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Reality television stars can run for federal office – and have their campaign events and activities filmed and broadcasted, a draft advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) concludes.

But there’s a catch: Any compensation paid to the candidate would be considered a corporate contribution – and the knowing acceptance of a corporate contribution is illegal under the federal election law.

In other words candidates cannot be paid for their appearances … even if the shows in which they star are broadcast after  their elections.

Hmmmm …

The FEC is drafting its advisory opinion in response to an inquiry submitted by Nick Di Iorio – a long shot candidate for New York’s 12th Congressional District.  Di Iorio was approached by Esquire TV producers looking to film a show exploring the “motivations, trials and tribulations of some candidates running in races considered unwinnable.”

He and his staff would be paid for their appearances.

The draft opinion has a long way to go before it becomes policy.  The FEC routinely reviews multiple drafts of proposed advisory opinions before calling for a vote on a final opinion.  And assuming a vote is called, four of six commissioners must approve a final draft for it to become law.

The FEC’s exploration of reality television-related issues raised eyebrows in South Carolina, where former S.C. Treasurer Thomas Ravenel – star of Bravo TV’s Southern Charm – just filed 17,000 signatures to appear on the November ballot against incumbent “Republican” Lindsey Graham.

Shortly after Ravenel filed his signatures, Bravo announced it would be renewing Southern Charm for a second season.