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FEC votes to let candidates use campaign cash for child care

It's a victory for Liuba Grechen Shirley, who was a full-time caregiver to her two young children before running for office.
by Jane C. Timm /

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The Federal Election Commission voted unanimously Thursday to allow candidates to use campaign dollars to cover resulting child care costs, handing a victory to a New York mom running for office with two young children.

Liuba Grechen Shirley, a Democrat running for Congress in New York's 2nd District, was a full-time caregiver for her two young children before running for office. She appealed to the FEC to allow some campaign dollars to go toward child care while she campaigns.

"The Commission concludes that the child care expenses described in your request, to the extent that such expenses are incurred as a direct result of campaign activity, would not exist irrespective of your election campaign, and thus may be permissibly paid with campaign funds," FEC Chair Caroline C. Hunter wrote in an opinion on behalf of the commission.

The FEC had been previously asked about using campaign dollars for child care costs in 2008, they noted, but they lacked the quorum necessary for the kind of precedent they set Thursday.

Grechen Shirley is one of the hundreds of women who are running or planning to run for federal office this year, and she argued that an affirmative ruling here was crucial to addressing the gender gap in Congress.

"There aren't many women who chose to run for office with small children; Congress is only 19 percent female right now and even in this incredible 'Year of the Woman,' there’s only three of us running for office with small children," Grechen Shirley told "Today" on Wednesday.

Grechen Shirley is running for the Democratic nomination in the June primary in the hope of challenging incumbent Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., in the November midterm election.

"There's a reason that more than half our representatives are millionaires. It’s very difficult for a working American to take a year or a year and a half off of your life, to forgo a salary, and work 24/7," Grechen Shirley said on "Today."

"Because of that, we’re missing a vital voice in Congress right now."

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