The Federal Election Commission on Thursday approved a New York congressional candidate’s request to use federal campaign funds to cover the childcare expenses for her two children incurred while she is campaigning.
Appearing before the FEC with her 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, Liuba Grechen Shirley, a New York Democrat, requested the $22-per-hour childcare expenses she incurred as a result of joining the race for the 2nd Congressional District seat be covered by campaign dollars.
The FEC swiftly approved a draft of a subject advisory opinion that concluded the expenses for Grechen Shirley wouldn’t exist had she not sought office.
FEC Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub said that although there have been previous requests regarding childcare expenses, Grechen Shirley is the first female candidate to petition on the matter.
“I have a long track record of being very concerned with personal use issues but the request that you’ve made is tailored,” Weintraub said during the open meeting on Thursday. “We’re not creating a wholesale carve out for childcare. You still can’t use campaign funds for babysitting on date night, but to the extent that you need it and other candidates similarly situated in order to facilitate their campaign work, this answer, should we approve it, would allow campaign funds to be used for those expenses.”
Weintraub said Grechen Shirley’s request yielded letters of support from “26 members of Congress, a former presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton), two advocacy groups, and a law professor.”
Speaking with reporters following the decision, Grechen Shirley said the decision is an “important first step.”
“We’re missing a very critical voice in Congress,” she said. “When you’re in the thick of things with young children, you have a different perspective and we need that perspective in Congress.”
Grechen Shirley faces another Democrat, DuWayne Gregory, and Republican incumbent Peter King for the 2nd District seat. Gregory’s campaign opposed Grechen Shirley’s request to the FEC, arguing that using campaign funds for childcare would desensitize her to voters’ financial pressures. She said she thought his stance was “disappointing.”
“I’ve been told by a number of women recently that they’ve been inspired to run,” Grechen Shirley said between paces with her son and daughter outside the meeting room. “People are realizing you can do it with small children and I – They were my biggest hesitation to run, because I didn’t know if I could manage a schedule with – I mean they’re 2 and 3 years old.”
Grechen Shirley now faces a Democratic primary election on June 26.
This story has been updated to accurately state the name of the Federal Election Commission.