Guess where nervous Democrats are seeking votes? Hint: Not here

Democrats, anxious about their prospects in November's midterm elections, are looking to capture every vote they can—even outside U.S. borders.

A newly formed progressive super PAC seeks to use the same flexibility of the conservative nonprofit Citizens United to help get out the vote among those living abroad.

Julia Schmalz | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The group, Global Democratic PAC, filed its initial papers with the Federal Election Commission earlier this month. It is being led by Robert Carolina, a lawyer from Ohio who now lives in the United Kingdom. Carolina also serves as the British chair of Democrats Abroad—the official foreign arm of the Democratic National Committee—but he said his super PAC will be entirely independent and uncoordinated.

Super PACs, by definition, can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and individuals.

With Democrats expecting an uphill challenge to maintain control of the Senate, the party can use help in getting every vote this election cycle.

The group's formation marks a noteworthy milepost in independent expenditure politics: It is the first known super PAC with a goal of organizing overseas. It follows the creation, last fall, of Republicans Overseas, a 527 group founded by James Bopp Jr., an attorney who was part of the Citizens United legal team.

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At interest for both enterprises are the estimated 5 million-plus voting age Americans living in other countries, a bloc that has been historically underrepresented and underregistered. The Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonpartisan group that seeks to increase registration, determined that in 2008, less than 7 percent of the expatriated population participated in the election. In 2009, Congress passed legislation designed to make voting easier for service members and civilians living abroad—and a number of states have followed suit.

In a recent interview with, Carolina said that his super PAC will be used primarily to launch a digitally driven voter registration campaign that employs new technology to better target and enlist offshore Democrats.

Registration has long been the stated objective of Democrats Abroad, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year; the group operates as a state party within the DNC. Carolina thinks there is much more that can be done—and that a Super PAC is the way to do it.

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"There is no central database," said Carolina. "There is no local election officer for all Americans who live in Dusseldorf or Toronto. You have to find them in creative ways. There are a lot of new creative ways that we can use to identify and get in contact with overseas American voters, and that is really what we want to do—we want to drive down that path."

Since the Super PAC is in its beginning stages, Carolina said its leadership structure is still being worked out. But it appears to be making waves in Washington. A Democratic Beltway source knowledgeable about independent expenditures, who is not presently involved with Global Democratic PAC, told that he has heard of a number of consultants who are in discussions about joining up.

Carolina wouldn't provide financial targets for the group, but noted, "Setting up a super PAC is not something you want to do because you are trying to raise small amounts of money."

Richard Briffault, a campaign finance expert at Columbia Law School, said he could see no obvious legal complications for the super PAC, provided that it didn't raise money from foreign citizens or companies. Carolina said the group will be "absolutely punctilious," and expects that most of the money it raises will come from onshore Americans.

Over the years, political campaigns and organizations have increasingly sought to raise dollars from expatriated Americans. Carolina said his effort is "swimming in another direction."

"We want to go out and find people and we can't do it by knocking on doors," he said, "and it is not cost-effective by sending a mailing to everybody in Italy or Spain."

In a nonpresidential election year, the overseas American vote could be particularly crucial.

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Solomon Yue Jr., who serves as vice chair of Republicans Overseas, said his group is primarily focused right now on opposing the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which Congress passed in 2010 to promote increased transparency of American money held in foreign banks. Yue said the group's secondary objective is to organize offshore Republicans in anticipation of the 2016 election.

Among the donors to Republicans Overseas is Michael George DeSombre, an M&A attorney based in Hong Kong, who previously was on Mitt Romney's national finance team. IRS filings show that DeSombre contributed $20,000 to the Republicans Overseas earlier this year. A previous 527 group, Republicans Abroad, closed its doors last May.

—By Daniel Libit, special to