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University of Iowa News Release


April 27, 2011

Yes, but will there be doughnuts? Hagle explains purpose of Presidential Exploratory Committees

Tim Pawlenty has one. So does Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Ron Paul started one Tuesday, and Haley Barbour has decided he doesn't want one, after all.

Those Republicans are all considered presidential material, and the ones who are thinking about following through on it in 2012 have announced their intentions by forming Presidential Exploratory Committees (except Barbour, who has decided not to run). While not required by law, the formation of a committee has become a traditional part of a presidential candidate's announcement process in recent elections, a benchmark on the way from "rumored" candidacy to actual campaign.

But as for what an exploratory committee does, that can be just about anything.

"A Presidential Exploratory Committee will do whatever a candidate wants it to do," said Tim Hagle, a political science professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "It's basically a legal entity that allows a candidate to raise some money for a possible campaign--usually presidential, but it could be something else--without the more rigorous disclosure requirements of a full-blown campaign."

Hagle said fewer regulations apply to the committees, compared to the public disclosure requirements of a formally declared campaign. They can be as big or as small as the candidate wants, and made up of anybody the candidate wants to be on it, though Hagle said it most likely his or her friends/supporters/advisors. They can meet wherever they want and as often as they want, or not meet at all, ever. Whether they have doughnuts and coffee at the meetings is entirely up to them.

"They wouldn't necessarily meet as a group, but they could," said Hagle. "Again, it would be run however the candidate preferred."

Analysts note that the committees have developed a buzz-generating public relations aspect over time, too, as the Washington D.C. media corps relentlessly covers a rumored candidate's every step forward. The formation of Pawlenty's, Romney's and Santorum's exploratory committees all generated significant coverage in the political media and the blogosphere when they were announced. Even Paul's announcement this week that he's merely thinking about forming one brought him some valuable publicity before Tuesday's announcement that he actually had.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell),