June 24, 2022

Massachusetts bill allowing political candidates to use campaign funds for child care would align state with 17 states

If Massachusetts residents seek political office, they are alone in raising funds for child care while they knock on doors or attend debates. Some lawmakers hope to change that by aligning state campaign finance laws with those of 17 other states.

“I wouldn’t be here today if, when I was a candidate for the school committee for the first time, many years ago, a friend had not volunteered to take care of our children then. that I knocked twice on every door in my neighborhood, “said Senator Pat. Jehlen, D-Somerville, who tabled the Senate version of the bill. “Child care was as much a necessary part of my campaign, maybe more, than literature or direct mail. “

Seventeen States including New Hampshire, New York and New Jersey allow campaigning parents to use political contributions to pay for child care, but Massachusetts currently considers this a personal expense.

State Representative Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge, who tabled the House version of the bill, noted during an Election Laws Committee hearing that candidates could rent tuxedos for their nomination papers with dollars from campaign finance, for example, but still can’t use those same funds for child care expenses.

Connolly, who was inspired to introduce the bill by a voter and mother who wanted to run for school committee, called the legislation “a way to open up our political process to make it more accessible to people who are raising young children, ”he said. . “While the provisions of this bill would apply to parents of all genders, we know that parental care is disproportionately borne by mothers. “

Amanda Linehan, who is serving her first term on Malden City Council, called for a campaign while raising a 5-year-old at the time “one of the most difficult things I have ever done,” said she declared.

Although she said that her spouse, who also has a demanding work schedule, was able to take on the burden of finding and paying for childcare, she has already seen other potential applicants reluctant to go. run for office because of their own childcare issues. She added that many voters outside her district come to her with concerns only because they share her identity as a working mother of young children.

One to study published earlier this year found that 51 federal candidates have used campaign fundraising funds to pay for child care during elections since 2018, when the Federal Election Commission first authorized the practice. Almost 25% of funds were spent by male candidates, including sole presidential candidate Eric Swalwell of California, and 45% was spent by candidates of color, including Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. In 2020, 30% of funds spent were by Republican candidates.

Another bill discussed at the hearing would limit political spending by foreign-influenced firms. This would include rideshare companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, which are working to pass a voting measure in the state that would classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.