Swalwell Seeks to Use Campaign Funds for Child Care
WASHINGTON — Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., has asked the Federal Election Commission for clarification on its rules regarding the use of campaign funds to pay for child care expenses incurred by a candidate.
Swalwell, who currently represents California’s 15th Congressional District, is seeking reelection this year in the 14th Congressional District as a result of changes in the state’s district maps due to redistricting.
The Alameda County Democrat and his wife Brittany have three young children, all still in diapers, and both he and his wife work full time.
In a letter to the FEC dated May 26, Rebecca Olson, counsel to Swalwell for Congress, notes that as part of his duties as a member of Congress, a candidate for reelection and prolific fundraiser for other Democratic candidates, Swalwell is often expected to travel and be away from home, including overnight.
At the same time, Olson says, Swalwell serves as co-chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which means his duties also include devoting time to getting more Democrats elected to Congress.
“Pursuant to prior advisory opinions [from the FEC board], Swalwell often pays for child care for the times he is conducting his own campaign activities locally, using campaign funds when his wife is unable to care for the children in his absence.”
“Additionally, because of his status as a well-known member of Congress, he gets many invitations, including invitations from foreign governments for information gathering visits,” Olson’s letter continues.
These invitations require him — and sometimes his wife — to be away from home for multiple days. In such cases, Olson says, the family has enlisted the support of a night nanny.
Swalwell and his attorney are asking the FEC board to answer two questions.
Can he use campaign funds to pay for overnight child care if he travels for campaign events for himself or others, if his wife is not available to care for the children?
He also wants to know whether Swalwell for Congress, his campaign committee, can pay for child care expenses for his children if he travels at the request of foreign governments or other entities because of his status as a member of Congress.
The FEC has previously advised candidates that child care provider expenses are permissible.
The FEC has further concluded in the past it is permissible for a candidate to use campaign funds to pay for occasional child care costs because the expenses would have resulted only from campaign activity and would not otherwise exist.
In addition, the commission has also held that campaign funds could be used for the campaign travel expenses for minor children of an officeholder even if the children may not participate in campaign events.
Olson goes on to surmise that if travel for minor children has been permitted in the past, then child care for those children who do not travel must also be permissible.
Swalwell is seeking a reaffirmation of these earlier decisions and for the FEC to conclude that campaign funds can be used for child care, including overnight child care, while he travels in response to duties of his office and re-election campaign.