New ethics ruling allows campaign funds to pay for candidates' child care
Georgia candidates can now use campaign money they raise for child care. The funds can also cover care for people who have elderly parents or disabled dependents.
On June 26, Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted unanimously to expand the rules for campaign contributions to include elder and dependent care.
Last year, when Euriel Hemmerly ran as a candidate for a Georgia state Senate seat, her dad had open-heart surgery.
"While I was running (for office), I was driving to Kennesaw hospital every morning to check on my dad and every evening," Hemmerly told the Georgia Ethics Commission panel during public comments on expanding the campaign finances rules.
Hemmerly needed financial help for her dad's post-surgery care.
In a bipartisan effort, State Reps. Stacey Evans (D-Atlanta) and Beth Camp (R-Concord) asked the Ethics Commission to align Georgia's campaign regulations with federal rules.
In 2018, the Federal Election Commission ruling expanded to allow elder and dependent care payments.
"We need people from all walks of life, not just the independently wealthy running for public office," Camp said. "People who are caring for aging parents. People who are caring for people with disabilities. They should be able to use those funds to pay for the care of the people who they are responsible for."
Evans told commission members that 22 states already align with federal regulations.
"There's a lot of our Southern sisters with us," Evans told the panel. "Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas. So, we certainly are not alone. This has been taking place over a number of years."
Commission member Stan Wise expressed concern about continuing to expand the use of campaign money.
"Where does it stop if it's OK for caregiving expenses?" Wise said. "You could make a justification that I'm a commissioned salesman, and my family's not eating because I'm not working. I'm running for public office. How do you differentiate the difference between feeding your kids and having them taken care of in day care?"
Joseph Cusack, Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel at Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, told Wise there is a provision in the law that prohibits candidates from converting campaign contributions into personal assets.
Evans also spoke on the issue.
"We don't have any evidence, though, that we're aware of, where people are using this or are using it to supplant things that they would pay for anyway," Evans said.