11 CFR § 100.131 - Testing the waters.
(a) General exemption. Payments made solely for the purpose of determining whether an individual should become a candidate are not expenditures. Examples of activities permissible under this exemption if they are conducted to determine whether an individual should become a candidate include, but are not limited to, conducting a poll, telephone calls, and travel. Only funds permissible under the Act may be used for such activities. The individual shall keep records of all such payments. See 11 CFR 101.3. If the individual subsequently becomes a candidate, the payments made are subject to the reporting requirements of the Act. Such expenditures must be reported with the first report filed by the principal campaign committee of the candidate, regardless of the date the payments were made.
(b) Exemption not applicable to individuals who have decided to become candidates. This exemption does not apply to payments made for activities indicating that an individual has decided to become a candidate for a particular office or for activities relevant to conducting a campaign. Examples of activities that indicate that an individual has decided to become a candidate include, but are not limited to:
(1) The individual uses general public political advertising to publicize his or her intention to campaign for Federal office.
(2) The individual raises funds in excess of what could reasonably be expected to be used for exploratory activities or undertakes activities designed to amass campaign funds that would be spent after he or she becomes a candidate.
(3) The individual makes or authorizes written or oral statements that refer to him or her as a candidate for a particular office.
(4) The individual conducts activities in close proximity to the election or over a protracted period of time.
(5) The individual has taken action to qualify for the ballot under State law.