The Federal Election Committee has unanimously ruled that candidates running for federal office are allowed to use campaign funds and donations to pay for child care as long as the cost of the care is “a direct result of campaign activity.” The question was posed due to New York Democratic House candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley using campaign money to pay for a babysitter for her two young children.
Shirley told the press on Thursday that when she started the process of running for office she had to pay a caregiver $22 an hour for roughly 17-hours a week. Candidate Shirley told the FEC that she would need to pay the babysitter to stay with her children for more hours a week as the campaign gets into full swing. The FEC agreed with her assessment of the situation and deemed that if she wasn’t running for office, she wouldn’t need the extra childcare. She had already been using campaign money for child care since March 1st, but no longer has to pay the money back as the FEC has ruled in her favor.
Even though the FEC ruled unanimously, there are still those who don’t think that Shirley should be using campaign funds for childcare. When she had first made the request in April, a spokesperson for her opponent, DuWayne Gregory, argued that it was unfair to let Shirley use the money for childcare given that many of her constituents make far less money and pay for child care without donations. Obviously, this argument was logically suspect (her constituents would presumably pay with donations if they were running).
Still, the likes of Republican Rep. Peter King—who both Shirley and Gregory are running against— and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed support for the ruling. Clinton noted that it would be a huge step forward for women who are considering running for office.
It makes sense that the ruling would happen in the 2018 primary season. A record number of women are running for Senate and gubernatorial seats this year. This year, Sen. Tammy Duckworth became the first woman to give birth while in office. Duckworth also got Congress to allow babies to be present on the floor during a vote.