Applauding the Ethics Commission’s decision on child care reimbursements

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I come at the news of the Alabama Ethics Commission granting candidates the right use campaign funds for child care expenses, as a) a woman who has been an underdog, under-funded candidate (though at the time I did not have children) b) as a mother of two (with another on the way), and c) as someone who’s worked for candidates that have paid out of pocket for child care during campaigns and/or have brought their children to campaign events because of the high costs of care.

On all fronts: I believe the decision is a good one, if not long overdue. Reimbursing for child care is in-line with how money is spent in campaigns, so long as you can pay for the other essential costs of campaigning, such as gas, food, etc. then there’s no reason to exclude child care.

Far too often there are those who want to run for office, but lack the financial means to do so. They are essentially priced out successful campaigns. It doesn’t pay a lot to be an elected official, and it seems to cost exponentially more to run a successful campaign with every passing campaign cycle. Let’s be honest it costs a lot of money to campaign, especially when special interests, good or bad, are invested in candidates trying to keep or change the status quo.

This opinion allows individuals, who otherwise lack the financial means to pay for child care out of pocket while they run, the opportunity to be in the arena and fight. For that I believe this decision is a great step forward.

Campaigning can be exhausting (and it should be if done correctly). There are long hours and endless stops. These stops aren’t always appropriate for children and while I love to see kids involved in the political process, it should be the value of the experience that compels a candidate to bring them not the costs of child care.

That seems to be a fact that was lost on those who opposed to the reimbursements, like Alabama Ethics Commissioner Charlie Price. Running for office shouldn’t come with a parenting penalty. Yes, one must take into account all personal factors when committing to a campaign and the potential for public service, and that should include the personal and financial tolls it will take on a family, but no family should be excluded or put out because of reasonable and justifiable costs associated with child care. There’s enough barriers already and we need good people to run and hold office — which absolutely includes parents.

My hope is that as we move forward candidates don’t take advantage of this and keep the strict guidelines of campaign interest in mind when they seek reimbursements. There’s always going to be bad seeds, and there’s always going to be those who abuse the system, live off their campaign funds and have careless spending habits, but let’s face it: child care is an essential component for those parents who wants to get out there and make their voices heard.

So simply put: Kudos to the FEC and Alabama Ethics Commission for making the right decision for families.

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