FEC Rules Candidates Can Use Campaign Cash for Child Care

Rep. Terri Sewell, who led push in Congress, says decision breaks down barriers for women and working parents

The Fderal Election Commission ruled Thursday that child care expenses incurred because of the demands of running for office could be paid out of campaign funds. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Federal Election Commission ruled Thursday that a candidate can use campaign funds to pay for child care.

The FEC ruled in favor of Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is running in New York’s 2nd District and requested an advisory opinion last month on her request to use her campaign funds to pay for child care for her young children while she was involved in campaign activities.

Shirley mentioned in her request before she ran that she worked from home and cared for her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.

“The Commission concludes that your authorized campaign committee may use campaign funds to pay for the childcare expenses described in your request because such expenses would not exist irrespective of your candidacy,” the commission wrote in its ruling.

A campaign legal expert said the FEC decision can be applied to any other candidate in a situation similar to Shirley: candidates who would not need child care except for the fact they are running for public office.

“She and her campaign can rely on it, but so can any other candidate whose circumstances are not materially different,” said Brett Kappel, a partner in government affairs policy at Akerman LLP.

The decision came after 24 members of Congress, led by Alabama Democratic Rep. Terri A. Sewellurged the commission to approve Shirley’s request.

“Today’s decision takes a step in the right direction by breaking down barriers to running for office for women and working parents!” Sewell tweeted after the commission announced its decision.

The commission said the expenses could be considered part of “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with duties of the individual as a holder of Federal office.”

Former secretary of State and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton promoted Shirley’s cause.

Clinton’s counsel Marc E. Elias petitioned the commission in support of Shirley’s request.

“Denying Ms. Shirley’s request would undermine the Commission’s previous advisory opinions, discourage young mothers from seeking elective office, and deprive parents of ordinary means of the opportunity to serve,” he wrote.

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Correction 12:50 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misidentified Hillary Clinton’s counsel. He is Marc E. Elias.

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