People running for federal office in the US can now use campaign funds to pay for childcare while they’re on the campaign trail, following a unanimous ruling by the US Federal Election Commission on Nov. 1.
The commission addressed the issue after a request earlier this year from Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is running for US Congress in New York. Grechen Shirley has been using campaign money to pay a babysitter $22 per hour to care for her two small children during the campaign; she had said that she would reimburse her campaign if the commission denied the request.
Candidates can’t use campaign funds for personal expenses they would have incurred whether they sought office or not, like groceries or a mortgage. The ruling doesn’t mean that all federal candidates now get free childcare during campaign season, but that any additional childcare expenses needed to run for office can be covered with campaign money.
Plenty of candidates with young children have run for office in the past. They’ve just usually had either a personal fortune large enough to pay for domestic assistance or a spouse who handled responsibilities at home while the candidate pursued his (or far less often, her) political ambitions.
The FEC ruling makes it easier for people to enter politics without access to those things. It also acknowledges that it’s not fair to simply assume a candidate can or will abandon their family during their campaign, or that their partner will pick up all the slack. It is surely only a coincidence that this has been acknowledged now that more women are running for office, and more political spouses are men.