04/18/2014 09:14 am ET Updated Jun 18, 2014

Hill Staffers: Your Reality Is Not Made for TV


There are reports that a reality show starring "D.C. up-and-comers" is in the works. If you wanted to attach an anchor to your career in politics, my advice to you would be to sign up.

Whether this show ever gets off the ground remains to be seen, but I would offer a few words of wisdom for anyone considering an audition.

Whether working for a candidate, elected official, or a cause, the first rule of a political staffer is "it's not about you." Everything you do on the job should advance your principal's or constituents' greater goals. It's not clear how appearing on a television show does that.

Dealing with the ups and downs of campaigning and legislating is challenging. Having a staffer act inappropriately on television once a week is basically a 30-minute free advertisement against your cause. With employees like that who needs opponents?

Additionally, reality shows never show the "good" side of anything. A room full of people getting along and agreeing doesn't make for very compelling television. These programs thrive on conflict. Much of that conflict is fueled by, or at least aided by alcohol.

The phrase "loose lips sink ships" was invented to keep sensitive information away from wartime enemies. In a city that thrives on access to information, booze and cameras are part of a disaster waiting to happen.

As I've noted before, legislating in Washington isn't an episode of House of Cards. It's hard, sometimes boring work. Being able to deliver on the promises you make to constituents and your superiors will be the thing that makes you a star in Washington, not being a Survivor, Bachelor, or Apprentice.


Hon. Mark R. Kennedy (@HonMarkKennedy) leads George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management and is Chairman of the Economic Club of Minnesota. He previously served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was Senior Vice President and Treasurer of Federated Department Stores (now Macy's).