Child Care for Candidates

In a win for politically-minded parents everywhere, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled unanimously Thursday that candidates can use campaign funds for child care.

Liuba Grechen Shirley, a congressional candidate for New York’s 2nd District, petitioned the FEC in April to use part of her campaign funds to pay her babysitter, arguing that child care is just as important to a campaign as a finance director.

Shirley claimed an unprecedented victory when the FEC ruled unanimously in her favor.

Similar requests were granted to male candidates in 1995 and 2008, but never to a female candidate.

“Our babysitter is just as important as my campaign manager or my finance director. She’s just as integral, and she’s paid as staff. I couldn’t run my campaign without her.” – Shirley

Shirley appeared before the FEC with her 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.

The FEC supported her claim that she would not have incurred the $22-an-hour child care expenses had she not been running for office, thereby justifying her argument that the expenses should be covered by campaign funds.

“The Commission concludes that the childcare expenses described in your request, to the extent such expenses are incurred as a direct result of campaign activity, would not exist irrespective of your election campaign, and thus may be permissibly paid with campaign funds,” – FEC draft opinion

While the decision has been hailed as a significant victory for parents, and specifically women, Shirley has faced some opposition in her request.

Her Democratic opponent, DuWayne Gregory, argued that many of Shirley’s potential constituents make far less than she and still find a way to pay for child care:

“We understand. Child care is a very real concern for lots and lots of families. But all those other families find a way to pay for child care and they certainly don’t do it with political donations.” – Gregory

A record number of women are running for political positions in the U.S. this year, and the FEC’s decision will surely encourage and enable more mothers to run for office.

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and two dozen Democratic members of congress wrote letters to the FEC endorsing Shirley’s request, touting the benefits it would provide to parents and women looking to run for office.

Finally – a win for women and families!

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