A controversial bill that would significantly cut child support payments for high-income parents in Wisconsin was partially written by a wealthy businessman who would benefit greatly from the proposal.
Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) admitted Friday that multimillionaire Michael Eisenga and his attorney helped write the bill that would force the court to reopen his divorce settlement, reported the Wisconsin State Journal.
The lawmaker insisted the bill was not retroactive and so would not affect Eisenga, a contributor to Kleefisch’s campaigns.
However, the bill would cap income subject to child-support at $150,000, and judges would be required to reduce existing child-support payment orders if they are 10 percent or move above that limit.
Court documents show Eisenga, a real estate developer and former mayor of Columbus, Wisconsin, was ordered to pay at least $15,000 a month for his three children based on his 2010 income of $1.2 million and $30 million in assets, the newspaper reported.
Eisenga has unsuccessfully tried several times to reduce his child-support payments, with his most recent appeal rejected Oct. 3 by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
Kleefisch introduced the legislation Dec. 6.
According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign database, Eisenga and his former wife have given nearly $42,000 to Republican candidates since 2005.
Eisenga donated the maximum amount permitted by law to Kleefisch six times, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, for a total of $3,500, and donated $7,500 to the lawmaker’s wife, Rebecca Kleefisch, who is lieutenant governor, and $15,000 to Gov. Scott Walker.
Bill drafting records show Eisenga and his attorney, William Smiley, made suggestions throughout the process that would help the owner of American Lending Solutions cut his financial obligations to his children.
Emails between the businessman, his attorney and the lawmaker and his staff show Eisenga wanted specific language inserted into the bill that would help his case.
The correspondence even shows that Kleefisch’s aides discussed amongst themselves ways to word the law so Eisenga’s concerns would be addressed without opening all child-support orders in the state.
A Legislative Reference Bureau staffer who helped write the bill told Kleefisch’s staff that it’s difficult to draft legislation that applies so specifically to one case.
“It’s hard to fashion a general principle that will apply to only one situation,” said bureau staffer Pam Kahler in a Sept. 19 email.
Eisenga did not respond to the paper’s requests for comment, and Smiley declined comment.
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