Campaign Donations Can Now Cover Some Child Care, Cybersecurity Expenses

    Changing times mean a change to the types of expenses Maryland political candidates will be able to pay with campaign donations.

    The Maryland State Board of Elections issued new guidance Thursday, setting expectations for candidate expenses on child care and cybersecurity.

    With a legislature that has trended more female, more diverse and younger in recent years, Jared DeMarinis, director of the Candidacy and Campaign Finance Division, said the changes were driven by questions from candidates and members of the General Assembly.

    A year ago, in May 2018, the Federal Election Commission ruled that congressional candidates can use campaign accounts for child care expenses.

    Several states have followed suit. The Maryland guidance takes immediate effect.

    Maryland law requires campaign funds to be used solely for the purpose of supporting or opposing a candidate, question or political committee and all campaign account expenses must have a nexus with the campaign.

    Child care expenses would have to have an electoral purpose in order for them to be permissible, so a candidate could, for example, use campaign funds to hire a babysitter while attending a political fundraiser.

    “It is important to keep in mind that contributors give to campaign committees for one important reason – they want to support the committee’s candidate, question, or political party. When campaign funds are spent for a non-campaign related purpose, it frustrates the intent of the contributor,” the guidance warns.

    A similar letter offering guidance for cybersecurity expenditures also was released Thursday.

    DeMarinis said it is important for campaigns to have cybersecurity safeguards in place because would-be meddlers look for soft targets and entry points into larger political operations such as state and national parties.

    “The events of the 2016 elections underscore that foreign nationals attempted to break into campaign accounts and steal priority campaign strategies and information,” the guidance states.

    Allowable campaign expenditures for cybersecurity would include countermeasures to protect emails, storage of voter data and other campaign information. However, security for the personal accounts of a candidate would not be payable from a campaign finance account.

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.