The Oklahoma Ethics Commission will consider allowing the use of campaign funds for childcare. 

“The Commission voted to research and prepare drafts on whether, or to what extent, under the law, campaign funds may be used to pay for dependent care expenses,” said Ashley Kemp, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission Executive Director. 

Senator Jessica Garvin (R-Duncan) brought the request to the ethics commission last week. 

Garvin believes it would remove some barriers young parents face when running for city council seats, the state legislature, and other elected positions. 

“I had a friend who was running for a local position and made the comment that it's really expensive for them to pay babysitters every time they have to go knock doors or go to an event in the evening,” Garvin said. “It’s expensive, so if we could do this small thing to eliminate a barrier, I would be really happy with that.”

Garvin has been working with the Vote Mama Foundation, a  national organization that encourages women to run for office, on efforts to allow candidates in Oklahoma to use campaign funds to cover childcare costs sustained while running for office. 

According to the foundation, 29 states have already authorized the use of campaign contributions for childcare. 

Garvin is a mother of three and recalls relying on family and close friends to help with childcare while running for office. 

“There are so many barriers when entering into public service, so if we could just eliminate one of those,” Garvin said. “And just to have more diversity as far as maybe age and gender in the legislature, I think it would help with that process.”

Senator Garvin introduced legislation this year that would allow candidates to use campaign funds for dependent care costs. However, that bill did not move forward. 

“It’s my understanding that the ethics commission staff will determine if there are any legal barriers to allowing campaign contributions to be allowed for these costs,” Garvin explained. “So if they come back and let me know there is nothing they could do, and if that is the route we have to go down, then I’ll continue to push for it next legislative session.”

Kemp said the Commission will hold a public hearing to discuss the drafts once they are prepared. At least 30 days' notice of the hearing will be provided. Once a public hearing is held, the Commission will determine whether to adopt one of the prepared drafts or provide direction to staff for the next steps, which could include revising the prepared drafts or, not moving forward with issuing an advisory opinion or engaging in Rule Making.