If you can’t win a seat in Congress, why not parlay your failed political dreams into reality TV stardom? (We call this the reverse-Sean Duffy.) Manhattan congressional candidate Nick Di Iorio is probably not going to win in November. And he knows it. So when producers approached him about appearing in a reality TV show about long-shot political campaigns, he was interested. Di Iorio, a Republican running to unseat incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and his campaign manager, Joseph Shippee, would be featured campaigning in a district “considered unwinnable,” Shippeewrote in a letter to the Federal Election Commission in early June. The producers, who had hoped to option the idea to Esquire Network, sought candidates with low odds, and as Shippee wrote, “Nick appears to fit this description.” The show would not air until after the election. Shippee wanted to know: Could they get paid? And if not, could they do the show at all?
The FEC responded Monday in a draft advisory opinion telling them that no, they could not be paid, but yes, they could be featured on the show. A candidate for Congress can only receive compensation if it’s for work outside of his candidacy. “To the contrary, the candidate and his staff were asked to appear on the reality television show specifically because of Mr. Di Iorio’s candidacy,” according to the pending draft, which the commission is yet to vote on.
But the FEC said Esquire would be operating as a “legitimate press function,” so the campaign would be allowed to be documented just as any campaign can be covered by a news organization.