Tax Proposals by 2012 Presidential Candidates
Source: Tax Policy Center (Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)
TPC has analyzed the distributional effects of tax proposals from President Obama, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The following pages provide links to TPC research related to the 2012 candidates.
Implications of Governor Romney’s Tax Proposals: FAQs and Responses
Source: Brookings Institution
Our recent paper examined the tradeoffs among competing goals in tax reform – including maintaining tax revenues, maintaining progressivity, and lowering marginal tax rates. As a motivating example, we estimated the degree to which individual income tax expenditures would have to be limited to achieve revenue neutrality under the individual income tax rates and other features advanced in presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax proposals, and how the required reductions in tax breaks could change the distribution of the tax burden across households.
In this note, we summarize our earlier results and answer a number of substantive questions we have received about the study. We also discuss new estimates that incorporate into our analysis the taxation of interest income from municipal bonds and the taxation of inside buildup in life insurance vehicles.
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
Republicans and Democrats find little to agree on these days, but they have some similar reactions to the 2012 presidential campaign. Nearly identical percentages of Republicans and Democrats say the election will be exhausting. On the positive side, there also is widespread partisan agreement that the campaign will be informative.
The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 7-17 among 2,013 adults, finds that just 49% expect the election to be exciting. Nearly six-in-ten Democrats (59%) say the election will be exciting, compared with 51% of Republicans and just 41% of independents.
The expectation that the election will be exhausting is in line with perceptions of the campaign so far. Most Americans say the campaign has been too long and dull (56% each), while 53% say it has been too negative. At the same time, an overwhelming majority (79%) views the presidential campaign as important.
Comparable percentages of Republicans, Democrats and independents say that the campaign has been too long and too negative. And more than eight-in-ten Republicans (85%) and Democrats (83%) say the campaign is important, as do 77% of independents.
US Election Note: International Trade Policy after 2012
Source: Chatham House
The 2012 presidential election is occurring as the US economy emerges from a significant recession. While trade is a small part of the campaign debate, it remains an emotional ‘wedge issue’ for the electorate. This paper lays out the likely trade policy of either a second-term Barack Obama administration or an incoming Mitt Romney administration.
Mexico’s 2012 Elections (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Given the close and complex relationship that the United States has with neighboring Mexico, the results of the July 1, 2012 Mexican presidential and legislative elections are of interest to U.S. policy makers. As Mexico does not allow consecutive reelection for any office, the results of these elections could lead to significant changes in the country’s political landscape and the Mexican government’s approach to aspects of its relations with the United States. The top issues being debated in the Mexican presidential campaign—security, economic policy, and energy sector reform—are of crucial importance to Mexico’s future and are of keen interest to Congress. The policies adopted by the next Mexican President will likely have implications for U.S.- Mexican security cooperation, prospects for deeper North American economic integration, and U.S. energy security. The legislative elections are equally crucial, as they will likely determine how easily the next Mexican administration will be able to advance its agenda through congress.
Most analysts are predicting that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) will retake the presidency after 12 years of rule by the conservative National Action Party (PAN). The PRI could also capture a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, a feat not accomplished by a single party since 1994. Observers maintain that Mexico’s security challenges and continuing poverty have left Mexicans disappointed with the PAN and nostalgic for the order and stability they remember under the PRI, despite the party’s past reputation for corruption and undemocratic practices. Moreover, while U.S.-Mexican security cooperation has intensified and U.S.-Mexican economic integration has deepened under the current PAN administration of Felipe Calderón, the fruits of bilateral efforts have not always been apparent to average Mexican voters.
Against this backdrop, the polls have been remarkably stable since even before the campaign officially began on March 30, 2012. A majority of voters have consistently expressed support for PRI candidates for the Chamber of Deputies and PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, a former governor of the state of Mexico. Peña Nieto, running in a coalition with the Green Ecological Party (PVEM), has maintained a double-digit lead over his opponents. Roughly 20% of the electorate remains undecided, however, and constitutes a bloc of voters large enough potentially to tip the election toward either Josefina Vázquez Mota, a former Minister of Education standing for the PAN, or Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, a former mayor of Mexico City representing a leftist coalition led by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Gabriel Quadri, an environmentalist standing for the small National Alliance Party (PANAL) that is aligned with the Mexican teacher’s union, has trailed far behind in the polls.
This report provides an overview of the parties and candidates competing in the Mexican federal elections, with a focus on the presidential contest, followed by a discussion of key issues in the campaign that could have implications for U.S.-Mexican relations. It will be updated. For background information on Mexico and U.S.-Mexican relations, see: CRS Report RL32724, Mexico: Issues for Congress, by Clare Ribando Seelke and CRS Report RL32934, U.S.-Mexico Economic Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications, by M. Angeles Villarreal.
An Overview of Court Challenges to Campaign Finance & Disclosure Laws Nationwide
Source: Campaign Legal Center
The rush of litigation challenging campaign finance and disclosure laws continues nationwide in the wake of Citizens United. For your reference, the Campaign Legal Center has updated a summary document of recent cases of interest at the federal, state and municipal level. The summary provides a brief description of pending and recently decided cases, and the Legal Center’s involvement in those cases.
The most recent summary of litigation produced by the Legal Center is always available on our Court Cases of Interest page directly beneath the “Active Court Cases of Interest.”
CRS — The Presidential Nominating Process and the National Party Conventions, 2012: Frequently Asked Questions
The Presidential Nominating Process and the National Party Conventions, 2012: Frequently Asked Questions
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
This report provides answers to frequently asked questions about the presidential nominating process, including how the delegates to the national conventions are chosen, the differences between a caucus and a primary, national party rules changes for 2012, and the national conventions themselves. It is not a comprehensive report on all aspects of the presidential nominating process.
The 2012 Mexican Presidential Election and Mexican Immigrants of Voting Age in the United States
Source: Migration Policy Institute
An estimated 11.9 million Mexican citizens resided outside of Mexico in 2010, primarily in the United States, but also in Canada, Spain, Bolivia, Germany, Guatemala, and countries throughout the rest of the world. According to World Bank estimates, Mexican citizens sent home over US$257 billion in remittances between 1990 and 2010, contributing to the national economy and helping their families, friends, and other networks cope during times of economic hardship.
Given its large size and financial contribution to the country throughout the years, Mexico’s diaspora began pressuring the Mexican government to allow them to participate in the country’s political decision-making process in the 1990s. In 2005, Mexicans living abroad were granted voting privileges for presidential elections taking place in their country of origin, and they voted for the first time during the 2006 presidential election.
This summer, the Mexican diaspora will once again have the opportunity to vote for the Mexican president. In order to vote in the election, scheduled for July 1, 2012, a person must be a Mexican citizen (either by birth or naturalization), be at least 18 years of age, be registered on the Federal Electoral Institute’s (IFE) Federal Registry of Voters, and have a valid voting ID card (credencial electoral).
This article discusses the history and process of external voting in Mexico, the participation of the Mexican diaspora in the 2006 Mexican presidential election, and the prospects for participation in the 2012 election. Utilizing the most recently available data from the US Census Bureau, the article then goes on to explore the size, geographical distribution, and characteristics of voting-age members of the Mexican diaspora in the United States.
While women’s votes have been critical in deciding federal elections since the 1980’s, women still face significant barriers towards realizing equality in politics and public life. In 2010, our nation experienced the first backslide in electing more women to office in over 30 years. In the same year, it also experienced a decrease in women’s political giving, after securing very marginal increases in past elections.She Should Run, working with the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), found that women still lag drastically behind men in political giving. In 2010, women made up just 26% of recorded federal political contributions to candidates, political action committees (PACs), and party committees. More importantly, this is down from 31% in the 2008 cycle and down from 30% in the 2006 cycle.This report reveals a probable correlation between women’s political giving and their representation in Congress. It is telling that women’s political giving went down during the same cycle that women’s representation in Congress decreased. Our nation cannot afford these declines, given that women make up approximately 17% of Congress, yet represent over 50% of the population.
We present a web tool that allows users to explore news stories concerning the 2012 US Presidential Elections via an interactive interface. The tool is based on concepts of “narrative analysis”, where the key actors of a narration are identified, along with their relations, in what are sometimes called “semantic triplets” (an example of a triplet of this kind is “Romney Criticised Obama”). The network of actors and their relations can be mined for insights about the structure of the narration, including the identification of the key players, of the network of political support for each of them, a representation of the similarity of their political positions, and other information concerning their role in the media narration of events. The interactive interface allows the users to retrieve news reports supporting the relations of interest.
+ Full Paper(PDF)
Poll: Super PACs Leave Americans Less Likely to Vote
Source: Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law
A new national poll finds that the outsized spending of super PACs and other groups in the 2012 election cycle has given rise to significant, bipartisan fears of corruption and heightened distrust in government. The poll, conducted on behalf of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, also finds that one in four Americans are less likely to vote this year due to fears that candidates cater to the interests of super PAC donors over the public interest.
One in four Americans — 26% — say they are less likely to vote because big donors to super PACs have so much more influence over elected officials than average Americans.
- Less wealthy and less educated Americans were significantly more likely to say they would be less likely to vote because of super PAC influence: 34% of respondents with no more than a high school education, and 34% of those in households with an annual income less than $35,000, said they would be less likely to vote.
- 41% of respondents — including 49% of those who have no more than a high school education and 48% of those with household incomes under $35,000 — believe that their votes don’t matter very much because big donors to super PACs have so much more influence.
The poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans believe super PAC spending will lead to corruption, while three in four believe that limiting how much corporations, unions and individuals can donate to super PACs would curb corruption. These beliefs are held equally by both Republicans and Democrats.
How the Media Covered the 2012 Primary Campaign: Frames of Campaign Coverage
Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism
Mitt Romney needed 15 weeks once the primary contests began to gain a secure hold over his party’s nomination for president. But he emerged as the conclusive winner in the media narrative about the race six weeks earlier, following a narrow win in his native state, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism that examines in detail the media’s coverage of the race.
After Romney’s tight victory in the Michigan primary on Feb. 28, news coverage about his candidacy became measurably more favorable and the portrayal of his rivals—particularly Rick Santorum—began to become more negative and to shrink in volume.
One main component of that shift in the narrative is that after Michigan, the news media began to view Romney’s nomination as essentially inevitable. Indeed, a close look at the coverage finds that references to delegate math and the concept of electoral inevitability spiked in the media the week after Michigan, rising twelve fold, for instance, on television news programs. From that point on, the amount of attention in the press to Romney’s candidacy began to overwhelm that of his rivals, and the tone of coverage about him, which had been often mixed or negative before, became solidly positive.
A look inside the coverage also reveals that Romney endured more media "vetting" of his record and personal character than the other Republican contenders. Since November, just over 12% of the coverage in which Romney was a significant figure was devoted to those subjects. The press focused in particular on his wealth and his experience at the private equity investment firm Bain Capital.
A similar percentage of the coverage of Newt Gingrich also involved vetting his record and personal life (just under 12%), but he received only about half as much campaign coverage generally as Romney.
One quadrennial question about press coverage of campaigns is what subject matter will help voters decide among the candidates. Critics and journalists have long debated whether there is too much focus on strategic and tactical matters in the press. Such coverage explains what is occurring in the race but people disagree over whether it illuminates how a candidate would behave if elected.
Burma’s April Parliamentary By-Elections (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) is scheduled to hold parliamentary by-elections on April 1, 2012. Depending on the conduct of the election and the official election results, the Obama Administration may seek to alter policy towards Burma, possibly including the waiver or removal of some current sanctions. Such a shift may require congressional action, or may be done using executive authority granted by existing laws.
The by-elections originally were to fill 46 vacant seats in Burma’s national parliament (out of a total of 664 seats) and 2 seats in local parliaments. On March 23, the Union Election Commission postponed voting for three seats from the Kachin State for security reasons. A total of 17 political parties are running candidates in the by-elections, including the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The by-elections are viewed as significant primarily because of the decision by the NLD to compete for the vacant seats.
The NLD and others allege that some Burmese officials and the USDP are taking steps to disrupt the NLD’s campaign and possibly win the by-elections by fraudulent means. Despite these problems, events at which Aung San Suu Kyi speaks routinely draw tens of thousands of people. In response to international pressure, the Union Government has invited the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), the United Nations, and the United States to send election observers. The State Department has said it intends to accept the offer.
Although largely free and fair by-elections would be a significant development, the current political situation in Burma remains a source of serious concern for U.S. policy makers. Hundreds of political prisoners remain in detention. Despite ceasefire talks, fighting between the Burmese military and various ethnic militias continues, resulting in a new flow of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees into nearby countries. Reports of severe human rights abuses by the Burmese military against civilians in conflict areas regularly appear in the international press.
The response of the Obama Administration to Burma’s by-elections will depend on the conduct of the campaign, the balloting process, the veracity of the official election results, and possibly on how the winners of the elections are treated once they become members of Burma’s parliaments. In addition, the response of opposition parties (particularly the NLD and its chairperson, Aung San Suu Kyi), other nations and the EU to the by-elections may influence the U.S. response.
Under current law, President Barack Obama has the authority to waive many—but not all—of the existing sanctions on Burma, and he may choose to exercise that authority following the by- elections. Alternatively, the White House may ask Congress to consider legislation removing or altering some the existing sanctions. For its own part, Congress may decide to re-examine U.S. policy towards Burma and make whatever changes it deems appropriate.
For additional information on Burma, see CRS Report R41971, U.S. Policy Towards Burma: Issues for the 112th Congress; CRS Report R41336, U.S. Sanctions on Burma; and CRS Report R42363, Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Sanctions. The report will be updated following the announcement of the official results of the by-elections, and as circumstances warrant.
Report: Lawmakers Seeking to Weaken Volcker Rule Receive More Than Four Times as Much From Industry as Those Asking for Stronger Measure
Members of Congress who submitted comments asking federal agencies to weaken the proposed regulations for the Volcker Rule have on average received more than four times as much in campaign contributions from the financial sector as those who asked agencies to strengthen the rule, a Public Citizen study released today shows.
The study, “Industry’s Messengers,” found that those seeking a weaker rule have received an average of $388,010 from the financial sector since the 2010 election cycle, compared to an average of $96,897 received by those seeking a stronger rule. Cumulatively, members asking for a weaker rule have received more than 35 times as much ($66.7 million) from the sector as those seeking a stronger rule ($1.9 million).
The Volcker Rule was one of the most important reforms of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. It prohibits federally insured banks from engaging in proprietary trading, participating in complex securitizations, owning hedge funds or private equity funds, or engaging in any other high-risk activities. It also prohibits banks from taking actions that conflict with the interests of their customers.
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Russia’s March 2012 Presidential Election: Outcome and Implications (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Challenges to Russia’s democratic development have long been of concern to Congress as it has considered the course of U.S.-Russia cooperation. The Obama Administration has been critical of the apparently flawed Russian presidential election which took place on March 4, 2012, but has called for continued engagement with Russia and newly elected President Vladimir Putin on issues of mutual strategic concern. Some in Congress also have criticized the conduct of the election, but have endorsed continued engagement, while others have called for stepping back and reevaluating the Administration’s engagement policy. Congress may consider the implications of another Putin presidency, lagging democratization, and human rights abuses in Russia as it debates possible future foreign assistance and trade legislation and other aspects of U.S.-Russia relations.
Five candidates were able to register for the March 4, 2012, presidential election. Of these, Prime Minister Putin had announced in September 2011 that he intended to switch positions with current President Dmitriy Medvedev, and return to the presidency for a third term. Of the other four candidates—Communist Party head Gennadiy Zyuganov, Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, and A Just Russia Party head Sergey Mironov—were nominated by parties with seats in the Duma. The remaining candidate, businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, was self-nominated and was required to gather two million signatures to register. Other prospective candidates dropped out or were disqualified on technical grounds by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). Opposition Yabloko Party head Grigoriy Yavlinskiy was disqualified by the CEC on the grounds that over 5% of the signatures he gathered were invalid. Many critics argued that he was eliminated because he would have been the only bona fide opposition candidate on the ballot. Of the registered candidates running against Putin, all but Prokhorov had run in previous presidential elections and lost badly.
According to the final report of the CEC, Putin won 63.6% of 71.8 million votes cast, somewhat less than the 71.3% he had received in his last presidential election in 2004. In their preliminary report, monitors led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded that the election was well organized but that there were several problems. Although the report did not state outright that the election was “not free and fair,” some of the monitors at a press conference stated that they had not viewed it as free and fair. According to the report, Prime Minister Putin received an advantage in media coverage, and authorities mobilized local officials and resources to garner support for Putin. The OSCE monitors witnessed irregularities in votecounting in nearly one-third of the 98 polling stations visited and in about 15% of 72 higher-level territorial electoral commissions.
The initial protests after Putin’s election by those who view the electoral process as tainted appeared smaller in size and number than after the Duma election. Authorities approved a protest rally in Pushkin Square in central Moscow on March 5, along with Putin victory rallies elsewhere in the city. After some of the protesters allegedly did not disperse after the time for the rally had elapsed, police forcibly intervened and reportedly detained up to 250 demonstrators, including activist Alexey Navalny, who later was released.