The Federal Election Commission (FEC) in May ruled unanimously that federal candidates can use campaign funds to pay for child care costs that result from time spent running for office.
The FEC justified their decision by saying the candidate’s child care needs were a direct result of her running for office and essential to her continuing to do so. Thus, the spending would not be considered a violation of rules that prohibit personal spending.
Since the FEC only regulates federal election campaign finance, an Alabama candidate for the State House District 45, Democrat Jennifer Gray, requested a formal opinion from the Alabama Ethics Commission as to whether or not she could do the same.
In her request Gray explained she would not have needed the child care had she need been a candidate. And without child care, she cannot participate in campaign activities like attending Chamber of Commerce meeting, meeting with constituents, canvassing or phone banking.
Unlike the FEC, the Ethics Commission decision was not a unanimous one. In a 3-1 ruling, they decided Gray may use her campaign funds as such expenses would not exist “irrespective of the candidate’s campaign officeholder duties.”
“[Gray] may use campaign funds to pay for the childcare expenses described in the request to the extent such expenses are incurred as a direct result of campaign activity and are tied to specific campaign events,” said Jerry L. Fielding, Chair of the Alabama Ethics Commission, in the decision.
But the Commission didn’t make a blanket ruling for all candidates. They clearly concluded their ruling stating, “The conclusion reached herein applies only to these facts and may not be applied beyond these facts.”
They also ruled that Gray must disclose her child care expenses so that donors know exactly where the funds are going.
“The payments must be reasonable and customary for the services rendered, and the campaign must properly document the expenditures,” the decision read.