The Michigan Democratic Party has taken a page from Barack Obama’s election playbook in their effort to keep MI01 in the “D” column. Dropping all vestiges of common decency, they are trying to do to Dan Benishek what Barack Obama’s thugs did to Jack Ryan in Chicago.
Just as Obama used Jack Ryan’s custody battles with his former wife Jeri Ryan to sail to his Senate win 2004, the Democratic Party in Michigan is using Dan Benishek’s custody records from more than 20 years ago as a weapon by trying to convince voters that he tried to bilk his kids of child support. Dan Benishek did no such thing. Here’s the ridiculous story that showed up in some rag called the Michigan Messenger:
Court records from Dickinson County show that Republican congressional candidate Dan Benishek underestimated his income by $100,000 during legal arguments over child support with his ex-wife.
Benishek, an Iron River surgeon who is running on a platform of reducing government spending, filed for divorce against his wife of 15 years, Jody Benishek, in 1989. The couple’s three sons were 7, 10 and 12 at the time and the couple agreed that they should live with their mother.
In February 1990, Benishek filed a request for actual physical joint custody of the children, and for a lowering of his $2,550 per month child support payment.
Benishek, who at the time owned four homes and three vehicles and an estimated income of $250,000 per year, claimed that the costs of maintaining his ex-wife and children were unfair. He later dropped the request for lowered child support payments.
In 1995 child support again became an issue for the Benisheks. Jody Benishek — now going by her maiden name, Jody DePuydt — was a registered nurse making $23,000 dollars a year working for the county health dept. and she represented herself in court as she urged a judge to reexamine Benishek’s finances.
She claimed that Benishek set up a company, Wild River Land Management and Marketing Inc., to receive unrecorded and untaxable income. She said that Benishek had transferred assets and income into the company (which employed his new wife) and was deducting his living expenses from the amount of money that would be considered in determining his child support.
Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer is using this story to impugn Benishek’s integrity. According to Interlochen Public Radio, he said, “Hypocrisy is always relevant.” So is knowing what you’re talking about and Brewer clearly doesn’t.
I asked my husband, a family law attorney, to read this article and give me his thoughts about the Democrats’ accusation that Dan Benishek tried to hide income to reduce his child support payments. He scoffed at the idea. Yes, people try to hide income, but the court always finds it because it conducts its own independent investigation. And from what we’re seeing here, there wasn’t any hidden income so much as there was a disagreement between parties as to what income should be included for child support payments. This is typical in divorce and custody cases when one person is self-employed, which Dr. Benishek was.
As anyone who own a business knows, filling out your tax returns is a complicated endeavor. It’s not an exaggeration to say ten different people can fill out the tax returns for the same business and get ten different results. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Benisheks didn’t agree on what Dan’s income was. Disagreements like the Benisheks’ are the norm more than they are the exception, so the court has a process to determine the income that will be used for child support. To do this, Dr. Benishek was required to submit all his tax returns, personal and corporate, to the court. As I mentioned earlier, the court doesn’t take anyone’s word regarding his or her income, so it does its own independent investigation to make sure all income is reported. Dan’s attorney surely would have known this.
Each side made its arguments in front of the judge regarding what should be considered income. Dan and his attorney argued his income was X and provided documentation that supported their view. His wife and her attorney argued that that Dan’s income was Y and provided documentation to support their view. After listening to both sides, the judge made his decision. In this case, the judge ruled in Dan’s ex-wife’s favor, which Dan complied with fully, a point Dr. Benishek made in a statement about this personal attack:
Out of respect for my former wife and our now adult children, I have no plans to discuss the personal details of our separation over 20 years ago. As with any divorce proceeding, there were hearings and there was a judge’s decision on child support that I complied with 100%. I am not a career politician like my opponent, but I guess I’m learning that these personal smears are what pass for a campaign when you’re on the wrong side of the voters’ concerns.
The author of the Michigan Messenger article deliberately mischaracterized Dan as a selfish bastard who manipulated his finances to bilk his kids out of child support, a perverse lie that is now being pushed by a Democratic Party after they bilked the American people out of trillions of dollars for their own pet projects. Dan’s daughter was so outraged by this hit piece and the Democrats’ attempts to use it against her father, she issued this justifiably angry public statement:
“I saw the article that was printed in the Michigan Messenger today and it makes me very angry. The details of a child support dispute between my parents–that took place 20 years ago–are nobody’s business and have nothing to do with my dad’s campaign for Congress. My dad is a great father and has always been 100% supportive of my two brothers and me. My mother was able to work part time and was able to be there for her kids, thanks in part to the $50,000 per year she received in financial support from our dad, as well as additional settlements. In addition, he made certain we had a nice home, and we never felt that we were in need of anything. He also named all of us kids as trustees and beneficiaries of his company, to ensure our security should anything ever happen to him. The fact that my dad’s political opponents are trying to use us to damage the reputation of a very good man is disgusting. Any news outlet that entertains this story is not concerned with the reality of the situation.”
Dan’s ex-wife is equally outraged that the Democrats are trying to use her and her kids as pawns to destroy her ex-husband with whom she has an amicable relationship:
“I am saddened that the nearly twenty year old details of child support issues between myself and my former husband are being used as fodder for tabloid-style politics in this campaign. The published court records reflected a very difficult time for our family. A divorce with young children involved is difficult for everyone. While Dan and I have had our differences, we’ve always agreed to put the children first. And, like the majority of divorced couples, we’ve sometimes disagreed on the best method to do so. At this stage of our lives, we have an amicable relationship that allows us to enjoy our grandson, celebrate our grown children’s achievements and consult over their occasional problems. I judge Dan for who he is now, not for his actions 20 years ago. I would suggest that the media focus on legitimate issues in this campaign. Health care, illegal immigration, economics, the environment and the threat of terrorism may not be as sensational as twenty year old divorce news, but they actually impact the lives and futures of Americans.”
This attempted smear proves that Michigan’s Democrats – like Barack Obama – are so power hungry they don’t have any qualms about using Chicago style thug tactics to personally destroy their opponent to win elections. Because they can’t engage Dr. Benishek on the issues, they dug up records of the most painful time in Dan’s and his family’s life and deliberately twisted the facts to suit their political ends. The Democrats are trying to make Dan Benishek’s divorce appear to be so scandalous that it was something outside of the American mainstream. They seem to have forgotten that millions of Americans over the past 20 years experienced messy and hurtful divorces, too, and I imagine they would be just as furious if someone made their divorce records public in order to sabotage their chances at getting a job.
The lesson we need to learn from this sorry episode doesn’t have anything to do with Dan Benishek at all. It’s that the Democrats use political tactics that are so sleazy and dishonest that we can’t help but come to the conclusion that they will sink to any level that is necessary in order to fulfill their own political needs. Barack Obama proved this during the 2004 Illinois Senate race when his thugs worked with the media to unseal the Ryans’ custody records. Barack Obama proved this again during his presidential campaign when he promised fiscal discipline, tax cuts for the middle class, and a stronger and more unified country, but when he came into office he governed against the will of the American people and rammed through policies that crippled our economy and put the American taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars. Alan Grayson proved this when he slandered his political opponent Daniel Webster in a political ad by editing comments Webster made in such a way that it sounded like Webster was saying the opposite of what he actually said. And now the Michigan Democrats are proving this by twisting Dan Benishek’s divorce and custody records in order to paint a portrait of him that is disconnected from reality.