State Candidates and the Use of Campaign Funds for Childcare Expenses
*Updated as of January 2020. This page will be continually updated as new information is available.
In May 2018, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) ruled that Liuba Grechen Shirley, a congressional candidate from New York, could use campaign funds to cover her campaign-related childcare expenses. The FEC issued a similar ruling in 2019 about congressional candidate MJ Hegar (which builds on the previous ruling although the circumstances were slightly different, thus requiring separate rulings). Relatedly, in March 2019, US Representative Katie Porter introduced the "Help America Run Act" to codify this practice into law for federal candidates. It passed the US House and is currently sitting in committee in the US Senate.
The Shirley ruling by the FEC in 2018 spurred several state-level candidates to seek clarity on the rules regarding campaign funds and childcare expenses in their states. Both legislative and administrative channels have been employed to expand access to the use of campaign funding for relevant childcare expenses.
Most states’ laws are silent on the issue of allowing campaign funds for campaign-related childcare expenses. Of the 17 states which currently allow or have allowed campaign funds for childcare, only six states have enshrined the practice into law. A 2018 Minnesota statute specifically lists campaign-related childcare as an allowable expense for campaign funds. Utah passed a bill in March 2019 allowing campaign funds to be used for campaign-related childcare expenses, followed by Colorado in May 2019, New York in June 2019, New Hampshire in August 2019, and California in October 2019. Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Vermont have bills allowing the practice pending in their legislatures. In Rhode Island, a proposed bill passed in the Senate but not in the House; it is expected to be re-introduced in 2020. At the same time, the Rhode Island Secrectary of State asked the state elections board to allow it by regulation; in December 2019, the board voted to put the proposal allowing this practice for out for public comment.
Two states specifically prohibit the practice, and in two others an attempt to allow it was rejected by the legislature. In Massachusetts, current state law bars candidates from using campaign funds for personal expenses, and a bill allowing campaign funds for childcare stalled in the legislature in 2018 (the bill is expected to be re-introduced in 2020). In West Virginia, state law prohibits using campaign funds for childcare expenses. In Tennessee, a proposed bill allowing the practice was killed by the Tennessee House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee in March 2019.
In most cases, the decision to allow this practice is decided on a case by case basis by the relevant elections or ethics authority in the state. In 9 states, elections/ethics commissions have issued advisory opinions or guidance in favor of allowing candidates to use campaign funds for campaign-related childcare (Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin).
Two additional states’ commissions allow the practice to some degree. The Connecticut State Elections Commission issued a ruling in April 2019 stating that privately used funds can be used for campaign-related childcare expenses; public financing cannot be. Since most candidates use public funds for their campaigns, this effectively limits the use of campaign funds for childcare to a small pool of candidates. A 1994 advisory opinion from the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission appears to allow for some childcare expenses to be covered by campaign funds, but the language in the NADC guidelines limits it to situations in which both the candidate and his/her spouse are at a campaign event together.
In Iowa, on the other hand, a request from a candidate in July 2018 to use campaign funds for childcare was rejected by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. The board noted that the policy decision was best left to the legislature to decide and proposed a bill to allow the practice. As of July 2019, the bill has no sponsors in the legislature.
As noted above, in December 2019, the Rhode Island Elections Board voted to put a proposal allowing the practice out for public comment.
Most advisory opinions issued by commissions note that state law does not specifically address the issue, and some opinions encourage the legislature to take the matter on and formally enshrine the practice into law, as did Iowa’s ethics board. While advisory opinions set precedents and provide guidance for future candidates, because the matter isn’t settled by law, it often means that individual candidates would have to be approved on a case by case basis. Ultimately, legislation is the most effective guarantee of ensuring that the campaign funds can be used for campaign-related childcare.
States with blank entries do not necessarily denote that campaign funds cannot be used for childcare expenses, but instead that there has either been no explicit permission requested/granted to date or that no definitive information is available from that state. Information will be updated as rulings or policy changes are made or more information is shared with us.
|State||Allows/has allowed campaign funds for childcare expenses?||Legislation||Commission Advisory Opinion/Ruling||Details|
|Alabama||Yes.||Alabama Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 2018-04||In June 2018, the Alabama Ethics Commission ruled that campaign funds could be used for childcare directly connected to campaign activity. According to some commissioners, the practice was already happening. Jennifer Gray, a candidate for the Alabama House of Representatives, requested a formal opinion from the commission following the FEC ruling for federal candidates the previous month. However, since this is an advisory opinion on a specific case, future candidates would have to make their own request and be approved on a case-by-case basis.|
|Arkansas||Yes.||Arkansas Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 2018-EC-001||In July 2018, in response to a request for an advisory opinion from a House candidate, the Arkansas Ethics Commission voted unanimously to allow campaign funds to be used for campaign-related childcare expenses. Gayatri Agnew, a candidate for the Arkansas House, requested the opinion. However, since this is an advisory opinion on a specific case, future candidates would have to make their own request and be approved on a case-by-case basis.|
|California||Yes.||California Assembly Bill No. 2020||California Assembly Bill 220, signed into law by the governor in October 2019, allows campaign funds to be used for campaign-related childcare expenses.|
|Colorado||Yes.||Colorado Senate Bill 19-229||In April 2019, the Colorado legislature passed a bill allowing the use of campaign funds for campaign-related childcare. The governor signed the bill into law in May 2019. AB 220 covers the federal, state, and local levels of elections and specifies that childcare can be paid for with campaign funds as long as the candidate in question in "engaging in political activities."|
|Connecticut||Somewhat. Only privately funded candidates are permitted to use campaign funds for campaign-related childcare.||Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission Declaratory Ruling 2019-02||In April 2019, in response to a request from Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, a candidate for state representative, the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled that privately raised funds can be used for candidate's childcare expenses related to campaign events; public campaign financing cannot be. The Commission stated that allowing the use of public funds for campaign-related childcare expenses would have to be decided in the legislature.|
|Illinois||No. Legislation has been proposed but not passed as of December 2019.||Illinois Senate Bill 0033||In January 2019, legislation was introduced that would allow political committee funds may be used for certain child care expenses that are necessary for the fulfillment of political, governmental, or public policy duties, activities, or purposes. The bill has not passed out of committee.|
|Iowa||No.||Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board Advisory Opinion 2018-02||In July 2018, Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB) ruled that candidates cannot use campaign funds for childcare expenses. The request came in response to a request from Reyma McCoy McDeid, a state House candidates, to use money she raised to pay childcare expenses incurred while campaigning. The ethics board noted in its ruling that this policy decision should be left to the legislature to decide, and proposed a bill that would amend state law to allow Iowa candidates to use campaign funds to pay for expenses related to the care of any dependent of the candidate. As of July 2019, the proposed bill currently has no sponsors.|
|Kansas||Yes.||Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission Opinion No. 2018-04||In August 2018, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission ruled in an 8-1 vote that campaign funds, such as donations, may be used to pay for childcare directly related to campaigning or serving in office. The Commission executive director said that staff received multiple inquiries on the issue and issues the ruling to clarify.|
|Kentucky||Yes.||Kentucky Registry of Election Finance (KREF) Letter to Candidate Josie Raymond (not available on KREF site)||In October 2018, in response to a request from Josie Raymond, a candidate for the legislature, the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance (KREF) stated that candidates are allowed to use campaign donations to pay for childcare directly related to the campaign. An official copy of the letter to Raymond affirming her right to use the campaign funds for childcare is not available on the KREF web site (copies can be found on various news sites.)|
|Louisiana||Yes.||Louisiana Board of Ethics Docket No. 2018-1210||In February 2019, the Louisiana Ethics Board voted to allow campaign funds to be used for campaign-related childcare, reversing a decision made three months earlier against a candidate's request to use her campaign funds for childcare. A candidate for state legislature, Morgan Lamandre was denied her original request in November 2018, and that earlier decision was met with public outcry. The request to revisit the ruling came from Lamandre and the Louisiana Women's Legislative Caucus. However, since this is an advisory opinion on a specific case, future candidates would have to make their own request and be approved on a case-by-case basis.|
|Maryland||Yes.||Maryland State Board of Elections Guidance on Child Care Expenses||In May 2019, the Maryland State Board of Elections issued a legal guidance stating that, per current election law, candidates are allowed to use campaign funds for campaign-related childcare expenses as long as the expenditure "would not have occurred but for the fact a candidacy is being promoted, supported or opposed."|
|Massachusetts||No.||Massachusetts Senate Bill 386 and House Bill 2898 (2018)||Current state law bars candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. In 2018, an proposed bill (Act Supporting Working Parents who Choose to Run for Public Office) would have allowed candidates to use campaign funds for childcare when they are "performing work or attending events directly related to the candidate's campaign," but the bill was not voted on before the legislative session ended. It is expected to be re-introduced in 2020.|
|Minnesota||Yes.||Minnesota Statute 10A.01 and 211B.12||State law prohibits spending money collected for political purposes unless the expenditure is reasonably related to the conduct of election campaigns or is a noncampaign disbursement. The statute specifically lists childcare during campaigning a noncampaign disbursement and thus allows for campaign funds to be used for that purpose.|
|Nebraska||Somewhat. A 1994 advisory opinion appears to allow for such expenses, but the language used in election guidelines is outdated and needs clarification.||Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission Opinion No. 146||The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission opinion established a "but for" test (funds can be used for expenses that would not have happened "but for" the candidacy.) This opinion appears to allow for some childcare expenses, as outlined in the Candidate Committee Treasurer's Guide, which states that states that campaign funds may be used for "Babysitters when it is necessary that both the candidate and his/her spouse attend a campaign event. This type of expenditure is not permitted for an event relating to the duties of the officeholder." Legislators in the state are in the process of drafting a request for an updated advisory opinion for language including single parents, unmarried parents, and for situtations where the non-candidate parent is not at the campaign event but is otherwise unable to care for the child.|
|New Hampshire||Yes.||New Hampshire House Bill 651||In August 2019, the New Hampshire legislature passed a bill allowing for campaign funds to be used for campaign-related childcare expenses. The governor signed the bill into law on August 21, 2019.|
|New Jersey||Pending legislation introduced in 2019.||New Jersey Senate Bill 2943||In January 2019, Senate Bill 2943, which permits use of campaign funds to pay for childcare expenses when incurred as direct result of campaign activity, was passed in the NJ Senate and sent to the Assembly. As of May 2019, the bill was passed out of Assembly committee and had its second reading on the floor.|
|New York||Yes.||New York Assembly Bill 01108/Senate Bill 02680-A||In June 2019, the New York legislature passed a bill codifying an elections board ruling allowing for campaign funds to be used for campaign-related childcare expenses. The governor signed the bill into law on July 30, 2019.|
|Ohio||Pending legislation introduced in 2019.||Ohio Senate Bill 211||In October 2019, Senate Bill 211, which would allow candidates to use campaign funds for campaign-related expenses, was introduced and referred to the Government Oversight and Reform Ccommittee.|
|Rhode Island||No. Proposed legislation allowing the practice did not pass in 2019. In December 2019, the state elections board voted to put a proposal allowing this practice out for public comment.||Rhode Island Senate Bill 323 (2019)||Legislation allowing campaign funds to be used for campaign-related childcare expenses was introduced in 2019; it passed in the Senate but not in the House. The bill is expected to be re-introduced in 2020. The Rhode Island Secretary of State asked the state Elections Board to allow it by regulation; in December 2019, the board voted to put the proposal allowing this practice for out for public comment.|
|Tennessee||No.||Tennessee House Bill 0007/Senate Bill 0086 (failed)||In March 2019, the Tennessee House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee killed a proposed bill allowing campaign funds to be used for childcare expenses.|
|Texas||Yes.||Texas Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion 547||In June 2018, the Texas Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion allowing candidates to use political contributions for campaign-related childcare. This is the first time this would be allowed in the state. The advisory opinion was requested by Catie Robinson, a candidate for Wichita County commissioner, following the FEC ruling for federal candidates. However, since this is an advisory opinion on a specific case, future candidates would have to make their own request and be approved on a case-by-case basis.|
|Utah||Yes.||Utah House Bill 129||In February 2019, a bill allowing use of campaign funds for campaign-related childcare passed in the legislature and was signed by the governor in March 2019.|
|Vermont||Pending legislation introduced in 2020.||Vermont House Bill 619||In January 2020, a bill allowing use of campaign funds for campaign-related childcare was introduced and referred to the Committee on Government Operations.|
|Washington||Yes.||Washington Public Disclosure Commission Guidance on Allowable Uses of Campaign Funds||According to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, use of campaign funds for childcare expenses is allowable as long as the expense would not have occurred but for the campaign.|
|West Virginia||No.||West Virginia Code §3-8-9||West Virginia law states that no money may be spent from committee funds unless it is specifically allowed by W. Va. Code §3-8-9 or W. VA. C.S.R.§146-3-6. Childcare is not a permissible expense on the list.|
|Wisconsin||Yes.||Wisconsin Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion 2018 ETH 01||In June 2018, in response to a request for a formal advisory opinion, the Wisconsin Ethics Commission ruled that candidates may use campaign funds to pay for childcare directly related to campaign activity. Cynthia Kaump, a candidate for state treasurer, asked the commission to issue the opinion.|