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"Testing waters" may mean never having to say who your donors are

Journal Gazette | 11/17/2006 | With toes in water, hopefuls hide funds
AP reports: It’s a tired cliche, but “testing the waters” is part of federal election law that gives would-be presidential candidates a chance to mull a White House bid without revealing early successes – or failures.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani filed papers “to conduct federal ‘testing the waters’ activity,” a move that allows the Republican to raise money for an anticipated bid without having to publicly disclose donations or expenditures – effectively giving the campaign some degree of privacy.

“The advantage to limiting yourself to testing the waters is that if you decide not to run, you’re under no obligation to disclose what you raised or what you spent it on,” said Joseph Birkenstock, former chief counsel for the Democratic National Committee.

Candidates “testing the waters” can raise money to poll, travel and hire staff. Funds can pay for phone calls, office space and databases. Those funds also can pay for stationary and biographical material – all key steps in what is expected to be a crowded field of White House contenders. --

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