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Posted at 1:44 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Gingrich to start 'exploring' presidential bid

By Aaron Blake

Updated at 3:37 p.m.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) said Thursday that he will be exploring a run for the presidency in the weeks ahead.

While Gingrich is not yet opening an official exploratory committee, a spokesman said he is beginning the process of looking at a presidential bid.

Gingrich went into more detail about his plans during a radio interview with Georgia talk show host Martha Zoller early Thursday. He said he will be launching a new website -- NewtExplore2012.com -- that went up this afternoon.

In a subsequent press conference, Gingrich made a brief statement.

"We will look at this very seriously, and we will very methodically lay out the framework of what we'll do next," Gingrich said, before quickly making an exit. "We'll be back. There'll be many more chances to have conversations

It was initially reported earlier this week that Gingrich would announce an exploratory committee today, but Gingrich's staff said he is not doing that at this point.

Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler confirmed that distinction in an e-mail to The Fix.

"He intends to make it known that he will be exploring a presidential candidacy today," Tyler said.

Gingrich, who is polling with the first tier of potential GOP presidential candidates, is in the early stages of a lengthy rollout process. A more formal committee is likely to follow once Gingrich gets his various business interests in line.

Paul Ryan, associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, said Gingrich's acknowledgement that he is testing the waters means he is required to follow campaign finance restrictions in raising and spending money, including a $2,500 contribution limit per individual and no corporate or union donations.

If he decides to run, he will be required to report details of his fundraising and spending during this phase to the Federal Election Commission; if not, no paperwok is required, Ryan said.

One of Gingrich's potential strengths as a candidate is a formidable fundrraising and telemarketing operation that has grown up around his constellation of advocacy groups, book projects and other ventures. Gingrich's main political group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, ranks as the largest group of its kind in the nation, raising more than $50 million in the last four years.

But that same fundraising operation also contains potential pitfalls for the former House speaker, who faced ethics allegations while in Congress and has since leaned heavily on a small number of wealthy donors.

The biggest contributor to American Solutions was casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who gave the group $6 million, tax records show. Adelson was notified by federal authorities this week that his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., was under investigation by the Justice Department in connection with corruption allegations.

Dan Eggen contributed to this report.

By Aaron Blake  | March 3, 2011; 1:44 PM ET
 
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