New ethics ruling allows campaign funds to fund Georgia candidates’ childcare

Political candidates in Georgia can now use campaign donations to pay for child care. Funds may also cover caring for elderly parents or disabled relatives.

Late last month, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted unanimously to extend campaign donation rules to include care for the elderly and dependent.

Last year, when Euriel Hemmerly was running for a seat in the Georgia State Senate, her father had to undergo open-heart surgery.

“While I was running, I drove to Kennesaw Hospital to check on my father every morning and every night,” Hemmerly told the Georgia Ethics Commission panel.

Hemmerly said she needed financial help for her father’s aftercare after surgery.

In a bipartisan effort, State Representatives Stacey Evans, D-Atlanta, and Beth Camp, R-Concord, called on the Ethics Committee to align Georgia’s campaign rules with federal regulations.

In 2018, a decision by the Federal Electoral Commission expanded allowable campaign spending to cover payments for caring for the elderly and dependent people.

“We need people from all walks of life, not just the independent wealthy running for public office,” Camp said. “People who care for aging parents, people who care for people with disabilities should be able to use those funds to fund the care of the people they are responsible for.”

Evans told commissioners that 22 states are already complying with federal regulations.

“A lot of our southern sisters are with us,” Evans told the jury. “Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas. So we are certainly not alone. This has been happening for several years.”

Commissioner Stan Wise expressed concerns about further expanding the use of campaign funds.

“Where does it end if it’s okay for the cost of care?” Wise said. “They could justify that I’m a contract seller and my family doesn’t have food because I don’t work. I am running for public office. How do you tell the difference between feeding the children and looking after them?” in the day care center?”

Joseph Cusack, deputy executive director and general counsel for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, told Wise that there is a provision in the law that prohibits candidates from converting campaign contributions into personal assets.

Evans also commented on this topic.

“However, we have no evidence that we’re aware of where people are using this or using it to replace things they would pay for anyway,” Evans said.