The State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled Wednesday that childcare is not a permissible expense for which a candidate can spend campaign funds.
The decision ended months of discussion and debate on the topic that began with a candidate running for a Fairfield House district who inquired about using her Citizens Election Program grant funds to pay for someone to watch her then 3-year old daughter.
"With a no answer today I think it's a pretty big blow to women and to parents and to families in general,” said Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, who lost her bid as a Democrat to win a Fairfield House seat. Clarkson Pereira argued unsuccessfully that expenses for childcare allowed her more time to engage in activities in her role as a candidate.
She added, “Maybe that it's not a priority for us to be running for office even though we claim that's what's really important to us."
The commission, which consists of five men, ruled unanimously in an eight-page decision that candidates using the Citizens Election Program could not use the program to pay for childcare expenses.
In its ruling, the Commission wrote, The regulations that come into play once a campaign has been approved for a grant state that all expenditures must "directly further" the candidate's campaign and "even if' personal items are used for campaign related purposes, costs for personal support or expenses may not be paid out of grant monies.”
However, the SEEC panel left open the possibility that self-funding candidates, or candidates raising money through private donations and not through the CEP, are free to use their campaign funds for childcare purposes. The ruling also allows for a candidate to use the money they have raised in order to qualify for a grant to pay for childcare.
The commission advised that the Connecticut General Assembly take up the issue.
That will have to wait, because there does not appear to be a measure where this change could be added.
In a statement, Gov. Ned Lamont responded to the ruling saying, “We should be doing more to encourage women to run for office, and that is why I am urging the General Assembly to fix this wrong. Send me legislation clearly stating that childcare is a permitted campaign expenditure, and I will sign it into law.”