GAB: Eisenga Contributions to Kleefisch Illegal if Claims of Fraud are True

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Eisenga and Kleefisch

Mike Eisenga, the guy who allegedly tried to cheat his kids out of child support payments by buyinoff the husband of Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, could be in much deeper trouble with the Government Accountability Board for contributions he allegedly made in his wife's name without her knowledge or consent. 

According to campaign finance records kept by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, donations were made by Eisenga's wife, Clare, on four different occasions to Republican candidates-- three to Joel Kleefisch's assembly campaigns and one to Mark Green's gubernatorial campaign.  Each of these contributions came only after Mike Eisenga had already reached his maximum individual contribution limit.   

Michael Collins, the attorney for Mike Eisenga's former wife, Clare Hawthorne, said in an email, that his client, "had no knowledge of the contributions." He added, "it never occurred to her, until I found that contributions had been made in her name,  that Michael would do that or had done that."    Collins also says that Hawthorne is liberal in her political leanings and would have never consented to a contribution being made in her name to Republican candidates.  

In fact, Clare Eisenga wasn't even a U.S. citizen at the time of the contributions.  She had a "green card," so she could legally give to Wisconsin candidates, but Collins says, "she was very young and being from Australia, unsophisticated in how American campaigns are funded."

Richard Bohringer, a campaign auditor for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, said in an email that is in violation Section11.24(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes for a husband or wife to give to political campaign in the name of their spouse, without the consent of the donor spouse.

If the allegations of Eisenga’s wife are true, the culpability of the Kleefisch and Green campaigns are dependent on a few factors.  "If a husband and wife have a joint checking account, and both individuals wish to donate to a candidate, they may do so with a single check-- they must provide the candidate receiving the contribution with the contributor information (name, address, occupation, …) for both individuals," said Bohringer.  "If a candidate receives a contribution from a joint account, with no indication that both individuals are authorizing the donation, the entire contribution should be reported as coming from the individual signing the check (authorizing the donation)."

The individual contribution limits, per cycle, are $10,000 for a Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate and $500 for a state representative.  

In 2006, Mike Eisenga contributed $1,000 on April 26 to Mark Green's gubernatorial campaign.  Two months later, on June 30, 2006, the Green campain reported receiving $10,000 from the Eisinga household. The campaign reported a donation of $9,000 from Mike and $1,000 from Clare.  It is unclear if the donation was made in a single check and, if so, how the campaign determined that it should be allocated as it was.

Also during the 2006 campaign cycle, on September 12, 2005 Mike Eisenga gave the maximum ($500) to Joel Kleefisch, then on October 5, 2006, Kleefish reports a $500 donation from Clare.   

In the the 2008 campaign, the Joel Kleefish campaign reported receiving $1,000 on a single day (July 18, 2007) from the Eisinga household, $500 each from Mike and Clare.

Such cases rarely come to light because a spouse rarely "blows the whistle" on the other for contributions of this nature.  However, in 2011, Wisconsin Southern Railroad owner William Gardner plead guilty to two felony counts that arose after his ex-girlfriend complained to the GAB about Gardner making fraudulent political contributions in her name.