Ohio Bill Would Let Campaign Funds Pay for Childcare


Tina Maharath is a single mom who, like other single moms, balances her time between her job as an Ohio state senator (D-3) and being a parent. After attending a conference on women in government, she learned that other states have allowed campaign funds to pay for childcare.

Currently, in Ohio, childcare costs are considered a personal expense when it comes to campaigns for public office.

“One of the women I talked to was from Connecticut,” Maharath said. “She used her campaign funds for childcare and it was denied as a personal expense. But in Arkansas, it is allowed. Even the federal level is doing it. Why shouldn’t we do it on a state level?”

She used language from Arkansas, which changes childcare costs from a personal to a campaign expense, and introduced Senate Bill 211.

“Being a single parent, I understand the struggles of finding resources outside of what is given to us to do the job,” she added.

The proposed bill amends campaign finance laws to say that the “cost of childcare is considered an ordinary and necessary expense” while a candidate or elected official is engaging in certain activities and duties, “so long as the cost is incurred only as a direct result” of those allowed activities and duties. It also says the childcare costs “would not otherwise be incurred.”

For example, when a candidate or elected official has to hire a babysitter in order to attend a local candidate or political forum in the evening, the campaign funds can pay the babysitter. The new provision would apply to all candidates. However, it would not allow family members to be paid for the service.

Maharath believes this new language will have a positive impact on the number of people seeking elective office in the state.

“It will most certainly encourage more people to run for office, whether mother or father,” she said. “It will attract those who are politically interested as opposed to people who are in here for a career – those who look like (voters) and act like them, as opposed to those who are a political machine.”

She also believes donors will approve of the change.

“This will be more than welcome for donors who understand a life of parenting,” Maharath said. “There are a lot of duties and I think donors will be comfortable knowing the funds will help the candidate and the elected official.”

Maharath is “most certainly” expecting opposition to the bill.

“Being a single parent, I know that not everyone has the luxury of childcare or babysitters,” she explained. “Even after (other legislators) understand the bill, I think it will be a battle. Most of these colleagues have never experienced these types of situations. Most of them still believe in the two-parent home and stay-at-home mom. But times have changed. It’s not 1950 anymore.”

But she does expect more support from women than men and notes that her co-sponsor, Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-23) was a single parent.

“They understand the struggles we have to face – between being a mother and being a working mother,” Maharath said.

Should the bill become law, the childcare expenditures would be treated like all other allowable campaign or elected official expenses. Such expenses are filed in required reports with the Secretary of State’s office. Alleged violations of campaign finance law are heard by the Ohio Elections Commission.

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Maggie Leigh Thurber is a writer for The Ohio Star. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tina Maharath and son” by Tina Maharath. 





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