Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified in support of legislation that would allow political candidates and elected officials to use campaign funds to pay for child care. (Michigan House TV screenshot)

LANSING — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is backing a new plan that would allow Michigan political candidates and elected officials like herself to use donated campaign funds to pay for child care and other caregiving expenses. 

This story also appeared in Bridge Michigan

Doing so would ensure “parents are able to both take care of our kids and run for public office,” the second-term Democrat said Tuesday in testimony before the Michigan House Elections Committee. 

“As you all know, running for office presents unique challenges when you’re a parent of a small child,” Benson told state lawmakers. “And while I loved bringing my son with me to various campaign events last year, it also takes a toll.”

House Bill 4413, sponsored by Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, would amend state campaign finance laws to allow spending on caregiving expenses that directly result from campaign activities or carrying out the business of elected office.

Those caregiving expenses could include direct care, protection or supervision of a child or an adult with a medical disability or medical condition. 

Campaign donations could not be used to pay a family member of the candidate or elected official unless that relative owns or operates a professional daycare or babysitting service and charges their usual rates. 

The Michigan proposal follows 2018 and 2019 rulings by the Federal Election Commission that already allow congressional and U.S. Senate candidates to spend campaign funds on childcare. 

The new legislation would extend similar rules to candidates for the Michigan House and Senate, governor, secretary of state, attorney general and other state-level offices. It would also allow elected officials in Michigan to use campaign funds for additional caregiving expenses while in office. 

As of last year, 26 states allowed campaign funds to be used for caregiving expenses, according to an analysis by the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency. Michigan doesn’t strictly prohibit the practice, but writing the allowance into law would make it “clear and explicit,” Benson said. 

The House Elections Committee did not vote on the bill Tuesday. Several Democrats on the panel voiced support for the legislation while some Republicans voiced concerns. 

Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Martin, said that as a mother of three she understands the “challenge” of running for office but asked,  “Where do we draw the line with what’s acceptable for campaign expenses if we start with this?”

State Rep. Jay DeBoyer, R-Clay Township, questioned why politicians should get a “carve out” while other Michiganders still have to pay for child care. He noted an auto mechanic would not get any relief from the legislation.

But Hood, the sponsoring lawmaker, said the legislation would benefit auto mechanics too if they decided to run for public office in Michigan. 

Allowing campaign funds to be used for caregiving expenses would  “reduce barriers” for “every day wage earners” and “working-class people who are raising families and trying to make their communities better,” Hood said. 

State Rep. Dylan Wegela, D-Garden City, agreed.

“I believe the reason some of our institutions are not working for the working class is because there are not working-class representatives in office,” Wegela said. “I think this bill allows us to start to change that.”

The legislation remains before the House Elections Committee, which could vote on the proposal at a future meeting to move it to the floor for consideration by the full House of Representatives. 

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1 Comment

  1. Come on ….these officials chose the career. Those in careers outside of politics have to figure out how to manage, what makes a politician any different. If they need taxpayer money to handle their childcare then perhaps they are not sharp enough to hold the position and should look for another occupation.

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