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Bill allowing political candidates to use campaign funds for child care would align Mass. with 17 states
Boston Herald - 9/16/2021
Sep. 16—If Massachusetts residents are seeking political office, they're on their own to find funds for child care while they're out knocking on doors or attending debates. Some legislators hope to change that — bringing the state's campaign finance laws in line with those in 17 other states.
"I would not be here today if when I was first running for school committee many, many years ago, a friend had not volunteered to take care of our children while I knocked twice on every door in my ward," said state Sen. Pat Jehlen, D-Somerville, who filed the Senate version of the bill. "Child care was as much a necessary part of my campaign, perhaps more so, than literature or mailings."
Seventeen states including New Hampshire, New York and New Jersey allow parents on the campaign trail to use political contributions to pay for child care, but Massachusetts currently considers it a personal expense.
State Rep. Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge, who filed the House version of the bill, noted in an Election Laws Committee hearing that candidates could rent tuxedos for their inaugurations with campaign finance dollars, for example, but still cannot use these same funds for child care expenses.
Connolly, who was inspired to file the bill by a constituent 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 provisions of this bill would apply to parents of all genders, we know that parental care is disproportionately shouldered by mothers."
Amanda Linehan, who is serving her first term on Malden'sCity Council, called running a campaign while raising a then-5-year-old "one of the most challenging things I've ever done," she said.
Although she said her spouse, who also has a demanding work schedule, was able to shoulder the load of finding and paying for child care, she's already seen other potential candidates hesitate to run for office because of their own child care concerns. She added that many constituents outside her district come to her with concerns purely because they share her identity as a working mother of young children.
One study released earlier this year found that 51 federal candidates have used campaign finance funds to pay for child care during runs for office since 2018, when the Federal Election Commission first allowed the practice. Almost 25% of the funds was spent by male candidates, including one-time presidential candidate Eric Swalwell of California, and 45% was spent by candidates of color, including Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. In 2020, 30% of the funds spent were by Republican candidates.
Another bill discussed in the hearing would limit political spending by companies with foreign influence. This would encompass rideshare companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, which are working to pass a ballot measure in the state that would classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.
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