The New Hampshire Senate is considering a bill that would allow state candidates to spend campaign funds on childcare if it is needed during campaign activities.
The bill, HB 651, already passed the House of Representatives.
Current law on child care and campaigning
Under current New Hampshire law, candidates may use campaign funds “for the purpose of promoting the success or defeat of a candidate or candidates or measure or measures.” The law does not allow candidates to spend campaign funds on “expenses for personal travel and subsistence.”
In practice, this means candidates can spend campaign funds on flyers, signs, campaign employees, special events, and so on. However, they may not spend campaign funds on groceries, home heating bills, student loans, etc.
Last year, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled that candidates for federal office may spend campaign funds on childcare while campaigning. However, if a candidate would be spending money on a babysitter or daycare already, they cannot use campaign funds.
Officials in some states, such as Alabama and Texas, followed the FEC ruling by granting state candidates the same opportunity to use campaign funds for childcare.
Opening the door for parents to serve?
Supporters of HB 651, the New Hampshire bill to allow childcare expenses, argue that childcare is a huge barrier for parents who wish to run for office. By allowing campaign funds to be spent on child care, New Hampshire would open the door to more young and middle-aged adults who want to participate in politics.
This is particularly valuable in New Hampshire, where legislators are much older than in other states, on average.
New Hampshire also struggles to find enough candidates for the state legislature. About one-fifth of seats are uncontested each election year.
Is childcare a personal expense?
Opponents of HB 651 argue that there is no reason why one personal expense – childcare – should be exempt from the laws on campaign finance. For example, what about candidates taking care of elderly parents who may need to pay for a caretaker?
Other opponents point out that most voters who require childcare manage to pay for it without financial help, and there’s no reason why candidates should get special treatment.