Liuba Grechen Shirley, a New York Congressional Candidate, Can Use Campaign Funds To Pay For Babysitter, FEC Rules

Candidates for office can use campaign funds to pay for child care in certain cases, the Federal Election Commission ruled on Thursday.

The decision comes from a case brought to the FEC by first-time congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, a Long Island Democrat. She had petitioned the FEC for permission to pay her babysitter out of money donated to her campaign.

Prior to running for office, Grechen Shirley was the full-time caregiver for her two small children, a 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. She worked as a part-time consultant for nonprofit groups, but only during their naps and after bedtime.

“I had no intention of running for office,” she said. When neighbors starting urging her to run, she said, “I really didn’t think that I could, with two babies.”

But in October, she declared herself a candidate. She made phone calls to prospective donors each day while walking her son in his stroller, hoping he would fall asleep, she said. Within two months, she said, she had raised $126,000 and started hiring campaign staff.

As the campaign wore on, it became apparent that she wouldn’t be able to work around her children’s sleep schedules. At the beginning of March, she hired a babysitter to join her campaign staff. In her petition to the FEC, Grechen Shirley argued that she needed a sitter only for her bid for office. Therefore, the payment constituted a campaign expense.

Women’s advocates got behind her, including Hillary Clinton, who wrote a letter to the FEC on Grechen Shirley’s behalf.

“Denying Ms. Shirley’s request,” the letter said, “would . . . discourage young mothers from seeking elective office, and deprive parents of ordinary means of the opportunity to serve. . . . For young mothers like her, the ability to seek office hinges on access to child care.”

On Thursday, the commission ruled 4 to 0 in Grechen Shirley’s favor.

“I’m thrilled. It’s a game-changer,” Grechen Shirley, 36, said shortly after the decision was announced. “I hope that this ruling today inspires more women to step up and run for office.”

Grechen Shirley will compete in the New York primary on June 26. As a candidate, she has raised $326,575 so far, according to her latest FEC filing. She employs a campaign manager, a financial director, financial assistant, three field organizers, a number of consultants – and a babysitter.

“She’s an integral member of the team, just as important as the campaign manager and the finance director,” Grechen Shirley said of her 17-hour-a-week babysitter.

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Elana Alipingwomen