Unicorn Farms, Mike Duggan's Exploratory Committee, And Other Imaginary Things
Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan is reportedly poised to announce the formation of a mayoral exploratory committee in advance of Detroit's 2013 election.
What does that mean?
When a prospective presidential candidate forms an exploratory committee it isn't conjecture. Under federal election laws, an exploratory committee is a defined entity that can and cannot do certain things in advance of a potential presidential bid.
The Atlantic explained the purpose of federal exploratory committees last year:
Exploratory committees, according to the FEC, are organizations that support a candidate who is considering a run for office -- in campaign-law parlance, one who is "testing the waters" of candidacy.
The functional difference is this: An exploratory committee doesn't have to report its finances to the FEC, whereas a campaign committee does. Until a campaign is official, the exploratory committee goes unscrutinized.
Effectively, the term has "no distinction, locally" according to Lansing-based Democratic political consultant Joe DiSano.
"I think it is a term of art and nothing more," DiSano said about Duggan's so-called exploratory committee. "Mike Duggan is running and running to win. Only fools believe he is exploring a campaign."
Duggan isn't alone in using the "exploratory committee" language of presidential campaigns to frame a potential mayoral run. Several online directories list an exploratory committee for 2009 mayoral runner-up Tom Barrow.
Perhaps the lesson here is this: If you're running for mayor and want to appear like you have the stature for the job, act like you think you're presidential.