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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  Overcast
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MADLAND

Madland: When millionaire divorcees write child support bills, Wisconsin needs publicly financed elections

Joel and Rebecca Kleefisch
Joel and Rebecca Kleefisch
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It was recently revealed that Michael Eisenga, a wealthy political donor and divorcee, "helped" Rep. Joel Kleefisch write a bill that reduces the amount of child support that a wealthy political donor and divorcee has to pay. (It goes without saying that Kleefisch is a recurring recipient of Mr. Eisenga's largess.)

As a co-writer of a political cartoon, I quickly knew what the next one was going to be about.

However, when my friend Jon and I sat down to write this cartoon, we struggled to come up with punchlines. Eventually, I just said, "How the hell do we make this any more ludicrous than it already is?"

This bill is the latest in a growing set of Wisconsin laws written by political donors for political donors. A mining company writes a mining bill expressly for the benefit of said mining company. Pressure from the Tavern League keeps the legislature from making the first DUI offense a misdemeanor; even a bill to make the second offense an automatic misdemeanor is stalled in the legislature. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (wife of Joel) holds a closed-door summit to ask big businesses about "how we can love you more." (We did do a cartoon about that one.)

I don't know why people get so worried about ALEC. Here in Wisconsin, we don't need a shadowy front group that allows corporations and the wealthy to write legislation in secret. The Badger state is cutting out that middleman thanks to people like Eisenga.

Redistricting alone won't solve this problem. Even with solid Democratic majorities in 2009-2010, the Tavern League helped put the brakes on raising the beer tax. That's not nearly as greasy as recent life under Republican lawmakers, but still dirty.

But what if campaigns were publicly funded? What if every donation dollar Eisenga gave to Joel Kleefisch or his wife were matched with a dollar given to his opponent from a public fund? Would he still have the ability to do punch-up work at the state Capitol?

Wisconsin was one of the first states to develop public financing for state judicial elections, but that system was chipped away for years and years until it was finally defunded in 2011.

That's right -- 2011 -- just when the current fad of "write a check, write a law" reached a fever pitch.

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