UPDATE: I’ll blindly and ignorantly believe Mr. Kleefisch is an avid reader of MM; he’s pulling the bill.
Rep. Joe Kleefisch would be wise to aggressively distance himself from Michael Eisenga.
In short: Emails reveal that Mr. Eisenga, who has donated thousands to Republican candidates, and specifically to Scott Walker and Mr. Kleefisch’s wife, played a personal role in shaping proposed legislation that would among other things cap the amount of a parent’s income that could be considered in child support cases. Mr. Eisenga is on the hook for $15,000 a month to his ex-wife for child support, an amount he would like to see reduced.
For a party whose most recent direction centers on keeping the government out of peoples’ lives, Republicans must reject this bill. A man using political connections to give his ex-wife the middle finger after his divorce is slimy — details of their fallout and subsequent legal escapades notwithstanding and irrelevant. That a constituent with deep pockets is influencing legislation is not the greatest abhorrence here; it’s that a Republican is noodling in a private, family matter.
These blanket rules will upset the already imbalanced relationships children of most divorced parents already suffer. Judges would be required to enforce equal time placement, provided a compelling scenario does not exist. Anyone close to the realities of divorce understand these pitfalls; being sent to the home of a workaholic (or alcoholic!) parent may would not be a child’s ideal situation, and serves only the selfish interest of one of the more powerful and egotistical parent. The “compelling scenario” stipulation is bogus, too: The parent with the best resources will win this every time, given the current state of lawyering.
These rules would apply to the messiest of breakups, for the parents using their kids as pawns and bargaining chips as one more F You in an ugly proceeding. In these cases, it’s never about the kids and always about the ex-partner. For that matter, a child support payment doesn’t limit the amount the supporter can spend on his kids. I’ll even give Mr. Eisenga the benefit of the doubt that his kids want for nothing and are well cared-for. These sticky situations have so many variables, and sweeping amendments to law would only enable the worst offenders to get away with as little as possible.
The argument for traditional marriage from the right is always that it’s a stable and fundamental building block for society, and produces the best environment for raising future generations. The stipulations in this law make the supporter irrelevant, just as the Welfare State has. The proposed legislation would permit the deduction of health insurance premiums from support payments and prohibit any future increases under any circumstances. This permits the deadbeat dads of the world even more legal leeway to play an even smaller role in their kids’ lives. Together, the rules create the smallest economic investment required from the supporter.
It would be ludicrous to suggest legislation that, in a traditional nuclear family, each parent is required to spend equal time with their children. The dynamic simply does not match. Some parents are home more than others. Some kids favor one parent over the other. The sheer diversity of family makeups and types make blanket laws like this one ineffective and unrealistic, and only serve to hurt the children involved.
Mr. Kleefisch insists he’s worked on legislation with constituents before, but the optics are ugly, and make for terrible politics, especially in an election year. While Mr. Walker and Mary Burke capture headlines, don’t forget that the governor’s Number Two will also be a main player. He doesn’t need an attack ad that says “Rebecca Kleefisch’s husband wants to take single mothers’ kids away and return them to deadbeat dads who couldn’t give a hoot.” Not just that, but that “Rebecca Kleefisch’s husband hangs out with RICH dudes who don’t want to support their children.”
Given the terribly disjointed and uneven standard by which Republicans are analyzed, scrutinized, and studied today, it should be party policy to desist any and all relations, political, personal, or otherwise, with white men whose net worths exceed half a million dollars. You-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours politics won’t change; in fact, they’re the grease in the whole ugly process.
But it would be wise for Republicans to stop making it so easy.