Wisconsin Lawmaker Writes Bill to Cut Donor's Child Support

Monday, 13 Jan 2014 07:31 PM

By Cynthia Fagen

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A wealthy Wisconsin businessman who was unable to get a judge to reduce his child support payments was involved in drafting a law by a Republican state lawmaker that would possibly reduce his monthly outlay, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday.

Michael Eisenga, a deep-pocketed donor to Republican coffers, and his attorney William Smiley sent instructions in emails, notes, and letters to state Republican Rep. Joel Kleefisch's staff, drafting a bill that would cap the amount of yearly child support at $150,000 a year, the Journal Sentinel reported.

The bill, which has been submitted but has not become law, also includes wording that would allow the multimillionaire president of American Lending Solutions, a repossession management company, to reopen his court case.

"This stinks," said Michael Collins, an attorney for Eisenga's wife, Clare Hawthorne. "It's buying justice -- if you call it justice."

Eisenga is listed as donating $3,500 to Kleefisch and $7,500 to the lawmaker's wife, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

The state legislator denied the bill was crafted for Eisenga, but he acknowledged Eisenga's input. He told the Wisconsin State Journal, "I do a gamut of legislation with the help and assistance of many, many constituents, and whether they gave a contribution or not has not made a difference," Kleefisch said.

In a Sept. 5 letter to Eisenga, Smiley outlined changes he had suggested to Kleefisch's staff.

"We focused only on the portion that would require the court to modify your child support order based solely in the passage of the bill," Smiley wrote.

Kleefisch introduced the bill in December, two months after a state appellate court panel rejected Eisenga's most recent attempt to lower the $18,000 in monthly payments to his ex-wife for their three boys.

The figure was based on Eisenga's $1.2 million annual income in 2010 and his $30 million in assets.

Under current law, a judge determines the amount of child support based on a percentage of annual income and, in some cases, assets.

"Clearly, this is a bill based on a single individual," said Richard Podell, representing Eisenga's ex-wife. "Rep. Kleefisch is trying to do a favor for someone who has maxed out with his donations [to Kleefisch] over the last eight years."

Eisenga could not be reached for comment. Smiley declined to comment.

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