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Legislation Would Ensure Campaign Funds Could Pay For Child Care

Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Melinda Bush
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
State Sen. Melinda Bush, right, is pictured in this file photo from 2019.

Illinois politicians would be allowed to use campaign money to pay for child care under legislation being considered in the General Assembly.

The proposal would apply to candidates, officeholders, campaign staff, and volunteers, and would allow campaign money to be spent on child care, as long as the care is necessary for the official to do political, governmental or public policy work.

The legislation came out of the Anti-Harassment, Equality, and Access Panel, which was formed in the wake of #MeToo revelations in and around Illinois government.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, a Democrat from Grayslake, said people told the panel that childcare expenses were preventing them from getting involved in politics.

“Women didn’t run for office many times because they have childcare expenses and were not able to cover those expenses,” Bush said when the measure was debated in the Senate late last month.

“I’d like to make it clear, though, that we believe this is currently allowed under existing law, and this is a clarification,” she added.

Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said there's never been a complaint about the practice. He said when candidates have asked about this, they’ve been told using campaign money for childcare is OK, citing a law that lets officeholders cover “customary and reasonable expenses.”

Two years ago, the Federal Election Commission approved using campaign money for child care by Congressional candidates.

The legislation is Senate Bill 33. It passed the Illinois Senate on a vote of 46-0 and is awaiting consideration in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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