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Can federal election campaign funds be used for childcare?




A customer prepares to sign a credit card slip at a Target store on December 19, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
A customer prepares to sign a credit card slip at a Target store on December 19, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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A candidate running for federal office can use campaign funds to pay for a plane ticket to a rally, to pick up the tab at an official restaurant meeting or pay the salary of a campaign manager – but what about using those funds to pay for a babysitter?

Liuba Grechen Shirley, who’s running for Congress in New York, filed a request with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) last week requesting permission to use campaign funds to pay for caring for her two children while she’s running for office. In an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post, Grechen Shirley argues that parents should be able to use campaign funds for childcare. And since women are more likely to be responsible for childcare, this would pave the road for more female candidates in federal races.

Under current FEC rules, it’s illegal to use campaign funds for personal use. Proper spending needs to pass the “irrespective test,” i.e. would the expense benefit the candidate if they were not running for office? A fancy watch, for example? A $400 haircut? If yes, then that’s not a valid expense.

It’s unclear whether childcare will count as a valid expense. The FEC is due to make it decision within the next two months. Meanwhile, we get a breakdown of current FEC campaign finance rules.

Plus, do you think federal election funds should be used for childcare? Would this make it easier for women to run for office?

Guest:

Bradley Smith, expert in election law and campaign finance; professor of law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio; he served on the Federal Election Commission (2000-2005) and was Chairman of the Commission in 2004