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house Bill H.R. 1623

Should Non-Incumbent Candidates for Federal Office be Able to Use Campaign Funds for Healthcare Premiums & Childcare?

Argument in favor

At present, simple economics make it hard for candidates who aren’t independently wealthy, or who don’t have access to healthcare coverage and childcare support from a spouse or others in their lives, to run for public office. Allowing non-incumbent federal candidates to use campaign funds for these necessary expenses will enable more middle-class and female candidates to run for federal office, bringing both gender and economic diversity to Congress.

burrkitty's Opinion
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09/26/2019
Breaking the grip of the privileged in power is a good thing. This is a fairly small thing that will help level the playing field for women, so go for it! We could use more women in Congress.
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Robert's Opinion
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09/26/2019
Good argument for universal health care.
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09/26/2019
We need more candidates drawn from the broader US population so that our Congress and Senate can begin to reflect the actual population of our country. Encouraging regular citizens to run for office should be a priority! Many of the candidates that would best represent the currently underrepresented communities of color do not have the funds to run effectively without compensation of some sort to cover vital expenses that their families need. If we want broader representation, we must find ways to support the ability of these Americans to run. I urge you to vote in favor of this bill.
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Argument opposed

Many candidates who are incurring childcare expenses while they run for public office would have incurred those expenses in any case. It’s unfair to campaign donors — who expect their contributions to be spent on bolstering their chosen candidate’s odds of success — to spend their contributions on the candidate’s personal life, rather than campaign expenditures that raise the candidate’s odds of winning.

Robert's Opinion
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09/26/2019
No, campaign funds are just that to be used to pay for expenses to seek a political office. This is a slippery slope, once an exemption is given, then there will be another and before you know it campaign funds will be used for everything except to support the campaign. This is just another way for those in political office to use the generosity of donors to line their pockets. It’s amazing how many politicians leave office as millionaires after entering office with very little money.
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Jeffrey's Opinion
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09/26/2019
Campaign funds are for just that, the campaign. All other prior expenses should be paid for as they were before they started running for office.
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Ellen's Opinion
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09/26/2019
No. Deal with the high cost of healthcare like the rest of us. Assholes for even asking
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
    IntroducedMarch 7th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1623?

This bill — the Help America Run Act — would allow candidates for elected federal office who don’t currently hold a federal office to count their health care premiums (but not deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs) and paid care for qualifying dependents (such as childcare, elder care, and similar services for a dependent who is a qualifying relative) as campaign spending. This would allow non-incumbent candidates to use campaign funds to cover these expenses (incumbents wouldn’t be allowed to access the benefits of this bill). 

Any funds used to pay healthcare or childcare expenses would be taken out of the salary that’s given to the candidate by the campaign.

Impact

Non-incumbent candidates for federal office; campaign spending by non-incumbent candidates for federal office; and campaign finance law.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1623

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Katie Porter (D-CA) — the first single mother with young children to serve in Congress — introduced this bill to allow campaign funds to go towards childcare, thereby making it easier for working parents to run for elected office: 

“As a single working mom of three young kids, I know firsthand about the barriers that stop many Americans from serving their country in public office. Most Americans my age are working parents—including many in the 45th District—but there are few of us with a seat at the table when it comes to writing legislation to make life easier for working families. My bill would clarify that campaign funds can be spent on childcare and enable more working parents to make the jump into public service.”

In a CNN interview with Van Jones, Rep. Porter explained why this bill is needed to make Congress more economically diverse. In response to Jones’ observation that she, as a single mother, is “almost like an economic minority in the House” despite being a tenured professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, Rep. Porter observed that it would be incredibly difficult for the average working person to run for, and then transition to life in, Congress: 

“I think this is one of the most surprising things for me is, I think I understood I was being elected to a position of privilege and of power and responsibility. I think I didn’t understand the extent to which Congress is kind of set up for — and run by — the wealthy. And I’m certainly not at the bottom of the economic spectrum, I have a good job as a professor… But some of the things that I’m told really reveal what a privileged institution it is. When I was looking for a district office, I said well, you know, how do I pay a security deposit? They said we don’t provide funds for a security deposit. And they said use your ‘personal funds.’ And so, like the healthcare, we start the job January 3, our health care as members doesn’t start until February 1st. So, I said well how do my children and I have insurance — as I’m ethically prohibited from working in another job — how do my kids and I have health insurance in that period? They said go on your husband’s. And I said I don’t have a husband. And then the answer again was ‘personal funds.’... I have a bill I’m excited about, that I believe is going to have bipartisan support, called the Help America Run Act. And what it does is allow candidates to use campaign donations to pay for health insurance premiums and childcare costs, so we can continue to diversify the voices representing the diversity of the American people.”

In remarks on the House floor on March 7, 2019, Rep. Porter noted that grueling campaign schedules require women candidates with young children to have childcare assistance. She argued that it made sense for childcare to be an allowable campaign expenditure given this calculus: 

“When I ran for Congress last year, I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on childcare. Running for Federal office requires 60- to 90-hour workweeks, and I worked every single day, including every single weekend. I also worked challenging hours, normally starting my day at 6:45 a.m. and ending with campaign events stretching late into the evenings. I juggled dozens and dozens of childcare providers for nearly 2 years, without whom I would never have made it to Congress… [U]ntil this year, women's representation in Congress was less than 20 percent. With the election of my historic class, we hit 23.4 percent--102 women… [T]hat number is still very low. There are even fewer moms in Congress and even fewer single moms, as in nobody but me. A major barrier to women running for elected office is their inability to afford the amount or type of childcare needed in a campaign. That is why I worked to include language in H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and introduced an identical standalone bill, the Help America Run Act. It explicitly allows candidates for Federal office to use campaign contributions to pay for childcare.”

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law supports this bill. The Director of its Democracy Program, Wendy R. Weiser, says, “Giving non-wealthy candidates more ways to make ends meet so they can run for office is another step towards truly representative government, one that we strongly support.”

Dr. Nicholas Carnes, Creed C. Black Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University, supports this bill as a “novel” piece of legislation to help make Congress more diverse:

“I have spent the last decade using quantitative data to study the obstacles that discourage middle- and working-class Americans from running for elected political office. The Help America Run Act would send a powerful message to working Americans. The legislation is truly novel; it would be the first federal legislation in American history to acknowledge the existence of an economic gap between members of Congress and the people they represent.”

This legislation doesn’t have any cosponsors.Rep. Porter introduced this legislation as an amendment to H.R.1, the For the People Act.


Of NoteCurrent federal law doesn’t expressly address whether it’s allowable to use campaign funds for childcare payments. Generally, under the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act, child care, elder care and health insurance costs while campaigning fall under a ban on using campaign funds for “personal use.” 

Consequently, candidates who want definitive guidance need to individually appeal to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for an advisory opinion. While the FEC can waive the personal use rule on a case-by-case basis to allow campaign funds’ use for childcare costs, Dr. Carnes notes that “the appeals process is difficult (a recent review by the House Administration Committee found that only two candidates have succeeded)” and requires candidates to prove that they wouldn’t have incurred the childcare expenses had they not run for public office. 


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Mukhina1)

AKA

Help America Run Act

Official Title

Help America Run Act

    Breaking the grip of the privileged in power is a good thing. This is a fairly small thing that will help level the playing field for women, so go for it! We could use more women in Congress.
    Like (23)
    Follow
    Share
    No, campaign funds are just that to be used to pay for expenses to seek a political office. This is a slippery slope, once an exemption is given, then there will be another and before you know it campaign funds will be used for everything except to support the campaign. This is just another way for those in political office to use the generosity of donors to line their pockets. It’s amazing how many politicians leave office as millionaires after entering office with very little money.
    Like (18)
    Follow
    Share
    Good argument for universal health care.
    Like (15)
    Follow
    Share
    I am for campaign reform to get the big money out of politics. Child care is a major expense so I support this bill. Hopefully this will help people run for office because we need to have people who are faced with the everyday problems and understand what in the system needs to change.
    Like (13)
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    Share
    We need more candidates drawn from the broader US population so that our Congress and Senate can begin to reflect the actual population of our country. Encouraging regular citizens to run for office should be a priority! Many of the candidates that would best represent the currently underrepresented communities of color do not have the funds to run effectively without compensation of some sort to cover vital expenses that their families need. If we want broader representation, we must find ways to support the ability of these Americans to run. I urge you to vote in favor of this bill.
    Like (13)
    Follow
    Share
    Abuse your donors much?
    Like (12)
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    Campaign funds are for just that, the campaign. All other prior expenses should be paid for as they were before they started running for office.
    Like (8)
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    I think that "bolstering the candidate's chance for success" should definitely include giving them the freedom to stay on the campaign trail and provide for their families. If donors don't want their money to be spent on healthcare, childcare, and other necessary needs of the candidate's family, then they shouldn't donate to a candidate. It can't all be commercials and rallies; you need to be able to live and stay healthy while campaigning. We need more diverse candidates who aren't wealthy white men to be able to run for offices at all levels, and this will hopefully help open up that field.
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    No. Deal with the high cost of healthcare like the rest of us. Assholes for even asking
    Like (5)
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    We don’t elect them to live as a privileged class
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    Hell no don’t they steal enough. Get treated differently than Joe Q Public
    Like (4)
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    Nope - people would abuse this. They could run for office with a “go fund me campaign” with no intention of campaigning and use the funds for their healthcare. - this will result in more corruption.
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    The stated purpose of campaign funds Is for the campaign This should appear obvious to most people The misappropriation of these fund should not be allowed to happen Especially without prior disclosure To donors
    Like (3)
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    Hell no. Period.
    Like (3)
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    They need to pay for healthcare and childcare like everyone else
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    You get enough perks and most of you are millionaires anyway. How about all those campaign funds either get reimbursed or put forward into the National Deficit you keep adding to!!!
    Like (3)
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    Let’s try to level the playing field. Why shouldn’t candidates have the same support as the incumbent.
    Like (3)
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    No, why does someone deserve special privileges. For that matter it would be appropriate for all of Congress to have the same healthcare options all Americans are subject to. I DO NOT advocate for Medicare for all or ANY socialized healthcare. This is a privilege bill and stinks!
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    In many ways Congress has become a “good old boys” club for wealthy white males. Some males of color have made it in, but women (both white and of color) are limited. If Congress is to truly reflect and represent the diversity of the American people this bill facilitates a step in that direction.
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    Campaign funds should be used for campaigns. This corruption has got to stop!
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