If It’s Thursday, It Must Be London (Mitt Romney Edition)

by Peter Spiro

Mitt Romney is holding a fundraiser this evening in London. (Here’s a nice scene-setter.)  Almost quaint how he promises not to criticize Obama while abroad, in the tradition of politics stoppping at the water’s edge (as if physical location still mattered in the context of completely transnationalized media).

Three quick thoughts:

1. This kind of extraterritorial campaigning is becoming routine. Lots of US citizens live abroad (estimates of as many as seven million), they can vote come November, and (way more importantly) they have a lot of money. For Romney’s purposes, London is just a little east of the Hamptons!

2. I wonder if Romney will get an earful about new IRS practices regarding foreign account holders and the notorious (at least among nonresident Americans) law known as FATCA. Nonresidents have some discrete interests as such, but they don’t seem to have organized very well as a special interest group. (It would be easier if there were a First Overseas District in Congress — an approach now used by other countries, for example France, in which external citizens have their own representatives in national legislatures).

3. Why is it someone who lives in London can donate money when some people living in the US can’t?  Some of the donors at tonight’s dinner may never have resided in the United States (it is possible to be a US citizen for life without ever having set foot in the US, though I doubt that would be true of the private-jet set around the table with Mitt).  Bluman v. FEC presented a very plausible challenge to the ban on campaign donations by nonimmigrants in the US (brought by two very sympathetic plaintiffs – one a lawyer, one a doctor, one Republican, one Democrat, both here on long-term work visas). That was given the back of the hand by the Judge Kavanaugh, on a well-dressed but basically ipse dixit basis.

http://opiniojuris.org/2012/07/26/if-its-thursday-it-must-be-london-mitt-romney-edition/

5 Responses

  1. In the 1990′s we were pretty organized overseas and managed to get many changes through with bipartisan support – for example simplifying the recognition of US nationality for children adopted abroad by Americans living abroad.  Thank you for not calling them expatriates – a term that we derided.  As to FATCA – I am not crying for the investment bankers, high paid lawyers, and rock and movie stars, but I hope the Americans abroad of more modest means are not having their lives complicated.
    Best,
    Ben

  2. Oh, we are a bit… (please bear in mind the below was written under the direct influence of tax time and its manifold joys):

    http://terra0nullius.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/annual-double-taxation-without-representation-time-rolls-around-for-us-citizens-abroad/

    An overseas district is a pretty nice idea, although you would think less drastic measures would be required to simply bring US filing practices into line with those of every single other country in the world but Eritrea, especially where this might actually increase the overall economic benefit to the country and avoid unnecessary mass-renunciations of citizenship.

    Meanwhile, Mitt has clearly endeared himself to our British cousins…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-news-blog/2012/jul/26/mitt-romney-britain-gaffes

  3. Mr. Davis, Our lives are indeed becoming quite complicated.  Thanks to FATCA we are seeing our banks accounts closed and fewer and fewer people want to do business with us (see the ACA website for more info). 
    I recently removed my citizenship info from my CV (U.S. citizen with long-term residency status in an EU country) because I suspect it’s not helping me get a job in my host country.

    Mr. Spiro,  FATCA has stirred quite a few of us to be far more active than we were in the past.  Unless Romney is completely deaf he should hear an earful in London and anywhere else he goes outside the U.S.  But you’re right, we are very disorganized and dispersed.  In addition the people are very diverse:  ex-military, retirees, businessmen and women, missionaries and so on.  I personally think we are in desperate need of some expert advice because no matter how many letters we write (among other avenues for being heard) we are not getting any traction.

    Recently I was a bit frustrated because I tried to contribute to a political campaign using my local (French) credit card and address in my home state. Their website was not designed for this and it took several tries before I was actually able to complete the transaction.  Just for fun, I decided to look at the websites and platforms of some of the candidates in a few Senate races in the U.S. This is what I see with my “American abroad” eye.  In a nutshell, we are not on their radar and it is actually a bit tricky to contact them (or give them money) if you live outside the U.S.

    http://thefranco-americanflophouse.blogspot.fr/2012/07/evaluating-us-politicians-from-abroad.html 

  4. Rhodri & Victoria, I always appreciate your comments – among other things they remind me to have a look at the expat websites (both of yours included), always full of fascinating material. The FATCA story is an incredible one. It’s tentacles seem so insinuating and intrusive, it’s hard to see it being sustained (at least in any sort of aggressive way), but I guess you never know.

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