Rep. Kleefisch under fire over proposed child support bill

MADISON (WITI) -- Did a wealthy Republican donor attempt to "buy a bill" in Wisconsin that would help him reduce his child support payments? That's the explosive accusation some Democrats are making.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R - Oconomowoc) is defending Assembly Bill 540 -- a measure which would reduce child support payments for wealthy individuals.

"We believe there should be some child support reform in the state of Wisconsin. We're going to look at that. We're going to continue to look at that," Rep. Kleefisch said.

The bill appears to have been aimed at helping Michael Eisenga -- a multimillionaire businessman and Republican Party donor.

Eisenga was seeking to reduce his child support payments -- currently $15,000 a month total for his three children.

The bill's drafting notes reportedly show Eisenga helped write the legislation and suggested specific changes.

Rep. Kleefish says the bill wasn't written by a campaign donor.

"Legal counsel writes the bills at the behest of the authors. Ever so often, we consult with constituents on writing bills. It's our job. The constituent comes to us with an issue -- they believe, and if we believe it's an area that should be looked at for a law change, then we can write a bill," Rep. Kleefisch said.

Eisenga contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Rep. Kleefisch and his wife, Wisconsin's Lieutenant Governor.

"Michael Eisenga was fairly overzealous in his attempts to affect this bill, and I can tell you there were many times that what he wanted was not in the bill," Rep. Kleefisch said.

"It just smells awful.  It should not be seen as politics as usual. This politics in a very disgusting way, and it's something that is not alright," Rep. Sandy Pasch (D - Shorewood) said.

FOX6's Mike Lowe spoke with Rep. Kleefisch, and asked him this question: "(Eisenga) gave $3,500 to your campaign, $7,500 to your wife's campaign, $15,000 to the Walker campaign -- it looks like he was able to buy influence. At least that's the perception?"

"He's a constituent of mine, a former mayor of Columbus when I met with him. I couldn't tell you one way or another when people come to my office if they've given in the past.  That's their right to give, but I can tell you it certainly doesn't matter in the crafting of legislation," Rep. Kleefisch said.

"When people elect their representatives and their senators, they expect them to serve their 55,000 constituents -- not a wealthy donor who wants a favor done, who sits down in a room and says, 'here do this so I don't have to pay more child support for my kids.'  That is really bad," Rep. Pasch said.

"In this specific case, I wish I had made it more clear to Mr. Eisenga that he did not dictate what was going to be in the final bill -- and I learned a lesson and I'll be more careful of that in the future, there's no question," Rep. Kleefisch said.

Rep. Kleefisch withdrew the bill from the hearing because of the controversy, but he continues to defend it based on its merits, and he says he hopes the bill gets another chance to be heard.