Defeat Anti-Father Billboard Contest

Sep. 29, 2004–Oct. 13, 2004


Domino's withdrew its sponsorship and Cox, facing widespread media coverage of our campaign and criticism of his contest, wisely decided to cancel his Paykids Billboard Campaign.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced his Paykids Billboard Campaign—a contest wherein children would draw designs critical of noncustodial fathers who have allegedly not paid child support. Cox’s contest would encourage custodial mothers to get their kids to draw pictures blaming and badmouthing fathers—their own fathers in many cases—for allegedly not paying support. The billboards would then be used to shame the fathers.

Working with activist Richard Farr, the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, and others, thousands of our supporters wrote and called Cox’s office and also Domino’s Pizza, which helped sponsor the campaign.

Why This Campaign

From Glenn's 10/3/04 Radio Call to Action:

We’ve talked before on this show about the anti-father campaign going on in Michigan over the past year. Attorney General Mike Cox is politically savvy and he’s found a good way to ride into a higher office—beat up on so-called deadbeat dads. Cox has had billboards boasting of jail time for fathers struggling with child support obligations all over Michigan and the legislature has upped the penalties for non-payment of support. Yet at the same time a recent Michigan Family Independence Agency study admits that "87 percent of all child support arrearages are owed by those earning less than $10,000 a year." Yup, we gotta crack down on those high living deadbeat dads! Make that guy earning minimum wage sell his Porsche and his Beemer! He’s gonna have to get rid of his hot tub and his private jet!

You can see this by taking a look at the "Most wanted" lists for child support evasion put out by the states and posted on the internet. You rarely see anyone with a profession or an education—most of the guys are day laborers, roofers, painters, maintenance men who owe fantastic sums of money that unless they’re going to medical school they could never hope to pay off. Michigan’s most wanted list is the same—it doesn’t list a single father who has a profession or an education. The richest guy on the list is a carpenter.

What’s going on in Michigan is the same thing that research shows is happening all over the US—most employed fathers who can see their kids pay their child support. Most "deadbeats" don’t pay because they don’t have the money to pay. Yes, there are exceptions, and Mike Cox seems to be doing well at getting former professional athletes to pay their back child support, but most men who don’t pay don’t have the money to pay. Were they irresponsible to have kids they couldn’t financially support? Absolutely—just as the children’s mothers were. A poor mother gets welfare and Section 8 and government help. A low-income father gets jail.

Cox recently released a statement bragging that he has collected $6.7 million in child support but if you look closely at his statement, you’ll see that there’s no time frame listed, and there’s no indication that all of these men were men who weren’t paying. Often when DAs and government officials boast about how much they’ve collected, they include guys who already were paying! Also, you often hear DAs say "well, the father says he doesn’t have any money but when we threw him in jail he sure came up with $2,500 in a hurry!" But that wasn’t his $2,500, it was his parents, or his brother’ or his sisters’ or his friends’ who came up with money so he wouldn’t go to jail.

Anyway, now Cox has sunk down to a new low. He has just announced the 2004 Paykids Billboard Campaign. Here are the details:

What: The 2004 Mike Cox Paykids Contest

Who is eligible? The contest is open to Michigan children, 17 and under.

When: Entries will be accepted from September 23 through November 24.

Details: To enter, contestants must send: their design, their name and age, their parent’s name, mailing address and phone number. Entries must be original submissions produced by the child him/herself. The Attorney General encourages parent involvement in discussing the issue and assisting in crafting the message and visual representation but the production of the image must be from the child alone. Entries must be electronic or hand-crafted visual representations that clearly convey the message of encouraging the payment of child support.

Prizes: Domino’s Pizza gift will be mailed back to the first 250 entries at the addresses they provide. First place will have their billboard reproduced in Metro Detroit beginning in January 2005 on a major freeway.

Do you see the problem here? Cox is sponsoring a contest to get mothers to get their kids to draw pictures blaming and badmouthing fathers—their own fathers probably—for allegedly not paying support! Mom tells kid how bad dad is, kid makes drawing showing how angry he is at his dad, whether it’s actually true that he’s a deadbeat or not. In family court that’s called parental alienation—when one parent, usually mom, denigrates the other parent in front of the children, or tries to turn the children against the father. It happens all the time—that’s one of the lovely things about being a noncustodial father—you get to pay money to your ex-wife so she can limit your time with your children and turn them against you. Many court orders specifically say that parents are not allowed to do this, and here we have the top law enforcement official in the state of Michigan telling custodial mothers to ignore that and instead have their kids design billboards targeting their fathers!

Part of what’s happening is this myth that the courts and DAs go easy on fathers who owe child support. The exact opposite is true—I get letters from men all the time who tell me that they will be, are, or were in jail for nonpayment of a support obligation they couldn’t possibly pay. Sometimes they impute such an income to these men that they owe more than they earn!

Media Coverage

Our successful fight against Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox's father-bashing billboards received widespread media attention, including:

  • Yahoo News
  • Fox News
  • The Detroit Free Press
  • The Detroit News
  • Booth Newspapers
  • Cybercast News Service
  • Ohio News Network
Campaign leaders making media appearances including Glenn Sacks, Richard Farr, and others.

Special Thanks to

  • Richard Farr of
  • The American Coalition for Fathers and Children
  • Dads of Michigan
  • Dan Diebolt of Michigan Dads
  • The Fathers Helping Fathers Network
  • Longtime Michigan shared parenting activist Murray Davis
  • Samantha Anne and MichDads
  • Eric Ross of the ACFC
  • Dan Wilson and Michigan's Parents For Children
  • Numerous other activists and supporters