Tim Scott has set up an exploratory committee. What is it?

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — Sen. Tim Scott on Wednesday established an exploratory committee on a 2024 GOP presidential bid, a move that is close to making his campaign official.

For months, the Republican from South Carolina has been building the infrastructure for a possible presidential campaign, staffing his political action committee and traveling to early voting states. He’s also honed a blunt speech heavily imbued with optimism and his belief in America’s “story of salvation.”

No other major presidential candidate has yet created a 2024 exploratory committee, although it has some merits.

A brief overview of exploratory committees, how they are used and why:


Political cartoons

A search committee allows someone considering a political bid to raise money to support efforts such as travel and elections without becoming an official candidate. It’s not required, but some potential candidates do.

According to the Federal Election Commission, the mechanism — also known as “testing the waters” — doesn’t have to register or report to the commission like an official candidate’s campaign committee would.

But any money raised during this period must meet federal contribution limits and be reported when a campaign is eventually launched. And if the process does not result in an official candidacy, the prospective candidate is not required to disclose fundraising and spending activities from the exploratory phase.

Much of this can be a PR campaign.

Establishing a selection committee gives a potential candidate two waves of media attention – the establishment of the committee and then the official candidature. In what’s already shaping up to be a big GOP field in 2024, that may matter as a throng of candidates compete for exposure, media attention, and donor funds.

There are also financial implications. The establishment of his exploratory committee this week will give Scott nearly all of the second quarter of this year to raise his funds, hoping to come up with a sizeable number at the end.

Scott has already proven his ability to attract significant fundraising. A pro-Scott super PAC, Opportunity Matters Fund, spent more than $20 million to help Republicans in 2022 and reported more than $13 million available for a 2023 launch . Tech billionaire Larry Ellison has donated at least $30 million to the organization since 2021, according to federal files.


According to the FEC, if a person considering an offer is actually campaigning, the exploratory period is over. As defined by the Commission, campaigning includes the person identifying themselves as a candidate, using “general public political advertising” to publicize a particular campaign intention, or “raising more money than is reasonably necessary to test the waters.” “. although this amount is not defined.

Campaigns may also technically involve notifying the media “either directly or through an advisor” that a candidacy will be announced on a specific date.


The use of exploratory committees was more common in the past than it is today.

In 1999, businessman Donald Trump said he had formed an exploratory committee to see if he could win as the Reform Party nominee for the White House. Trump upped that bid despite winning the White House as a Republican in 2016 and seeking the GOP nomination again next year.

A month before taking office in the White House, then-Democratic Senator from Illinois Barack Obama announced an exploratory committee. Four years later, Republicans Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum had their own committees ahead of official announcements while Newt Gingrich pondered it, eventually jumping straight into the 2012 race.

Several Democrats who eventually ran for their party’s 2020 nomination initially made exploratory efforts, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.

But some candidates jump right into their official campaigns. Hillary Clinton did that for the 2016 election, as did Kamala Harris for 2020 and Haley this year.

Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.

Brian Ashcraft

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