HARTFORD, CT — The Federal Elections Commission allows it and do a handful of states, but an informal opinion from state election regulators said no campaign funds can be spent on child care.
Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, who has a three-year-old daughter and is running for state representative in Fairfield, appealed the decision last week.
She said in her appeal that the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s legal compliance director “misapplied the facts to the law and ignored other relevant issues and precedent.”
The informal decision issued by Shannon Kief on Aug. 9 detailed a number of previous “personal expenses” made during the course of a campaign that the commission has been asked to consider in the past.
“We have been asked, for example, whether public funds could be used to cover part of the mortgage payments for a family member’s house that was used as campaign headquarters, to cover a portion of the candidate’s personal cell phone bill since it was used to make calls to campaign staff and voters, and to pay for the candidate’s clothing which was purchased with campaign engagements in mind,” Kief wrote.
She said she doesn’t see any differences between these requests and childcare costs.
“The grant monies may only be spent to directly further the candidate’s nomination for election or election to the specified office,” Kief wrote. “We do not see a viable way to differentiate childcare costs from the above mentioned examples or to say that childcare is in direct furtherance of the nomination to a specific office.”
Pereira has said she’s appealing the decision because childcare costs are much different than cellphone use. She said the decision could hinder other women, who are responsible for more hours of child rearing than men, from getting involved in politics.
“Denying candidates the ability to use CEP funds for child care costs has a discriminatory effect against women,” Pereira wrote in her appeal.
The money Pereira spent on a babysitter was so she could attend campaign related functions after working hours.
“These are costs that exist solely because of my participation as a candidate in the political process and but for the campaign, would not exist,” Pereira wrote. “Not allowing these costs to be covered by CEP funds is a deterrent to parents of young children who might otherwise join the political process as candidates.”
Pereira said her husband travels for work so is not always available to watch their daughter.
In her appeal, Pereira said Kief incorrectly concluded that “CEP funds may not be used to pay for a candidate’s childcare costs.”
The commission must take some type of action on Pereira’s appeal within 60 days. It could issue a ruling, or decide that it won’t rule at all. It could also call for a hearing on the matter.