Politics

Wealthy Wisconsin Business Owner Helps Lawmakers Draft Bill That Would Cut His Own Child Support

| by Will Hagle

Michael Eisenga, a multimillionaire businessman and prominent GOP donor living in Wisconsin, helped draft a bill that lowers child support payments for the wealthy. Eisenga, coincidentally, currently pays a minimum of $15,000 per month in child support for his three children. According to the Wisconsin State-Journal, Eisenga’s income in 2010 was $1.2 million with assets of $30 million. 

The bill Eisenga helped draft is referred to officially as Assembly Bill 540. It was authored by Rep. Joel Kleefisch, and its provisions include prohibiting judges from evaluating a parent’s assets in determining the level of child support, as well as limiting payments for those that earn over $150,000 per year. 

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a series of emails amongst Eisenga, his attorney William A. Smiley and Rep. Kleefisch revealed Eisenga’s heavy involvement with drafting the bill. In addition to the general provisions limiting the child support requirements, one of the emails shows that Eisenga attempted to include language in the bill that would directly lead judges to reconsider his own case. 

Despite Eisenga’s attempts to satisfy his own concerns, the lawmakers ultimately removed the provision that would allow his child support payments to be cut. The lawmakers directly referenced the removal of this provision in an email, claiming it would "potentially open the flood gates because the courts will be required to revise any child support order that was granted before the effective date, since the amount will not have been determined using the new method."

Eisenga’s actions potentially represent the unnecessary influence of money and lobbyists in the political process, although his influence over politics is not completely unfounded. Eisenga was the former mayor of Columbus, Wisconsin. He regularly donates to the Republican Party, including direct donations to the campaign of Rep. Kleefisch.