Georgia State Legislator Requests Expanded Salary Options for Federal Candidates

By: Steve Roberts and Amber Hulse

Georgia State Senator Nabilah Islam (D- Lawrenceville) ran for Congress in 2020. During her campaign, she claimed she had to cancel her health insurance, put her student loans in forbearance, and could barely pay rent and utilities. From her experience, she is now petitioning the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to revise their rules on candidates being able to draw a salary and pay for health insurance while running for office.

Through a notice of proposed rulemaking, the FEC recently proposed several options regarding the rules around candidate salaries. Among the alternatives are proposals to extend the date of compensation to 180 days before the election, permit salary caps based on the federal minimum wage, permit salaries based on the salary of the office the candidate is running for, or a $15-an-hour wage (adjusted for inflation), as well as allowances for candidates to pay for healthcare.

Currently, candidates can draw a salary from their campaign based on the lesser of the minimum salary of the office they are running for or their annual salary from the year prior. If a candidate made no money the year prior — they were a full-time caregiver, for example — they would still have zero salary for the year they run. In states that conduct primaries, candidates can only draw a salary starting on the filing deadline date for access to the primary election ballot. Since state law sets these qualification deadlines, the amount of time a candidate can draw a salary also varies widely and does not necessarily reflect the investment of time prior to that qualification deadline.

These changes will only apply to federal offices, not state races. Any variance among the states on candidate salaries and healthcare regulations will still apply regardless of the FEC changes.