Stanley Grossman (past International Treasurer and DNC member) wrote a piece called "Alphabet Soup" for the first Democrats Abroad (DA) Handbook. It was a helpful guide to the many acronyms that are too-easily tossed around our discussions. The latest version of Stanley's work is from 2013 and available from the DPCA-Leadership archives.
This informal guide draws from Stanley's work and intentions, although it is much less discursive. We hope that these short descriptions will help orient new leaders and we welcome your comments and further questions.
Democrats Abroad (DA) and the Democratic Party
CC = Country Committee
Country Committees are constituent units of Democrats Abroad as defined by the DA Charter. We use the term so often that "CC" has become a very common acronym. Members of DA that don't live in countries served by CCs are served directly by their Regional Vice Chair (RVC).
The financial relationship between CCs and the rest of the Democratic Party can be counter-intuitive. Stanley wrote:
No CC is registered with the FEC... This has several important consequences:
• No CC has to file any report to the FEC: not monthly, not ever.
• There are no limits on how much an individual US citizen can donate to his or her CC. If someone (a US citizen) wanted to give $1 million to DA Moldova, DAM could accept it without violating any US campaign finance law. [Note added in 2017: CCs may not accept donations from corporations of any kind, whether American or not.]
• However, no CC can spend any money on partisan political activity. DAM, for example, could not give any part of its $1 million to any federal candidate or registered political party to pay for a partisan ad promoting any candidate or party. ...
• In particular, this means that a CC cannot give money to the DPCA! This counter intuitive fact is central to all fundraising activities. Individual members of a CC—or, indeed, any American citizen—can give money directly to the DPCA. But money given to a CC can never be passed on to the DPCA. On the other hand, the DPCA can pay directly for any political “communication” organized by a CC.
If you have further questions about CC finances or you are planning extraordinary fundraisers, you must check with the International Treasurer and International Counsel to ensure that the arrangement follows all applicable laws and practices. This short entry isn't enough to make informed decisions!
DPCA = Democratic Party Committee Abroad
This is the official name of the governing committee of Democrats Abroad (DA). The DPCA is the group responsible for the mission of DA and it is distinct from each of the CCs and the full membership of Democrats Abroad. The members of this committee are listed in the Charter Section 2.2 (roughly, the Chair and Vice-Chair of each CC, the Voting Representatives of those CCs with large enough members, the elected officers of the DPCA, and the DNC members representing DA). As Stanley wrote:
The DPCA is registered with the FEC. If you go to www.fec.org you can see how much money we raised and spent each month going back to sometime in 2001. As a registered party, we are bound by contribution limits. In particular, no American can give us more than $32,400 in each of 2013 and 2014 (the max will be adjusted by inflation in 2015 and 2016).
In addition, we can engage in political activity like taking out pro-Democratic ads and giving money to any federal candidate or political party.
I could stop at that but there is another source of confusion. In our Charter, we refer to “DPCA members.” Anyone new to the organisation would find this term confusing. We are all members of DA from the time we sign up, aren’t we? Since DA is, in some sense, a synonym for the DPCA, how can someone simultaneously be a member of DA but not of the DPCA? The simple answer is that when the Charter refers to DPCA members, it really means voting members of DA.
DNC = Democratic National Committee
The Democratic National Committee is the formal governing body of the Democratic Party. It coordinates among state Democratic parties, Democratic candidates, and a variety of constituency groups. Democrats Abroad participates in the DNC via our elected 8 DNC members (6 elected as DNC members, plus our International Chair and International Vice Chair). Stanley explained the relationship between the DNC and the DPCA in terms of financial reporting:
However, the FEC treats us as a separate account within the DNC. This is a bit confusing. We are simultaneously the same and different. We are different in the obvious sense that we each file separate FEC reports. If John Mogul contributes $5,000 to the DNC in July 2011, his name will appear in the Democratic Party July FEC report—not in ours. And vice versa: if John gives it to the DPCA, his name appears in our FEC report but not in that of the DNC.
But, in a very important sense, the FEC treats us as an integral part of the DNC. As I said above, the maximum that an individual can give to a political party in 2013 is $32,400. The FEC treats this limit as the combined amount an individual can give to both the DNC and the DPCA. Thus, if someone gives the DNC $20,000 in 2013, she can give only $12,400 to the DPCA.
DCCC, DSCC, DLCC: National fund-raising for Democratic candidates
These three organizations are powerful fund-raisers for Democratic candidates, run by Democratic elected officials. They often publish lists of targeted elections that other parts of the Democratic party use to prioritize GOTV energy and funds (although they do not have formal authority and many parts add or subtract from those lists). The DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) is run by Democrats elected to the US House of Representatives and it is often spoken as "D-trip". The DSCC is run by Democratic US Senators and the DGA is run by Democratic governors. The DLCC (Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee) works to elect Democrats to state legislatures.
GOTV = Get Out The Vote
This is a core mission of Democrats Abroad and the Democratic Party. For DA, this term covers voter's process from completing the FPCA, through sending back a completed ballot, to checking to verify that the ballot was counted.
Voter Registration and Voting Law
FPCA = Federal Post Card Application
The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) is a form that allows military voters, their families, and civilians living overseas to register to vote and request their absentee ballots. Completing the form accurately requires a reference to state rules, typically either a website like VoteFromAbroad.org or the reference Voter Assistance Guide (VAG) published by the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
FWAB = Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot
The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) is a form that serves as a "backup ballot" for overseas voters. Completing the form accurately requires a reference to state rules, typically either a website like VoteFromAbroad.org or the reference Voter Assistance Guide (VAG) published by the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
UOCAVA voters: American voters living abroad, military and non-military (plus HAVA and MOVE Act)
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) is the name of a 1986 law that required the 50 states (as well as territories) to allow absentee voting for US citizens living abroad. "UOCAVA voters" came to mean the group of US citizens whose voting procedures are governed by that Federal law. The act does not apply to state and local elections, which creates a "Federal-only" status for voters in some states. Subsequent laws that further protected the overseas vote include the Help America Vote Act of (HAVA) of 2002 and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act) of 2010.
LEO = Local Election Official
Ultimately, LEOs decide whether a given FPCA is accepted, when absentee ballots are distributed, and how absentee ballots are integrated into the final count for Federal, state, and local elections. During each Federal election, the troubleshooters of DA's GOTV team interact dozens of times with LEOs to resolve problems that arise between a voter's completion of the FPCA through to the counting and verification of their ballots.
FVAP = Federal Voting Assistance Program
FVAP is a program within the US Department of Defense that helps military voters, their families, and civilians living overseas to register to vote and request their absentee ballots. FVAP is responsible for the reference to state rules called the Voter Assistance Guide (VAG).
EAC = Election Assistance Commission
The EAC was created in the wake of the 2000 election. Its certification program for voting systems sets standards for America’s voting machines and its recommendations help improve accessibility at the polls for voters with disabilities. The EAC provides best practices on voting and election administration for local election officials. The EAC also protects the right to vote for U.S. citizens living abroad by compiling data about overseas absentee ballots and tracking compliance with Federal laws and rules established
Regulation of Political Activities
FEC = Federal Election Commission
The FEC regulates the donations that the DPCA relies upon as well as the political activities of the DPCA including coordination (or the legally mandated lack thereof) with candidates, political action committees, and other parts of the Democratic Party such as state parties. As Stanley wrote:
If you go to their website--www.fec.gov—and click on “About the FEC” and then “Mission and History,” you’ll find the following: "In 1975, Congress created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) - the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections."
In sum, the FEC enforces campaign finance rules. Each political party and federal candidate must register with the FEC and submit monthly reports. These reports list the money received and spent during the previous month. Every donor of over $200/year must be listed with his/her address. Each registered party must conform to FEC limits on the amount any individual can contribute to a party in a calendar year (currently $32,400 in 2013 and 2014). And every registered party can engage in partisan political activity. Violation of campaign finance law can lead to heavy fines and even prison sentences.
Issues and Advocacy
FATCA = Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act
Straight from the one-page document distributed during DA's 2017 door-knock on Capitol Hill:
FATCA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010 to discourage tax fraud and money laundering, and to apprehend offenders. The Act requires both US citizens and their banks to report detailed information to the IRS on accounts in Foreign Financial Institutions (FFIs). The laudable intent was to make it much more difficult for wealthy Americans living in the US to use offshore accounts to hide untaxed earnings from the IRS. But the bill applies to all accounts outside the US — even when they are held by Americans who live abroad. As a result, FATCA is causing grave hardship for Americans living outside the country. Their financial accounts are being closed; for some their relationships with their non-American spouses are under serious strain; and some Americans are being denied positions, promotion or partnership in business. For some, the consequences of FATCA reporting are so severe that they are renouncing or contemplating renouncing their US citizenship.
The expert committee of DA leaders devoted to responding to FATCA has been called: FATCA Task Force, FBAR/FATCA Task Force, and as of June 2017, Taxation Task Force. There is a wealth of information on this wiki about FATCA and other elements of tax law, including the FBAR, which is an abbreviation for "FinCEN Form 114 Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts".
RBT = Residence Based Taxation
From the FAQ published by the Taxation Task Force in May 2017:
Residency Based Taxation (or RBT) is a system of taxation where a nation imposes tax on income generated within its borderon those who have residencywithin its borders. Citizens of a nation with Residency Based Taxation pay tax on income in the place where the income wasgenerated. If theylive and generate income abroad then their offshore income istaxed abroad andnot taxed by the nation of their citizenship.All developed nations have a system of Residency Based Taxation except the United States. The United States is the only country other than North Korea and Eritrea which taxes its citizens on their income regardless of where it is generated, no matter where they live (and for no matter how long they have lived there) and, but for a limited number of international bilateral treaties for the avoidance of double taxation, regardless of whetherthey are also taxed on the same income in their country of residence. This system is known as Citizenship Based Taxation (or CBT).