A Connecticut mom who lost her 2018 General Assembly bid is appealing the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s decision to deny child care expenditures by publicly financed candidates.
Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, a Fairfield Democrat who has gained national attention from her 10-month crusade on the issue, filed the action Friday in Superior Court in Bridgeport.
It comes six weeks after the all-male commission rejected her plea to make allowances for candidates participating in Connecticut’s clean elections program to use public election grants on child care.
“The choice between making a difference by being there for bedtime or making a difference by way of the ballot box is one of the thorniest choices a loving parent considering a run for office can make,” the appeal said. “The expression ‘it takes a village’ stems from the reality that even the most devoted parents have a crucial and ongoing need for a robust and thriving support network. Allowing campaigns to cover reasonable childcare expenses is therefore necessary for political campaigns to be a viable form of civic participation for parents with young children.”
The commission told Clarkson Pereira last month she would have to get the state’s clean elections law changed to allow for the use of public funds on child care.
“The declaratory ruling makes clear that the commission was simply following the statutes and the regulations that were adopted by the legislature, and which were established to protect the public fisc and Connecticut’s wonderfully successful public financing program," Michael Brandi, the commission’s executive director and general counsel, said Friday. "And, as it stated, the commission and its staff are committed to working with the legislature, if it should choose, to craft the best possible solution for the people of Connecticut. The commission is receptive to the policy concerns expressed by Ms. Pereira, and the laudable goal of increasing the opportunities for parents of young children to more easily participate in state elections.”
Candidates can use privately raised political contributions for child care, the commission ruled at the time.
The earliest the legislature would be able to take up the issue would likely be next year because no related bills have been submitted during the current session, which ends June 5 and has been dominated by fights over the state budget and electronic highway tolls.
Clarkson Pereira asked for guidance from the commission last summer about whether she could use campaign funds to pay for a babysitter for her 3-year-old daughter, Parker.
It’s part of a national debate whether child care expenses incurred by candidates can be paid for out of political coffers.
A number of prominent women in politics have showed solidarity with Clarkson Pereira, from Hillary Clinton tweeting her support last month to Clarkson Pereira getting phone calls from Liuba Grechen Shirley, the 2018 congressional candidate from Long Island who successfully petitioned the Federal Election Commission to use private contributions for child care expenses. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz also tried to lobby the commission, submitting a letter to the panel.
Clarkson Pereira received $28,150 from the voluntary Citizens’ Election Program for her challenge of Republican state Rep. Brenda Kupchick. To qualify, she had to raise $5,100 from individual contributors in increments of no more than $250. She said she limited contributions to $100 per person.
Neil Vigdor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org