"I used to pay for childcare out of pocket, but I now use campaign funds to pay for it after receiving a legal brief from my attorneys saying nothing in Virginia prohibits the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare. Without that childcare, especially during a pandemic, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be able to complete the tasks needed to excel in a campaign. I have heard candidates express fear and hesitancy to use campaign funds for childcare expenses. This creates an unnecessary barrier for parents, lower income heads of households, and women from seeking elected office, which undermines Virginians' right to full representation in our state and local democracy."
Jennifer Carroll Foy
Jennifer Carroll Foy gave birth to premature twin boys, Alex and Xander, during her first campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates, and she won her race. She recently stepped down as a Delegate to focus full-time on building a grassroots movement in her campaign for Governor.
GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER VA STATE DELEGATE
“When I ran for school board it was under very different circumstances. […] But Congress is such a different ball game. When we began talking about running, I was super pregnant with our second child. Having the knowledge that we could use Campaign Funds for Childcare expenses because of Liuba’s work to get child care covered for all moms pursuing federal office was a considerable factor.”
Candace Valenzuela was the first Latina and African-American woman to serve on the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board. She was homeless for a time as a child and fled domestic abuse. Valenzuela ran for Congress in 2020 with a newborn and a toddler by her side. She has said that using her Campaign Funds for Childcare was “campaign saving."
The cost of running for federal office can be so financially prohibitive that it keeps strong candidates from running. Thanks to her ability to use campaign funds for childcare, Valenzuela paved the way for more working parents like her to run in the future.
CANDIDATE FOR U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (TX-24)
"Childcare is already very expensive for working families, so to incur additional childcare costs to run for office is definitely a barrier, and it is a barrier that disproportionately affects women and limits our access to political participation and representation. [...] We need more moms in office, and I am proud to be part of Vote Mama's efforts to break down these needless barriers."
At first the Louisiana Ethics Commission ruled that a woman could not use Campaign Funds for Childcare, even though they had approved it for four men candidates in the past. They told Democratic State House candidate Morgan Lamandre that she had “misplaced priorities” and that having a child was her “primary responsibility.” Vote Mama Foundation advised her on her appeal, and she won.
CANDIDATE FOR LOUISIANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE (DISTRICT 66)
“My kids are three and two years old. My wife is also in the workforce, and recently received a promotion. Our family had to reevaluate whether we can afford to still do this job. Living between Washington, D.C. and San Francisco is incredibly expensive. On top of the official duties, there is an obligation to campaign for House candidates and be away a lot. It was taking a toll financially. Campaign Funds for Childcare has allowed me to keep doing necessary political work, and having children has changed my policy perspective and priorities. When you have more mouths to feed and childcare expenses, you realize how much student loan debt takes out of your monthly paycheck.”
Eric Swalwell was first elected to Congress in 2012 and is one of the 14 dads at the federal level who used Campaign Funds for Childcare during the 2020 election cycle.
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (CA-14)
“For legislators in other states considering introducing legislation to allow Campaign Funds for Childcare know that it is a gamechanger. It breaks down a barrier that doesn’t have to be there. The seat came open in my district. As a young mother, you think about timing with family, you think you are going to wait. But why not me? I am a product of my community, I grew up here. I loved politics, I was qualified and prepared. There are local decisions about growth that are really important to me, and at the state level you can really make a difference. I worked at a conservative think tank. I had to quit my job to run full-time. In order to run and serve in elected office, I had to be able to pay for childcare.”
Candice Pierucci is a member of the Utah House of Representatives representing District 49. She was first appointed to the Utah House of Representatives in 2019 and won her re-election bid in 2022. As Benji’s mama, Pierucci knows first hand the struggles that everyday mamas are facing and brings her lived experience as a mom to her role in public office as the Chair of the House Education Committee.
UT STATE REPRESENTATIVE (DISTRICT 52)
Vote Mama Foundation is working to break down the structural and cultural barriers that prevent parents and caregivers from running for office.
Imagine if not one potential candidate at any level of our government had to consider the cost of childcare in weighing their decision to run for office. Imagine if we could break down institutional barriers to empower a diverse pipeline of everyday parents and caregivers to run for office and win. Vote Mama Foundation is the only organization working to expand and codify the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare in all 50 states.
Campaign Funds for Childcare
When our Founder and CEO, Liuba Grechen Shirley, ran for Congress in 2018, her children were one and three-years old. Liuba gave up her salaried job to run for office, which made it difficult to pay for childcare. Her mother, a teacher, watched her kids after school, but Liuba had them with her on the campaign trail every day. Meeting with constituents, fundraising, and caring for her children were unsustainable without childcare.
She no longer wondered why more mothers with minor children were not running for Congress.
The political system was not designed for caregivers, so she fought to change it. Liuba petitioned the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and became the first woman to receive federal approval to spend Campaign Funds for Childcare. This groundbreaking decision gained support from Secretary Hillary Clinton and 24 members of Congress and was approved by the FEC by a unanimous, bipartisan vote. More than 50 federal candidates have since used their campaign funds to pay for childcare — moms and dads, Democrats and Republicans alike. While the ruling on Liuba’s request allows all federal candidates to use their Campaign Funds for Childcare, it does not apply to candidates running for state and local office.
Vote Mama Foundation is the only organization working with politicians across the country to petition their state and local election commissions and introduce legislation to authorize the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare for state and local candidates.
The cost of childcare is a systemic barrier preventing mamas from running for office—at every level of government. The cost of care disproportionately affects how and when moms are able to run for office. By passing CFCC in all 50 states, we aim to make it easier for everyday mamas to represent their communities and advance truly family-friendly legislation. Vote Mama Foundation is also tracking the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare at the federal and state levels to determine who is utilizing this resource and how it is impacting the makeup of our government.
No parent or family caretaker should be barred from running for office because of the cost of care for their loved ones.
In 2023, Liuba was invited back to the FEC to provide testimony on behalf of Vote Mama Foundation in support of proposed rule changes that would expand her previous ruling to allow federal candidates to use their privately raised campaign dollars on broader dependent care expenses directly related to campaign activity. If approved, these rule changes would allow House, Senate, and Presidential candidates to use their campaign funds to pay for care for their aging parents, adult children with disabilities, or any other person for which the candidate is the primary caregiver.
Vote Mama Foundation is already working on authorizing the use of campaign funds for broader dependent care at the state level.
No. Both moms and dads, Democrats and Republicans, can use Campaign Funds for Childcare. We need more parents at every decision-making table to advocate for common sense policies that help working class families throughout the country.
No. Both Democrats and Republicans can and do use their private campaign dollars on childcare expenses directly related to campaign activity.
With any campaign finance reporting measure, there is always the risk of abuse. Candidates report CFCC in the same way that they would for any other campaign related expenditure according to state guidelines. All campaign related expenditures are regulated by State Ethics Commissions who are required to manage any and all instances of abuse or misreporting. Campaign Funds for Childcare does not elicit more instances of abuse compared to any other campaign related expenditure.
Contact your State Ethics Commission or government body that monitors campaign expenditure reporting to find out what details you need to include in your report. We recommend keeping all receipts of payment as proof of documentation for any type of expenditure, not just childcare expenses, when submitting your campaign expenditure reports.
No. With the exception of Connecticut, there is no cap on how much of your campaign dollars you can choose to spend on childcare expenses. Just like any other campaign expenditure, you have discretion as to how to allocate your budget across the different expenses related to your campaign such as TV commercials, mailers, additional staff, or childcare.
At the federal level, Campaign Funds for Childcare expenses are permitted for all children under the age of 18. At the state level, the scope of coverage differs. Refer to our table to determine your state’s specific guidance.
Yes. Federal candidates are allowed to use their campaign funds to cover full-time childcare expenses, if that candidate is campaigning full-time. At the state level, we have been advised that if a caregiver is campaigning part-time and the child is enrolled in care full-time, the percentage of the time the dependent is receiving care while the candidate is engaged in campaign activity would arguably be covered by CFCC. Of course, we suggest seeking a final interpretation by your state’s campaign finance authority.
If your state has already taken steps to explicitly outline other permissible expenditures under its State Election Code, such as purchasing a vehicle, paying for office equipment, or paying staff, why not include childcare? Childcare is arguably the biggest expense that prohibits working parents from running for office. For candidates to know it is an option, it needs to be explicitly included with other permissible expenses.