Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey plays a high-level politician in “House of Cards.” (Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon, Associated Press)

Carla Marinucci and Wyatt Buchanan
Updated 10:37 pm, Sunday, March 10, 2013

There are the old standbys of sex, money and power in politics. But lately there’s a new addiction in the halls of power: a video series – fictional, of course – that stars power-hungry politicians, unethical journalists and a wily political insider who always seems to get what he wants.

Netflix’s “House of Cards,” which stars Kevin Spacey as fictional Democratic House Majority Whip Francis “Frank” Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife, Claire, has managed to get Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento and Washington to sequester themselves – just to watch the series.

Spacey’s Machiavellian character “has his hands on every secret in politics – and is willing to betray them all to become president,” according to the series’ creators.

“I’m obsessed,” said GOP strategist Amy Thoma, vice president of Stutzman Public Affairs in Sacramento. “It’s like evil ‘West Wing.’ And some of the shadier parts are so realistic.”

But while “West Wing,” which ran on NBC from 1999 to 2006, had a “best of what we wanted the White House to be” kind of approach, Thoma said, the entire 13-part “House of Cards” series, launched online in February, is about the bare-knuckled aspects of politics. “It plays into the cynicism that people are feeling about Washington,” she said.

Buzz at state GOP

That helped make “House of Cards,” the buzz at the recent state GOP convention in Sacramento, where consultants, elected officials and strategists alike admitted to being hooked. The New York Times examined the show’s treatment of political journalism, while online giants such as BuzzFeed analyzed its portrayals of closed-door machinations in Washington.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, was pressed by journalists at a recent Sacramento Press Club appearance about issues from the economy to his future – but also about “House of Cards,” which is an adaptation of a BBC miniseries with the same name.

McCarthy said he was asked to be an adviser for Spacey’s character. He initially declined, saying, “It’s not going to turn out well for me.”

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