Just Me wrote a wonderful post about the presidential candidates. Here is a post about the senate races that I already published a few days ago on the Flophouse. Re-reading it, I think I set the bar pretty low…
2012 is a major U.S. election year . In addition to the presidential race there are quite a few Senate seats up for grabs in 2012. If Americans abroad decide to vote in large numbers it is quite conceivable that they will have an impact on how some of these races shake out.
Now I would not even think of telling anyone how to vote. All I can do is tell you what is important to me and what I look for in a candidate. To that end I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take a few of these races at random and tell you what I see when I look at their websites, platforms and biographies.
As an American abroad what am I looking for in a candidate? First of all I would like to see some life experience that includes studying, traveling or living/working/serving in the military outside the U.S. If the candidate is already in Congress, I want to know if he/she a member of the Americans Abroad Caucus and how he/she voted on FATCA. For that matter, does he/she ever mention issues of direct interest to Americans abroad (taxation, voting rights, citizenship, strong interest in foreign affairs) on his/her official website(s) or even acknowledge the fact that he/she has constituents outside the U.S.? Is that website “expat friendly”. In other words, is it easy or hard for a constituent overseas to contact him/her via email or to make a contribution to his/her campaign?
I also include for each state an estimated number of expat voters from this site, the U.S. Elections Project and I used the 2010 “Overseas Eligible” numbers. No idea if this reliable but it was the only information I could find. For those who are interested in how some of the incumbents and candidates (those who are already in Congress) stood on H.R. 2847 (111th): Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (father of FATCA) you can find their voting records here.
Hawaii: Estimated number of eligible expat voters: 20,090. Here is their Factsheet for voting from abroad. What is the situation in 2012? Senator Daniel Akaka (Democrat) is retiring. Democrats appear to be divided between two candidates: Ed Case and Mazie K. Hirono. The Republican candidate is Linda Lingle.
Ed Case: Former U.S. representative from Hawaii. A quick look at his agenda shows no particular interest in issues of direct interest to Americans Abroad but he does have some experience traveling outside the U.S. In his biography he says, “Perhaps the trip that influenced me most was a low-budget six-month backpack through Asia…”
Mazie K. Hirono: A naturalized U.S. citizen (she was born in Japan). Three terms in the House of Representatives. Member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Not a member of the Americans Abroad Caucus. Official website is not “expat friendly” and does not make it easy for non-residents of Hawaii to contact her. I could not find anything on her campaign website mentioning issues of direct interest to Americans abroad. Hirono voted for FATCA.
Linda Lingle: Former governor of Hawaii. No experience abroad noted. Her website does indicate that she is interested in Asia-Pacific economic relationships and in tax reform. Like many others her “Donations” page asks for a U.S. city, state and zip code. It is possible to contact her campaign directly through email or snail mail here.
California: Estimated number of eligible expat voters: 486,207. California’s Secretary of State has this very nice, very friendly website for those voting from abroad. The incumbent senator, Diane Feinstein (Democrat), is up for re-election. Her opponent is Elizabeth Emken (Republican).
Dianne Feinstein: Her biography lists no overseas experience but she has a strong interest in foreign affairs. Her website does not reveal any particular attention to civilian Americans abroad. Her “Contact by Email” page requires that an overseas constituent select a U.S. state and give a local zip code. Feinstein voted for FATCA.
Elizabeth Emken: Her biography shows that she studied in the UK at Cambridge University. Looking at the list of issues that is interested in, most of them appear to be local. Her “Donations” page does not allow for a foreign address and the “State” field will only permit her military constituents to indicate that they are out of the country (Armed Forces Europe/Canada/Asia).
Pennsylvania: Estimated number of eligible expat voters: 203,791. For help voting from abroad there is this website for overseas civilian voters. The incumbent for this senate seat is Robert Casey (Democrat) and his opponent is Tom Smith (Republican).
Robert Casey: No overseas experience on his official biography but under his Issues and Priorities he shows a strong interest in foreign affairs and is a frequent traveler abroad: “In July, Senator Casey led a Senate delegation to the Middle East to discuss the ongoing threat posed by Iran and to review developments in the Middle East peace process. Senator Casey traveled to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and Egypt where he met with top officials. He met with U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait. In Iraq he also met with Vice President Biden and General Ray Odierno, Commander of U.S. troops.” The “Contact“ page on his website calls for a state and county but the only overseas voters that are taken into account are military (FPO/APO).
Tom Smith: No experience abroad on his biography and there is no particular attention to the interests of Americans abroad on his Issues page. His “Contributions” page only has a few options for those living outside of the U.S. (American Samoa, Virgin Islands….)
Wisconsin: Estimated number of expat voters: 33,788. The State of Wisconsin has this fine site explaining overseas voting. The incumbent in this senate race, Herbert Kohl (Democrat), is not seeking re-election and the primary is not until August. Tammy Baldwin is the candidate from the Democrat party and I count no fewer than six contenders on the Republican side so I will select two at random: Marc Neumann and Tommy Thompson.
Tammy Baldwin: Her biography reveals no overseas experience and her Issues page is almost 100% devoted to domestic concerns. She says that “fighting for Wisconsin’s middle class is her top priority.” Not clear if she would include the interest of middle-class overseas Wisconsin constituents in her fight. In the State field of her “Donations“ page an overseas voter can select some areas outside the US: AA, AE, AS (I think this is for overseas military voters) but also GU (Guam?) and PR (Puerto Rico). A bit confusing for a civilian voter from, say, Europe. Baldwin is currently serving in the House of Representatives but does not appear to be a member of the Americans Abroad Caucus. Her “Contact” page is not expat-friendly. In fact it clearly states, “Regrettably, I am unable to reply to any email from constituents outside of the district.” Baldwin voted “Yes” on FATCA.
Marc Neumann: No experience overseas on his biography and no particular attention to Americans abroad on his website. He is, however, a supporter of tax reform, “a simpler, fairer, and flatter tax system with fewer loopholes.” Not sure if this can be interpreted as something that would help Americans abroad. His “Donations” page requires a State and it’s not clear if an overseas donor would be able to complete the form with a foreign address.
Tommy Thompson: No overseas experience on his biography and I found no issues of direct interest to civilian Americans abroad anywhere on his website. He is, however, for tax reform and wants to “simplify taxes for individuals.” His “Donations” page requires a State but a voter can select AE, AP and the like if one is (I think) overseas military. Again it is not clear if a civilian voter can complete the form with a foreign address. His “Contact” page does not require an physical address – just a name and email address.
I’ll stop there. All the information above was what I was able to glean from on-line sources. It is entirely possible that the above candidates have a more complete (more nuanced) approach to their overseas constituents that they just didn’t feel compelled to share. If that is the case, I’d be delighted to hear their reasoning for hiding their light under a bushel. As always, feel free to disagree with (or correct) me if you feel that the candidates above are misrepresented. And finally if you are an American abroad who plans to vote in 2012, I would love to hear your take on the federal elections in your home state.
I take it that you are currently residing in Switzerland. May I ask which banks have not accepted your application for a mortgage. Mine current mortgage ends in January so I’ll soon start to look around also.
UncleTell, I haven’t applied anywhere yet, just inquired. So far, I’ve inquired with Raiffeisen and Coop Bank. Both banks apologized that they will not refinance mortgages for Swiss citizens who live and work in Switzerland if they are defined as the undesirable “US Persons”. HUD has not yet responded to my complaint of Housing Discrimination (of course). I’ll call them to see how much time they need to construct a response, but I’m quite confident that they will tell me to fuck off since I’m a US veteran (pardon my American). I bet that AXA has similar conditions. To inquire, one can call 043-299-1375 on Monday.
@swisspinoy, I think that sounds like one hell of an idea. If nothing else, we could document some of this stuff and make it more accessible. I think starting here is a good plan. I wonder if it would be possible to have a dedicated page here at Isaac Brock for those who are interested in voting in the 2012 election. I would love to work on that and would do so in a heartbeat but it really needs a team. (Right now I’m KO about 5 days out of every 21 day chemo cycle).
Peter and all Isaac Brock contributors/followers: what do you think?
Information about Connie Mack, running against Bill Nelson in Florida, from 2005
Presidential Panel Begins Discussing US Tax Reform Process
by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, Washington
18 February 2005
According to panel chairman Senator Connie Mack, broad options for reform will be considered, ranging from the modification of current law, a comprehensive overhaul of the existing system, or a more radical uprooting of the current structure, and its replacement with a completely redesigned system.
In order to help the panel arrive at their decisions, Mack invited both businesses and individuals to contribute to the process by detailing their own tax “headaches” and describing how business and personal decisions are distorted by tax rules.
Has some legislator’s positions against DATCA ((reporting non-resident alien’s interest back to their home countries starting Jan 2, 2013. Even FATCA cosponsor BIll Nelson is forced to side with his own state of Florida on that issue—it must have been traumatic for him.
@Mark Twain, Such hypocrisy and I don’t see how they are going to get away with it. If there is no reciprocity (reporting by U.S. banks) then there is little reason for other countries to cooperate on FATCA. How would Hollande explain to the French public that French banks have to report but U.S. banks don’t have to return the favor? It would never fly. So much is riding on DATCA but what I can’t determine from the few articles I’ve read is whether or not U.S. politicians stand a chance in hell of overturning it. Anyone here with a better idea than me of how DATCA is playing out in the U.S. ? I imagine the average citizen has no idea it’s being proposed but the banks must be really worried….
@One for the Hall of Shame. author of this Salon piece associates being against FATCA with Tea Party politics.
*@Victoria, I spoke with votesmart.org about doing something for Americans abroad. The guy there said that he’d check to see if any of the existing organizations for Americans abroad had already turned in a score sheet. So far, I haven’t heard anything.
@swisspinoy, Thanks so much for checking this out. I looked today and as you said doesn’t appear to be anything for Americans abroad. Let me know what you find out and if there is no scoresheet, perhaps we could do one. We could keep it very simple and just hit one or two issues. I think the easiest ones would simply be: for or against FATCA and for or against the ex-Patriot Act. Then we could pass around the link (Just Me could help us here).
@swisspinoy, I just checked out your blog. Very nice and you have some really good posts. Would you mind if did a piece about it and linked to your site on the Flophouse? Some of your letters are just outstanding….
*Sure, thanks. I simply use the blog to document things so that I don’t forget about them. 🙂
I just finished preparing my ballot for the primary and I’m about to send it off via email. I’m planning a post on my experience with King County elections (they did good and should get some kudos for it) and I will post it here as well as at the Flophouse.
It was tough making my selection. I could not help but think as I perused the platforms of the different candidates that this song by Stealers Wheel really summed up the situation nicely:
Well I don’t know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain’t right,
I’m so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I’m wondering how I’ll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you,
Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
Stuck in the middle with you.
Communicating with votesmart.org, they currently have no ratings or scorecards that focus specifically on citizens living abroad. I propose that that we have them add “Isaac Brock Society” as an interest group. We can then create scorecards and ratings on simple but important issues, as Victoria pointed out. Shall I make that request? IBS would then be the first interest group on that site to represent Americans abroad.
Oh, yes! Allons-y! (unless someone has a serious objection)