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Scott Walker in Iowa file photo

Gov. Scott Walker received widespread acclaim for his speech at at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

Gov. Scott Walker has formed a committee to explore a 2016 presidential run, marking the first formal step he has taken toward getting in the race.

Walker announced Tuesday that he created an organization named “Our American Revival,” which will allow him to raise unlimited contributions as he mulls joining the field of GOP presidential hopefuls. Walker also launched a website and Facebook page with the same name.

Should he become an official candidate, Walker would not be able to move funds from the group to a presidential campaign.

Our American Revival was quietly formed on Jan. 16, a filing with the Internal Revenue Service shows.

The committee can help spread Walker’s message and fund his activities. As a “527” organization, named for the part of the federal tax code that deals with tax-exempt political groups, it is not subject to contribution limits, and the group’s first disclosure of fundraising activities would not be until July.

“Our American Revival encompasses the shared values that make our country great; limiting the powers of the federal government to those defined in the Constitution while creating a leaner, more efficient, more effective and more accountable government to the American people,” Walker said in a statement.

He made the announcement in the wake of his strong reviews at the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative gathering in Des Moines last weekend. He also recently traveled to California for another conservative event hosted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. And last week, he announced plans to travel to New Hampshire in March.

Plans to be announced

He has said he would announce plans on a presidential run later this spring or summer.

Walker is expected to introduce his 2015-17 budget plan on Tuesday, as the state faces a projected budget hole of about $2 billion — a figure based on agency requests. Wisconsin Democrats said Tuesday that Walker should be focused on the state’s looming budget shortfall and economic problems back home.

“Scott Walker can’t credibly campaign on his ability to lead an ‘American Revival’ when his so-called ‘Wisconsin Comeback’ has been such an abysmal failure,” said Melissa Baldauff, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Walker’s steps also come as other GOP presidential hopefuls are making moves to get into the 2016 race, in what is shaping to become a crowded field of Republican contenders.

Walker rose to national prominence shortly after taking office in early 2011 when he announced his plan to all but end collective bargaining for most public workers.

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The move triggered historic protests at the Capitol and waves of recall elections. In June 2012, Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall. He won reelection in November.

Veteran GOP operative Rick Wiley, a former Republican National Committee political director, will be executive director for Our American Revival.

The group’s treasurer is Andrew Hitt, who worked for the Walker administration from January 2011 until late last year. Hitt spent more than two years in the governor’s office as a senior adviser and counsel, and later moved to the state Department of Health Services as a top aide.

Another aide named on the IRS form is Molly Weininger, a vice president at Aspect Consulting, a Madison fundraising company with ties to Walker’s campaigns.

The group will advocate for policies that reflect “the ideal that a government closest to the people can best respond to the needs and interests of the people — while protecting their freedoms and values against overreach by the federal government,” Tuesday’s release said.

Last week, Walker also hired David Polyansky, a veteran Republican strategist with Iowa ties.

Walker’s committee is different than some created by other presidential hopefuls because it is a tax exempt “527” committee rather than a so-called leadership political action committee.

‘527’ means no limits

“The reason that Gov. Walker would set up a ‘527’ as opposed to a political campaign committee is that it’s not subject to any contribution limits,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center. “And they can take money from any source, including corporations and nonprofit corporations.”

But Ryan added that some activities — such as polling, telephone calls and travel for the purpose of determining whether to become a candidate — constitute “testing the waters” and must be paid for with funds raised under the $2,600 candidate contribution limit, and would be subject to the ban on corporate contributions.

“The challenge with enforcing these federal laws is ascertaining whether an individual like Mr. Walker is or is not spending money on travel or other activities to determine whether to become a candidate,” Ryan said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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