State Candidates and the Use of Campaign Funds for Childcare Expenses
*Updated as of April 2021. 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 was sent to the Senate but was not acted upon before the 116th Congress adjourned. In March 2021, Representative Porter introduced H.R.1515 to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for the treatment of payments for child care and other personal use services as an authorized campaign expenditure.
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. After her campaign, Grechen Shirley launched the Vote Mama Foundation, which has been working with candidates across the country to petition their state and local election commissions, and with legislators to introduce and pass legislation to approve the use of campaign funds for childcare for state and local candidates. They are working to pass campaign funds for childcare in all 50 states by 2023 and are also tracking the use of campaign funds for childcare to determine how its use ultimately contributes to better representation in office for women and families. Learn more here.
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 seven 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, California in October 2019, and New Jersey in August 2020. As of March 2021, at least nine other states have bills allowing the practice pending in their legislatures.
Three states specifically prohibit the practice, and in two others an attempt to allow it was rejected by the legislature. In Delaware, current code does not allow the practice, but legislation was introduced in January 2021 to permit the use of campaign funds for childcare expenses. In Massachusetts, current state law bars candidates from using campaign funds for personal expenses, and a bill allowing campaign funds for childcare has been introduced in January 2021 (bills were introduced in previous sessions but not passed). 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).
In April 2019, the Connecticut State Elections Commission issued a ruling stating that only privately used funds could be used for campaign-related childcare expenses. Since most candidates use public funds for their campaigns, this effectively limited the use of campaign funds for childcare to a small pool of candidates. In August 2020, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of candidate Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, who had filed the appeal, stating that candidates running for office in Connecticut can use public campaign funds to reimburse child care expenses as long as they are the “direct result of campaign activity,” “reasonable and customary for the services rendered” and “properly documented by the campaign.”
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. Legislation allowing this practice was introduced in January 2021.
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||Yes, a Superior Court ruling in August 2020 ruled that the practice should be allowed for all candidates. Pending legislation was introduced in January 2021.||Connecticut Senate Bill 761 (2021)||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. In February 2020, Governor Ned Lamont proposed a bill allowing for candidates receiving public funding to be reimbursed for child care services for any child under age 13 for whom the candidate is the parent or legal guardian. The services must be necessary as a direct result of campaign activity. The legislature did not pass the bill before adjourning, and the bill was reintroduced in January 2021. In August 2020, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Clarkson Pereira, stating that candidates running for office in Connecticut can use public campaign funds to reimburse child care expenses as long as they are the “direct result of campaign activity,” “reasonable and customary for the services rendered” and “properly documented by the campaign.”|
|Delaware||Current code does not allow the practice. Pending legislation introduced in 2021.||Delaware House Bill 90||In June 2020, in response to a request from Amy Solomon, a candidate for the Delaware House of Representatives, the Delaware Department of Elections confirmed that use of campaign funds for childcare expenses incurred as a result of candidacy is not authorized under current code. The response noted that neither the Department of Elections nor the State Election Commissioner has the legal authority to expand the types of political committee expenditures that are authorized under that section and that the General Assembly would need to amend the statute to permit any additional authorized expenses. In January 2021, a bill allowing for campaign funds to be use for campaign-related child care was introduced.|
|Hawaii||Pending legislation introduced in 2021.||Hawaii Senate Bill 597||In January 2020, SB 2989 was introduced; the bill would allow candidates seeking election to state- and county-level offices to use campaign funds for child care costs, under certain conditions. The bill was not passed before the legislature adjourned. In January 2021, SB 597 was introduced, which would allow candidates to use campaign funds for campaign-related "child and vital household dependent care costs."|
|Illinois||No. Legislation was introduced in 2019 but not passed.||Illinois Senate Bill 0033 (2019)||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 was not passed before the legislature adjourned its session.|
|Iowa||No. Pending legislation introduced in January 2021.||Senate Bill 145||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. Legislation allowing this practice was introduced in January 2021.|
|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, it has been allowed administratively. Pending legislation introduced in January 2021 to codify it into law.||Kentucky House Bill 22||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.) In January 2021, legislation was introduced to amend campaign finance statutes to define and include "personal use services," including childcare and elder care, as an allowable campaign expenditure.|
|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. Pending legislation introduced in January 2021.||Massachusetts Senate Bill 994 and House Bill 1418||Current state law bars candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. Bills were proposed in previous legislative sessions but not acted upon. In 2021, an proposed bill (Act Supporting Parents Running for Public Office) would allow the practice.|
|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.|
|Missouri||Pending legislation introduced in January 2021.||Missouri House Bill 886||Introduced in 2021, HB 886 would allow "public officials to use campaign funds for childcare costs incurred while campaigning or performing official duties."|
|Nebraska||Somewhat. A 1994 advisory opinion appears to allow for such expenses, but the language used in election guidelines is outdated and needs clarification. Legislation was introduced in 2020 but not passed.||Nebraska LB935 (for public officials, not candidates)||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. Legislation authorizing campaign expenditures to be used for a public official's child care expenses while performing their public duties was introduced in 2020 but not passed. The legislation did not address candidates' expenses.|
|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||Yes.||New Jersey Senate Bill 698||In August 2020, Senate Bill 698, which allows public officeholders or candidates to use political contributions to pay for child care expenses related to office or campaign activities, was passed in the NJ legislature. The bill was signed into law by the governor in October 2020.|
|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||Legislation introduced in 2019 but did not pass.||Ohio Senate Bill 211 (2019)||In October 2019, Senate Bill 211, which would allow candidates to use campaign funds for campaign-related expenses, was introduced. It did not pass before the legislature adjourned.|
|Oregon||Legislation was introduced in 2019 but did not pass.||Oregon House Bill 3328 (2019)||In March 2019, House Bill 3328 was introduced and referred to the House Rules Committee. HB 3328 explicitly allows candidates to use campaign funds to defray caregiving expenses for relative of candidate or office holder if expenses would not exist without campaign activity or holding of public office. The bill did not pass before the end of the legislative session.|
|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 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 2021.||Vermont House Bill 10||In January 2021, a bill allowing use of campaign funds for campaign-related dependent care was introduced.|
|Virginia||Pending legislation introduced in 2021.||Virginia House Bill 1952||In January 2021, legislation was introduced that would allow for the use of campaign funds to pay for a candidate's child care expenses incurred as a direct result of campaign activity.|
|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. In January 2021, a bill to amend the current code was introduced.||West Virginia Code §3-8-9 and Senate Bill 597 (2021)||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. In January 2021, SB 597 was introduced to amend the code to define caregiving expenses and allow candidates to use committee funds for expenses relating to caregiving services.|
|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.|