What is a presidential exploratory committee?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren kicked the 2020 White House race into high gear on New Year's Eve when she announced t...

Posted: Jan 4, 2019 2:57 PM
Updated: Jan 4, 2019 2:57 PM

Sen. Elizabeth Warren kicked the 2020 White House race into high gear on New Year's Eve when she announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee.

The announcement made clear that Warren is in the race for the Democratic nomination, but by forming an exploratory committee, she is technically still one step short of officially becoming a presidential candidate.

Campaign finance

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Elizabeth Warren

Federal Election Commission

Government and public administration

Government organizations - US

Political candidates

Political donations and fundraising

Political Figures - US

Politics

US federal departments and agencies

US Federal elections

US government independent agencies

US Presidential elections

An exploratory committee is a vehicle by which candidates for federal office can "test the waters" of a bid before officially entering a race.

It's a mostly technical distinction that allows candidates to form a committee and begin raising and spending money on limited campaign activities like polling and outreach. And exploratory committees aren't initially required to file reports with the Federal Election Commission, at least until a candidate's bid becomes official by FEC standards.

That happens, according to the FEC, when a candidate engages in "certain activities" that constitute official campaigning -- "making or authorizing any statements that refer to themselves as candidates"; "using general public political advertising to publicize their intention to campaign"; "raising more money than what is reasonably needed to test the waters or amass funds to be used after candidacy is established"; "conducting activities over a protracted period of time or shortly before the election"; or "taking action to qualify for the ballot."

Once a candidate engages in any of those campaign-type activities, they trigger official candidate status, must register as such with the FEC, and begin filing regular financial reports -- reports that include money raised or spent in the "testing the waters" phase. Exploratory committees are subject to the same contribution limits as regular campaigns ($2,700 per-donor per-election).

The real advantage of an exploratory committee is that it allows candidates two swings at the "presidential announcement" news cycle -- first, when they announce their exploratory committee, and again when they make their bid official.

Warren's decision to form her exploratory committee on December 31 also ensures that she will have the entire first quarter of 2019 to begin raising funds for her presidential bid. That will give the Massachusetts senator a head start in a crowded field during the first fundraising period of the 2020 cycle, covering January 1 through March 31. On top of that, Warren enters the fray with already considerable financial advantages, including $12.5 million left over in her Senate campaign account, which she can transfer to her presidential campaign.

Brendan Fischer at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit group focused on campaign laws, explained that the FEC "allows an individual at the testing the waters stage to voluntarily form an 'exploratory committee,' and to voluntarily file reports disclosing contributions and expenditures, but there is no legal obligation to do so until they become a candidate."

"A candidate or potential candidate is under no legal obligation to form an 'exploratory committee'— but a presidential hopeful can create multiple opportunities for news coverage by first announcing the creation of an exploratory committee, and then later announcing their campaign," Fischer said.

In the absence of an exploratory committee, the FEC advises that candidates at least "set up a separate bank account for the deposit of receipts and the payment of expenses," which ultimately must be detailed in the campaign's first financial report after the campaign becomes official.

Huntsville
Few Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 65°
Florence
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 64°
Fayetteville
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 64°
Decatur
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 64°
Scottsboro
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 66°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 16530

Reported Deaths: 591
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2124112
Jefferson1712100
Montgomery154134
Tuscaloosa67813
Marshall6689
Lee53332
Franklin5147
Shelby48419
Tallapoosa41864
Butler39213
Chambers34924
Madison3184
Elmore3137
Walker2991
Baldwin2819
Etowah24411
Dallas2443
DeKalb2413
Morgan2311
Coffee2241
Lowndes22210
Sumter2136
Autauga2053
Houston1884
Bullock1833
Pike1790
Colbert1612
Russell1590
Marengo1556
Lauderdale1532
Calhoun1523
Hale1517
Choctaw1488
Wilcox1347
Barbour1321
Clarke1292
Randolph1257
Marion11911
St. Clair1161
Pickens1014
Talladega1003
Dale990
Chilton971
Cullman960
Greene924
Limestone870
Winston820
Covington771
Jackson752
Crenshaw722
Bibb711
Henry712
Macon712
Washington666
Blount581
Escambia493
Lawrence460
Geneva400
Conecuh351
Coosa351
Monroe352
Perry350
Cherokee342
Clay272
Lamar210
Fayette130
Cleburne131
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 21679

Reported Deaths: 356
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Davidson489460
Shelby4718107
Trousdale13934
Rutherford111622
Sumner85245
Hamilton71915
Bledsoe6081
Williamson53310
Putnam4615
Robertson4412
Tipton4303
Lake4130
Wilson3878
Out of TN3794
Knox3575
Bedford2744
Montgomery2613
Rhea1980
Hardeman1940
Madison1752
Loudon1370
McMinn13614
Macon1243
Cheatham1180
Cumberland1111
Dickson1100
Fayette1102
Bradley1081
Blount893
Maury810
Sevier762
Washington750
Coffee680
Unassigned670
Wayne630
Gibson611
Monroe612
Sullivan602
Hickman570
Lauderdale561
Dyer500
Franklin491
Greene482
Anderson391
Marion381
DeKalb370
Grundy321
Hawkins312
Haywood302
Smith301
Hamblen302
Henry300
Marshall301
White300
Obion281
Jefferson280
Carroll271
Meigs260
Overton260
Weakley260
Lincoln250
Lawrence240
Warren220
Cocke200
Carter191
Jackson170
Morgan170
Cannon170
Campbell171
Roane160
Crockett162
Perry160
Johnson160
Polk150
Sequatchie150
Henderson140
Humphreys131
Chester120
Fentress120
Giles120
McNairy120
Scott110
Stewart110
Hardin112
Claiborne90
Houston80
Benton71
Grainger60
Clay60
Decatur50
Van Buren40
Union40
Unicoi40
Moore30
Pickett30
Lewis30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events