Exploratory committees, the opening bells of the 2020 elections, explained
For the next few months, you’re going to hear a lot of high-profile Democrats announce they are forming an "exploratory committee" for a 2020 White House run. Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro have taken that step. Kirsten Gillibrand is the latest candidate to start her 2020 campaign this way. More will follow.
When the words “exploratory committee” flick across your Twitter stream or TV screen, it means two things:
- This person is (almost) definitely running for president.
- They want to raise some money and get their campaign together before they formally announce they are a candidate.
To form an exploratory committee, all a candidate really needs to do is file a statement of their candidacy to the Federal Election Commission and slap the word “exploratory” on the name of their campaign’s committee. That’s it.
But once you file a statement of candidacy, even if you use the “exploratory” label, you’re a candidate in the eyes of the law. “There is no legal distinction” between a campaign committee and this kind of exploratory committee, Brendan Fischer, who works on federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, says.