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.
Vote Mama Foundation found a monumental increase in CFCC usage at both the federal and state levels since 2018. The increase is particularly salient among those who have historically been underrepresented and who face additional barriers when running for and serving in office. A majority of the funds spent by women candidates at both the federal and state levels on caregiving services were spent by women of color.
662% increase in federal usage from 2018-2022
68 federal candidates utilized CFCC in 90 races
2,156% increase in state & local usage from 2018-2022
87+ state & local candidates utilized CFCC in 13+ states
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.
Vote Mama Foundation is working to break down the structural and cultural barriers that prevent parents and caregivers from running for office.
Campaign Funds for Childcare
“Before I made the decision to run for office in 2018, I made sure that people on my team would be supportive of a child-friendly campaign office. My child was 3 and 1/2 when I first ran, and it was critical that he was well taken care of during moments when I could not be present. Since getting elected in 2019, and running two additional campaigns, childcare has always been a part of our campaigns. Our office has a section for children's toys/activities and we continue to plan events that include considerations for our children.”
ALDERWOMAN (33rd WARD, CHICAGO)
“The cost of childcare is an issue that millions of American families, elected officials, and political candidates have to confront. I am incredibly proud of the work Vote Mama Foundation is doing to advocate for the authorization of Campaign Funds for Childcare in states across the country, and also to shine light on the impact of its use. The ability to use campaign funds to cover childcare costs was instrumental in the success of my race, and allowed me to balance caring for my daughter and keeping up with the demands of the campaign trail. This new report makes it abundantly clear that Campaign Funds for Childcare tears down a major financial obstacle for parents, and it has the power to activate candidates who may have never considered running for office due to their caregiving responsibilities.”
Malia M. Cohen
CALIFORNIA STATE CONTROLLER
“There is an adage about decision making bodies that if you are not at the table, you’re on the menu. If we want our policies to serve the needs of families, especially mothers, we need more moms at the decision making table. It’s clear that in our country’s 200 year history, we have not had enough women sitting at the tables of power, and the most entrenched challenges faced by families are evidence of this fact. So, when I contemplated ways to build a ladder for future leaders, this seemed the right thing to do.”
Sarah Copeland Hanzas
VERMONT SECRETARY OF STATE
“Allowing campaign funds to be used for childcare ensures that our political system uplifts marginalized communities. Too often, the doors of government are closed to working parents and people of color, who cannot afford to participate in politics. Empowering candidates with the ability to pay for childcare strengthens the representation of economically disenfranchised women in our elections and secures a place in public affairs for the concerns of hardworking caregivers.”
HAWAII STATE REPRESENTATIVE (DISTRICT 05)
“I was thrilled to work with Rep. Camp to make child care an approved campaign expense in Georgia. It is the right thing for parents, kids, families, and government. Everyone wins when moms are at the decision-making tables. Removing a barrier to entry helps us all.”
GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE (DISTRICT 57)
“Parody between Federal and Georgia’s campaign rules regarding campaign funds being used for childcare is an important issue for me because it helps remove barriers to serve. Campaign funds were already allowed to be used for many activities relating to campaign events, attending session, etc. and childcare factors in the same way for many candidates and members of the Georgia General Assembly. It was an honor to work with Rep Stacey Evans to bring this bipartisan issue before the decision making body. The affirmative decision by Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission will positively impact candidates and members for years to come.”
GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE (DISTRICT 135)
“The ability to use campaign funds for child care has been a game changer for people like me from blue collar backgrounds,” said Congressman Eric Swalwell. “As tough as juggling the demands of parenthood while serving in Congress can be, my three young children give me perspective that make me even more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere. Being able to use campaign funds to be an attentive member of congress and a good dad makes good policy and ensures Congress is not only governed by heirs and millionaires.”
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (CA-14)
“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
VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR (DISTRICT 33)
CFCC in Action
CFCC is a bipartisan initiative for moms and dads, Democrats and Republicans alike. As with any other campaign finance allowance, it creates an option for use and is not a mandate —candidates do not have to use campaign funds on caregiving expenses if they do not want to. This common sense solution that poses no cost to taxpayers or state governments.
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.