The table below lists committees that have identified themselves as a presidential exploratory committee on their Statement of Organization (FEC Form 1) since the last presidential election. It is important to note that this is not a comprehensive list of 2016 presidential exploratory committees as these committee types are not required to register or file disclosure reports with the Federal Election Commission.
Before deciding to campaign for federal office, an individual may first want to “test the waters”—that is, explore the feasibility of becoming a candidate. For example, the individual may want to travel around the country to determine if there is sufficient support for his or her candidacy. An individual who merely conducts selected testing the waters activities does not have to register or report as a candidate even if the individual raises or spends more than $5,000 on those activities (the dollar threshold that would normally trigger candidate registration). Nevertheless, the individual must comply with the contribution limits and prohibitions. 100.72(a) and 100.131(a); see also Advisory Opinion (AO) 1985-40.
An individual is no longer testing the waters when s/he:
• Makes or authorizes statements referring to him/herself as a candidate;
• Uses general public political advertising to publicize his/her intention to campaign;
• Raises more money than what is reasonably needed to test the waters, or amasses funds to be used after the candidacy is established;
• Conducts activities over a protracted period of time or shortly before the election; or
• Takes action to qualify for the ballot.
Once an individual is no longer testing the waters, funds that were raised or spent to test the waters apply to the $5,000 threshold for qualifying as a candidate. 100.72(a) and 100.131(a). Once that threshold is exceeded, the individual must register with the FEC, and begin to file reports including in the first report all activity that occurred prior to reaching the $5,000 threshold, including any testing the waters activities. To obtain a list of 2016 presidential candidates, visit the 2016 Presidential Statements of Candidacy page.
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