More than 50 Democrats Abroad leaders took to Capitol Hill for a two-day Congressional Door Knock following the DPCA Global Meeting in Washington, D.C.
For this year’s Door Knock, members focused on lobbying for five key DA issues:
1. Overseas voting rights to advocate for easier registration and increased rules and deadlines transparency, including support for the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act and Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).
2. A fully funded and balanced Elections Assistance Commission to support ballot requests and information for Americans residing abroad.
3. FATCA reform through support of HR 2136 - same country safe harbor bill and combined reporting for FATCA and FBAR forms.
4. A move toward Residence Based Taxation (RBT) to reduce the burden of double taxation on Americans overseas, which DA has advocated for over the past two decades.
5. State Department and Embassy funding to continue education and support programs such as USAID, American Citizen Services, and education services; that enrich the lives of citizens abroad and increase diplomatic relations in foreign countries.
DA leaders had an impactful two days both hearing from and speaking to members of the House and Senate, many of them from their home states and districts, on these issues which greatly impact on American citizens overseas. It was also an opportunity for members to personally visit with their Congressional representatives to better encourage civic engagement.
Participants capped off their trip to the Hill with a special Democrats Abroad focused episode of Democrats Live which energized everyone for the summer of resistance ahead.
Until next time!
Courtney Hagen, DAUK/Global comms team
The final day of the DPCA global meeting in Washington, D.C. began with an inspiring start with a speech from DNC Vice Chair and New York Assemblyman Michael Blake. Blake challenged DA leaders from around the world with the necessity and urgency of uniting under the party.
Reinforcing an imperative to “mobilize and organize” Blake narrowed in on the great obligation for Democrats to take part not just in Congressional or Presidential races but also in local, gubernatorial, municipal, and state races.
“When Democrats come home, resistance is successful,” said Blake. “As a Democrat abroad you are the face of hope and education for someone back home. You get information that someone might not get back home. You must provide that awareness opportunity.”
After outlining Blake called on Democrats to search for commonalities to align on values to better enfranchise citizens and voters in every state in the nation and Americans across the globe.
“We have to find the connective language that unites people beyond geography,’ said Blake. “We might have different zip codes but we all still care about education, healthcare, women’s rights, LGBT rights, diversity concerns, we just have to get to that connective value differently.”
The theme of thinking globally and acting locally was also carried through to this morning’s group discussion, featuring a panel of state Democratic party leaders, including David Pepper Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, Kathleen Matthews Chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, and Georgina Cannan the Voter Protection and Policy Director for the Virginia Democratic Party.
The panel addressed concerns on state level voting and participation, stressing a need for increased cooperation and work with and for Americans that live abroad, along with the importance of their ability to vote from overseas. Better data collection and voter identification of Americans abroad in their state parties and election commissions continues to be a critical need and bipartisan issue. Panelists pledged to look for ways to incorporate a portal in their party websites for more transparent voting information.
DA leaders also voted on the venue for the next global meeting to be held in Japan, before officially adjourning. Though the DPCA global meeting is over for another year, DA leaders will stay on in Washington for a Congressional Door Knock on Capitol Hill to advocate for Americans abroad on five key issues:
1. Strengthening overseas voting rights
2. Reforming the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA);
3. Pushing for Residence Based Taxation (RBT);
4. Maintaining and refunding the Election Assistance Commission and advocating for more publicly available recordkeeping on overseas voter participation;
5. Resisting the proposed State Department budget cuts which include funding for American Citizen Services, USAID, and educational exchanges among others.
Stay tuned for an update on our door knocking!
Courtney Hagen, DAUK/Global comms team
Democrats Abroad, the official arm of the Democratic Party outside the United States, has elected a new executive committee to oversee the successful operation of DA on a global level, as well as equipping its 43 country organizations, caucuses, and other committees with the resources and tools they need to better enfranchise Americans in their communities.
The new executive committee is as follows:
International Chair - Julia Bryan, Czech Republic
International Vice Chair - Alex Montgomery, Hong Kong
International Treasurer - Lisette Wright, Canada
International Secretary - Jeffrey Cheng, Sweden
International Counsel - Tom Schmid, Japan
Voted in at the Democratic Party Committee Abroad’s annual global meeting, held this year in Washington, D.C., the team will serve a two-year term.
Courtney Hagen, DAUK/Global comms team
Larry Cohen, DNC Unity Reform Commission and Labor Chair of Our Revolution energized Democrats Abroad leaders at the start of day three of the DPCA global meeting in Washington, D.C. Cohen spoke on the importance of building a base in progressive America, outreaching to independent voters to better enfranchise them.
Stating the rights of workers, higher education, and healthcare concerns Cohen laid out a platform of motivation. He challenged members to build up the party from a progressive and inclusive point of view.
“We should support local groups,” said Cohen. “We have potential on the local level to actually win things in big and small cities all over the country. Resistance is not enough if we don’t have a positive vision of change. How can we be heard collectively and how can we build a stronger party and win elections at the local level?”
Healthcare was also a central focus of discussion, citing support California’s SB 562 bill that would greatly reduce the role of insurance companies in providing more state funded medical care and services for citizens, Cohen cited the need for more grassroots support in states across the nation and Americans abroad in their home states for similar bills.
Following Cohen’s speech, DA leaders broke to elect the new executive committee, while global committees and caucus groups, including the Global Action Team, Tax Advocacy and Activism Committee, Fundraising, Voting Issues and Voting Rights Committee, Global IT Team, Global Volunteer Team, LGBT Caucus, Youth Caucus, Progressive Caucus, Veterans and Military Families Caucus, and Global Communications Team gave reports on their activities from 2016 and goals for 2017 and beyond.
Next up, DPCA Executive Committee elections. Stay tuned for more…
Courtney Hagen, DAUK/Global comms team
Saturday, the second day of the Democrats Abroad’s Global Convention in DC, began with a new addition to the family: DA China was officially recognized as a country committee. Although members from China have long participated in DA events they had not until now been officially recognized. After many years of hard work, this unanimous welcome to the newest member of the family was a huge victory for members in the country, and in the Asia-Pacific Region. Welcome China!
After the enthusiastic celebration, International Chair Katie Solon gave her annual report on the activities and accomplishments of Democrats Abroad. Katie spoke of our mission to resist the administration’s agenda and to encourage resistance activists to turn into voters, and then reviewed the Global Presidential Primary, our last Global Convention in Berlin, the Democratic National Convention, our various Global Town Halls with Keith Ellison, Tom Perez and George Takei among others, as well as our outreach to Democratic leaders and to our members to get out the vote.
Solon also highlighted all the various resistance efforts undertaken since the election : the Women’s March, the Science March, the NoBanNoWall action. It has been an intense and productive year for Democrats Abroad, and the next two years leading up to the 2018 election will be equally if not more engaging for our members world-wide, because, as Solon concluded, “we can act together, we must resist together, the price of democracy is participation, and there are no more sidelines to sit on.”
After Chair Solon’s annual report, the Convention was joined by freshman Congressional Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who has a special place in his heart for Democrats Abroad, since he used to be one, having been a member of DA France for many years. He told the group, to many cheers, that the most interesting, dynamic and active of the state parties isn’t even in the states, and said that he makes it his mission to raise DA’s profile with his congressional colleagues. He also contributed a protest chant for future resistance efforts : “No more Trump, No more Pence, Impeach Them for Emoluments.”
The Congressman stayed for a long while to respond to many questions about health care, voting, government oversight, the Russia investigation, and how restoring the true mission of the Democratic Party will help us win in 2018 and beyond. He concluded by saying that “Democrats Abroad is an essential and vital part of the party today.”
Much work also has also been done this weekend, notably on bylaw amendments. Fourteen resolutions and amendments were presented and discussed, with a final vote scheduled for Sunday. Amendments included proposals to expand the international excom, to adjudicate non-compliant country committees in a manner that would either bring them back into compliance or dissolve them, and to require voting members of the DPCA to carry no more than one proxy vote at international meetings in observation of the democratic principle of one person, one vote.
After the lunch break, the Convention welcomed DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The Delegate commented on the administration's agenda and the Republican Congress’s ineptitude. More important, Holmes Norton, for whom voting rights have been a key issue for decades, was also surprised to learn about the many voting rights issues for Americans abroad, and listened attentively as members spoke about these issues. She also listened attentively to Carmelan Polce of DA Singapore as she outlined the major problems of FATCA. This was a great opportunity for DA to advance understanding of some of its most important agenda items with an important voice in Congress.
After the Congresswoman’s visit, the group returned to business for the rest of the afternoon with further discussions on bylaws and resolutions as well as training sessions before adjourning til tomorrow, when the ExCom elections will take place.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) drew on her experiences living as an American abroad in speaking to the group of international Democrats Abroad leaders gathered for day one of the Democratic Party Committee Abroad (DPCA) Global meeting in Washington, D.C.
Gillibrand brought a powerful message of empowerment, calling on members to work towards democratizing the democracy in an important time of social activism.
“This is a moment in time when regular people can raise their voices to be heard,” said Gillibrand.
The New York Senator also reaffirmed the crucial role that DA plays in helping to maintain the connections of Americans abroad back home, allowing them to vote and take part in their own democracy. Gillibrand emphasized how important that opportunity is to Americans in the Trump administration, also praising the outlets that the Women’s and Climate Change marches played in allowing the world to create an intersectional moment of action.
Gillibrand said that her experiences abroad first in university and then at the start of her legal career provided her with the insight and empathy to both live with and reach out to different people and communities, a skill which she has leveraged into reaching across the aisle to work with partisan colleagues in the Senate.
The Senator’s address capped off a day full of resolutions and regional meetings and trainings for DA leaders from many of its 42 country committees. Participants had seminars on press and media relations building, fundraising, and rules of order which they can then take back to their respective countries to better empower and engage with serving Americans abroad in their communities.
Stay tuned for day two...
Courtney Hagen, DAUK/Global comms team
More than one hundred Democratic leaders from around the world will be converging on D.C. this weekend. Representing the Democratic Party abroad, we are flying in from Ecuador, Hong Kong, the Ukraine and many points in between to elect new leadership, prepare for the 2018 midterms and fine tune our outreach strategy to help engage the millions of Americans living abroad in the US elections next year.Read more
DA stands with all Americans who see quality affordable healthcare for everyone as a basic right.
“We are appalled and outraged at the callous disregard for human life shown by the Republican members of the House of Representatives in passing the AHCA. In a purely partisan vote, Republicans have put healthcare at risk for millions of people” states Katie Solon, Democrats Abroad International Chair.
“This legislation was rushed through, there were no hearings, there was no scoring from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to show the consequences and true cost of the law.”
“There are nine million Americans living abroad and most have experienced the benefits of universal healthcare. For those Americans and their families with pre-existing conditions, final passage of this legislation could preclude their move back to the United States.”
“Democrats Abroad will continue our efforts to demand quality affordable healthcare, will follow the debate as it now moves to the Senate, will continue to call and write Congress and we will hold the Trump Administration accountable to protect its citizens.”
Democrats Abroad members and Americans from around the world laced up their shoes on Saturday, April 22nd, to take part in more than 500 satellite marches at sites across the globe. Marchers from from Belgium, to Chile, to France, Sweden, the United Kingdom and beyond joined in with scientists, science enthusiasts, and other supporters marching in Washington DC and across the US as a demonstration of public support for science and scientific research.
Planned to coincide with Earth Day, the March for Science was intended as a multinational, bi-partisan event to both celebrate and encourage the indispensable role that science plays in global governments, economies, and health.
Democrats Abroad Canada joined the action too, with 20 members from DA-Canada’s Toronto chapter taking part in the March in the city. Nathan K. Lujan, DA-Canada Toronto chapter Co-Vice Chair, and a scientist himself, took part in the March as he felt it was imperative to protect scientific analysis and exploration along with an opportunity to engage with fellow Americans abroad who may feel at odds with the Trump administration’s cuts to federal funding and research and science-based organizations.Read more
It’s been a big week for the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in Washington DC.
Rep Maloney introduces Same Country Exception Bill
On Tuesday April 25, 2017 Americans Abroad Caucus Chair Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR2136, the Overseas Americans Financial Access Act (OAFAA) in the House of Representatives. The bill embodies our FATCA reform recommendation, the Same Country Safe Harbor Exemption from FATCA reporting for Americans abroad.
This reform has the support of all our colleague organisations representing Americans abroad, as well as the National Taxpayer Advocate. We plan on supporting the bill strongly in our Congressional Door Knock next month. We will also publish an information pack for the Global Action Team to share with groups across Democrats Abroad interested in gathering members to write letters or postcards to Representatives seeking their sponsorship of the bill.
House Holds Hearings on FATCA Consequences
The OAFAA bill was introduced ahead of hearings held Wednesday April 26th by the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “Reviewing the Unintended Consequences of the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act”. Democrats Abroad, working through legislative aides on Rep Maloney’s staff, has been trying since the hearing was scheduled to get a witness on the list to testify. As Republicans control the Committee (and all Congressional Committees) it was not surprising that we were not successful. Nevertheless Democrats Abroad made a submission to the Subcommittee and we expect it will be published in due course.
Of course a written statement is not as powerful as speaking directly to the Committee in the hearing. Had we testified, Democrats Abroad would have reiterated our support for a switch to Residency-based Taxation. Failing that, we support the Safe Harbor exemption from FATCA reporting for Americans abroad.
Our scepticism about this hearing has always run high. Government Operations Subcommittee Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) introduced a FATCA Repeal bill in the House of Representatives last month. The same bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who testified at the hearing as a witness. Senator Paul, as you may know, was a plaintiff, now an appellant, in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of FATCA. The rest of the witnesses bar one were also strident FATCA opponents, including famed Citizens United lawyer Jim Bopp who represents Republicans Overseas.
The one witness who spoke in support of FATCA is a retired legislative aide. She worked for retired Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and is deemed to be the architect of FATCA. She spoke strongly of the law’s importance as a critical deterrent to tax evasion – and not in favour of the Safe Harbor.
Fortunately Democratic members of the Subcommittee members Rep Maloney and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) spoke strongly in support of the Safe Harbor as a mechanism for both relieving the FATCA burden and maintaining the law’s original intent to discourage and apprehend tax evaders.
By the end of the hearing Chairman Meadows indicated he is open to compromise in developing a FATCA remedy for Americans abroad. That may stretch credulity given Meadows’ lead sponsorship on the House bill to repeal FATCA, but we will are taking his comments at face value. He asked the witnesses to get back to the Subcommittee with three recommendations to modify FATCA. Democrats Abroad will also make a submission providing recommendations. And we will continue to monitor the Government Operations Subcommittee and Chairman Meadows, looking for opportunities to work with them and others in developing a remedy that both addresses the problems FATCA is causing for ordinary, hard-working Americans abroad and protects its ability to fight financial crimes that underwrite terrorism and facilitate trafficking in drugs, arms and humans, as well as fight tax evasion.
Thanks to Katie Solon and Joe Smallhoover
Many thanks to International Chair Katie Solon and DA France Chair Joe Smallhoover for attending the hearing on Democrats Abroad’s behalf. They had valuable discussions on the edges and in the breaks of the hearing with FATCA reform allies and opponents, as our FATCA advocacy work clearly will go on. Katie and Joe also met yesterday with officials at Treasury who have carriage of FATCA.
Our engagement with regulators and legislators about FATCA is in its 6th year. We are grateful to all those who have contributed to this important advocacy work over that time.
Please contact us at any time with questions or comments.
FBAR/FATCA Task Force
Carmelan Polce, Chair (Singapore)
DeeDee Gierow (Sweden)
Michael Ramos (Australia)
Joe Smallhoover (France)
Orlando Vidal, Ex Officio (UAE)