FEC allows candidate to use campaign funds for child care

FEC allows candidate to use campaign funds for child care
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The Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled on Thursday to allow a female candidate running for Congress to use part of her campaign funds to cover child care costs.

Liuba Grechen Shirley, who’s running for New York’s 2nd District, scored the unprecedented victory with the unanimous agreement of the FEC commissioners during its Thursday meeting. 

Grechen Shirley, who said she pays $440 a week for a babysitter to watch her toddlers, had originally asked the FEC in April to use a portion of campaign funds to pay for child care, arguing that she would need her babysitter's help in order to rival her primary opponent, 13-term Republican incumbent Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingThe Hill's Morning Report — Ford, Kavanaugh to testify Thursday as another accuser comes forward The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify On The Money: Broad coalition unites against Trump tariffs | Senate confirms new IRS chief | Median household income rose for third straight year in 2017 | Jamie Dimon's brief battle with Trump MORE.

"Our babysitter is just as important as my campaign manager or my finance director," Grechen Shirley told Newsweek last month. "She's just as integral, and she's paid as staff. I couldn't run my campaign without her." 

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In a letter to the commission, Grechen Shirley wrote that, prior to her campaign for Congress, she worked a telecommuting job that allowed her to care for her two children full time.

But as the primary election approaches, she wrote that she needs additional support in the evenings and weekends so that she can “devote the time necessary to run a successful campaign." In her letter, Grechen Shirley also cited two cases from 1995 and 2008 in which male candidates made similar requests to use their campaign funds to cover child care expenses.

The FEC approved the request on Thursday, justifying the decision by noting that Grechen Shirley's child care needs were a direct result of her bid for Congress and essential to her continuing a bid. Therefore, the spending would not be considered a violation of rules that prohibit personal spending. 

Grechen Shirley’s argument drew support from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2016 pollsters erred by not weighing education on state level, says political analyst Could President Trump's talk of a 'red wave' cause his supporters to stay home in midterms? Dem group targets Trump in M voter registration campaign: report MORE, who penned her own letter to the commission last month asking that Grechen Shirley be granted her request.

"Denying Ms. Shirley's request would undermine the Commission's previous advisory opinions, discourage young mothers from seeking elective office, and deprive parents of ordinary means of the opportunity to serve," Clinton wrote in her letter. "Young women like Ms. Shirley are now running for office in record-breaking numbers ... Under a plain reading of the law, as applied to Ms. Shirley's facts, the answer to her question can only be 'yes.'" 

Twenty-four members of Congress joined Clinton on Wednesday, calling for Grechen Shirley’s request to be approved.

Grechen Shirley released a statement Thursday after the FEC's decision, saying that she's proud to be the first woman to use campaign funds to cover the costs of child care. She added that she hopes other women will be inspired to run for office following the decision.

"There’s a reason more than half of Congressmembers are millionaires: running for office takes a huge toll on a family’s budget, especially while raising children," she said in a statement to Buzzfeed News. "This groundbreaking decision will remove a major financial obstacle for working families and mothers at a time when women are increasingly considering elected office."

Ben Kamisar contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:05 p.m.