New campaign finance law allows childcare costs to be paid from political funds

What passes for political expenses in Illinois often runs the gamut.

Politicians on and off the ballot have spent campaign money over the years on legal fees – before and after indictment – meals for staff members as well as subscriptions for the Chicago Bulls, the White Sox , the Cubs and Notre Dame. Former House Speaker Michael Madigan was particularly sensitive to the Fighting Irish.

Campaign funds even once covered the funeral costs of a former state legislator.

So, why not child care?

It was a state matter according to Senator Melinda Bush who pushed her to clarify state law regarding the use of campaign funds. She argues that this clarification, which is part of a sweeping electoral bill recently enacted, could remove a barrier to candidacy.

“[Political] the office shouldn’t be owned only by people who have access to money, ”Democrat Grayslake told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Bush said she decided to seek clarification after traveling the state in 2018 while serving on an anti-harassment, equality and access committee to explain to women why they don’t. not running for election and what could be done to change that.

Access to child care was a common reason, Bush said.

State Senator Melinda Bush.
Santiago Covarrubias / Sun-Times file

Illinois law did not prohibit candidates or elected officials from using funds in their campaign coffers for this or for the care of another dependent family member, but the changes provided for in the new law clearly indicate that these are approved expenditures.

This is something that Bush has firsthand experience with.

“I can tell you that I was not a candidate for my riding board until my son grew up,” Bush said. “I had been on the board of directors of my village when my child was very young, and I felt that I did not have the capacity to run for a higher position. So I hope this will give women – single women, women of color – who are much more affected the opportunity to run for office. “

“Hopefully this will bring us to a place where women are at least 50% – [or] 51% – of the representation. “

In the Illinois legislature, women legislators make up about 39% of the House and 42% of the Senate. In Congress, women make up 27% of all members, according to the Pew Research Center found.

Groups that keep a close eye on money in politics welcome change.

Alisa Kaplan, executive director of the Reform for Illinois campaign fundraising watchdog, said allowing payment of child care or babysitting costs from political funds was “the no brainer” that could help to elected officials to come from “all walks of life” and better. “Reflect the people they serve”.

While Bush and the advocacy groups she has worked with, such as Vote Mama, hope the clarity will lead to more female candidates, men can also pay for child care costs from their campaign funds.

Alexandra Eidenberg, president of Vote Mama, said it was important, even though her organization is focused on helping women with young children get elected and stay in office.

“I think it’s really important that men also have the option to use the funds. … I also think we would see more fathers with young children serving in middle class families, ”Eidenberg said. “If we see everyday families serving, this element of child care is essential and most of these people do not have the opportunity to quit their day jobs to run for office. “

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama takes the stage with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia, second from right, and Sasha, second from left, on the last day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama takes the stage with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia, second from right, and Sasha, second from left, on the last day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
AP Photo / The Dallas Morning News, Vernon Bryant

Illinois is the 12th state to pass legislation allowing the use of campaign funds for child care, said Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder and CEO of the Vote Mama Foundation.

Shirley, who ran for Congress in 2018, said that while her mother would help watch her two children who were one and three at the time, Shirley often had her children by her side – and strapped to her chest. – during the electoral campaign.

She asked the Federal Election Commission to be able to use her campaign funds for child care, and after that request was approved, others followed in her footsteps.

Since the FEC’s decision in 2018, 51 federal candidates on both sides of the aisle have used campaign funds for child care.

Vote leader Mama hopes Illinois law and other similar policies or bills across the country “will completely change the political landscape.”

Next, Democratic Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez watches election returns with her family in their hotel suite in 2008. Children left to right are Luis 9 and 11-year-old twins Monica and Alicia.  Her husband, Dr James Gomez, is on the far right.

Next, Democratic Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez watches election returns with her family in their hotel suite in 2008. Children left to right are Luis 9 and 11-year-old twins Monica and Alicia. Her husband, Dr James Gomez, is on the far right.
Richard A. Chapman / Sun-Times File

“This will ensure that no woman – or man – will have to weigh the cost of childcare when she chooses to show up,” Shirley said. “Moms with young children, when they run for office, are the ones fighting for things like reproductive rights legislation, for health care education to make sure our children get the resources. and the support they need. “

As for politicians who abuse or abuse the new law, Bush said “there is the same remedy for this as for anything”.

Instead, supporters of the measure expect it to change the way government looks and works, for the better.

“I think it’s really important to note that when mothers are in power, they see through many lenses and are some of the hardest working lawmakers,” Eidenberg said. “I hope to see more moms and dads running [because of] this legislation and in particular to see more forward-thinking moms drafting, creating and adopting legislation that supports all of our communities.


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