 days in a row was already just fine. The law stipulated that you had to have a day off each calendar week, not each 7 days.

        For instance, if you had yesterday, 1/12/14, off, you could work every day through next Friday, 1/24/14 as long as you got 1/25 off

        • Ah, the service industry 10- or 12-day work week, with the judicious sending home of folks early, regardless of business, to keep OT costs down. An old favorite.

        • Johnnie says:

          You’re right, I work in the other bureau over here so beyond telling folks that they have to be paid for all hours worked (it’s crazy how often folks don’t know that one) I tend to not deal with labor standards issues. Regardless, the whole thing is predicated on people actually reporting violations. This makes sense from a logistical standpoint, but requires a workers be far more aware of their rights than they often are.

        • KatWillow says:

          In some places its measured by the daily hours worked. If you “only” work six hours a day, 8 days a week, you’re still Part Time. Many decades ago, in the 70s, my boss at Winchell’s Donuts had me doing that.

    • Hayden Arse says:

      Growing up in Madison, my mother would always advocate to take away a pro-rata share of the legislators’ salaries for every time they met as a guard against allowing idiots to enact legislation. Sadly, it is clear that they will be far better compensated by passing idiotic legislation for their wealthy donors.

  9. Manju says:

    how to word legislation capping child support payments from the wealthy.

    This wording is sooooo unfair. The $150,000 cap would apply to poor people too.

  10. (Shakezula) says:

    Former U.S. Rep. and long term deadbeat Joe Walsh is probably kicking himself right now. “I should have just drafted legislation that excluded me from child support payments!”

  11. herr doktor bimler says:

    It seems that the good man does not know what is in his own bill; he probably should have read it.


  12. Greg says:

    This bill would be crappy enough without knowing anything about the motivation for it. Just knowing that a legislator was trying to craft a law so narrowly that it only affected one particular consituent is terrible whether that constituent was a donor or not.

    • Lee Rudolph says:

      It was my impression that that sort of thing (maybe only for corporate people, not meat people) was run of the mill in Congress. Has my failing memory been taken captive by my free-range cynicism?

      • Greg says:

        It’s not unusual for corporations, but most corporations have a larger impact on more people. This bill was expressly written to apply to just one person and his family.

  13. Greg says:

    BTW, the kids are also enrolled in Medicaid.

    • Shakezula says:

      To make it clearer – Cheapskate Dad was required to provide health insurance for his kids, so he enrolled them in BadgerCare.

      I find his lack of faith in the free market disturbing.

      And the punchline:

      While Eisenga’s children are enrolled in the department of health’s BadgerCare program, he has an adversarial relationship with another state department. The department of revenue lists Eisenga on its web site of Wisconsin’s worst tax delinquencies. Revenue officials have filed a court tax warrant against Eisenga, listing unpaid sales taxes, interest and penalties at over $224,000.

      Better get someone to build an app pass a law for that.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Keep in mind that sales taxes are a trustee tax – you have collected the money on behalf of the state. The only thing you need to do is not actively steal the money that you collected.

      • brewmn says:

        Come on now. He already pays a lotin sales taxes. It’s not like the state’s gonna go broke if he pays a little bit less.

      • NonyNony says:

        I’m highly amused by the Children & Families researcher sticking the shiv in and turning it:

        Peacock said a parent of Eisenga’s economic situation would receive no state subsidy toward a child’s health insurance premium in BadgerCare. But Peacock told 27 News a child’s mere participation in BadgerCare would result in a cost-break in comparison to individual health insurance plans in the private market.

        “The state uses its leverage and purchasing power to negotiate a rate with managed care plans.”

        BadgerCare is administered by the state department of health.

        Here’s a millionaire who apparently thinks socialism is awesome as long as he’s the one receiving the benefit.

  14. e.a.f. says:

    You really have to wonder about men who want to impoverish their children. Nice bunch.

    In alabama, they just get the judge to do the dirty work. Some time ago it was reported, that the guy who owns Orkin and is worth about $750M paid so little child support his wife and children were on food stamps.

    In Canada child support is set by federal legislation. It is based on the parents’ incomes. there is a nice formula. No deviation. If they don’t pay and the family has to access social programs, the feds turn it into a debt, as in monies owing to the crown.

    Given all children live in the same country, U.S.A., and failure of parents to support their children, may result in the unnecessary use of federal social programs, it might be in the children’s best interest to have it simply federally mandated. end of problem. Of course some states might object that the federal government has intruded onto state’s rights, but what about children’s rights.

    • The Patriarchy says:

      what about children’s rights.

      Children have no rights. Children are their parents’fathers’nearest surviving male relative’s chattel.

    • Linnaeus says:

      Of course some states might object that the federal government has intruded onto state’s rights, but what about children’s rights.

      Stop that commie talk right now.

    • NonyNony says:

      You really have to wonder about men who want to impoverish their children. Nice bunch.

      IME men like this are angry at their ex-wives and want to punish them. They decide that the easiest (or, depending on the ex-wife, sometimes ONLY) way to do this is to make her children suffer. Since every single guy like this that I’ve known has been a huge selfish asshole, they think of the kids as property. If she has custody, then they’re “her” kids and there’s no reason they should do anything to make “her” life easier.

      Awful human beings, every one of them. The kind of guys you only need to work with for a few hours before you realize that there’s a really good reason that their ex-wife left them…

  15. sue says:

    And the bill has now been withdrawn, though I’m sure it’ll come up again. Yesterday several other Republican legislators jumped in to express their support, and didn’t come across well:

    “Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, a bill co-sponsor, said what caught his attention in recent news reports was not Eisenga’s political contributions or involvement in drafting the bill, but the amount of money he was ordered to pay to support his children.

    “‘To me it exposes a situation where child support is being used in a way that was never intended to be used,’ Kestell said. ‘Had I known about this court case, without having any relationship with the people involved, I’d be interested in doing legislation to correct it.’

    “[State Rep. Tom] Larson said the public isn’t served by a system that allows children to receive such a large sum in support payments.

    “‘There’s some value in having some hardship with life,’ Larson said. ‘Even if I were a rich person, I probably would struggle a little bit to make sure my kids earned what they get. What’s the purpose of this money going to child support if it’s only going to create a child with maybe less values.'”

    Interestingly enough, that last quote has now been scrubbed from the page at the link, though if you go into the comments, you can see people discussing it. Funny how kids and poor people are expected to experience hardship, but raising taxes on the rich is just so unfair.

    Also, apparently one or more of the kids has special needs, and one reason the support was set so high was for the particular private school they were going to (I don’t know the nature of these needs; usually kids with special needs fare better in public school, but maybe this family wants to hire their own aides).

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