WASHINGTON -- Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman is actively exploring setting up a special committee that would provide funds for him to campaign across the country and remain in the national political spotlight -- and thus build a strong foundation for a possible presidential run in 2004.
"He is interested in doing this," spokesman Dan Gerstein confirmed Wednesday night. Lieberman and his aides, after serious discussions, are working out details of how the fund-raising committee, dubbed a "Leadership PAC" by official Washington, would operate.
The senator, who ran for vice president on the 2000 Democratic ticket, is considered a potential presidential contender for 2004. Though it is still early, polls are being taken listing possible contenders, and candidates are already traveling to key states.
Lieberman finished far down the list in a new survey in one of those key states, Iowa, which is important because its delegate caucuses are the first nomination contest on the presidential campaign calendar.
Lieberman has not been traveling like some others, but he already had a national forum last fall in the campaign as well as the chairmanship of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council for the past six years. He is expected to step down from that post next week.
Gerstein could not give details about the committee but said the senator likes the idea because "he has certainly developed some very strong relationships with Democrats around the country."
He wants the committee help because "he's committed to building on these relationships and helping the Democratic candidates get elected and ideally help our party retake Congress."
In his first month back in that job, Lieberman has integrated seamlessly, while receiving plenty of national attention.
He took the lead Tuesday in unveiling the Democratic Leadership Council-inspired education reform package, appearing as a guest on national television programs and explaining the plan at a packed Washington news conference.
Thursday, he will again have coast-to-coast airtime as he issues his annual findings on the state of the video game industry. Lieberman has long pushed to reduce violence and sex in the games.
Creating the PAC will give him a time-tested way of smoothly becoming a presidential contender. Most of the major players in recent years have followed this same path.
Donors can give a Leadership PAC up to $10,000 every two years, but there is a loophole. Leadership PACs can opt to raise "soft money," or funds that can be raised and spent in unlimited amounts, if the money does not influence federal elections.
The government watchdog group Common Cause has complained that such PACs are aimed at influencing state officials who will redraw congressional boundaries this year, and are a convenient way to make it hard for the public to learn about big contributions.
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