Though his life had been full of trouble and strife, Peter Russo thought that he finally had things under control. He was elected as the Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania’s 1st congressional district, and felt on top of the world — until his old troubles caught up with him in the most spectacular way possible, landing him in jail and leaving his reputation in tatters. The story of Peter Russo may be one of the saddest on The House of Cards series, but it’s also one of the most interesting, since it provides us with an intimate look at how politics actually works in real life. The Rise and Fall of Peter Russo

The rise

From a young age, Russo aspired to be a member of Congress. He spent time working for well-known politicians in Pennsylvania such as Bill Scranton, George Miller and John Murtha. His work paid off when he received his first election in 1998, which he won by 23 points.

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The fall

For some, addiction is caused by a chemical imbalance that can be treated. For others, it’s an urge that can be controlled through counseling. And for some addicts, it’s simply a lack of self-control over an ultimately destructive desire. The rise: When first elected to Congress in 2000, Peter Russo seemed like he could go places—and not just because he was one of only two firsties (members who took office on January 3 at midnight following their election) in 2001.

The Rise and Fall of Peter Russo
The Rise and Fall of Peter Russo

Tragic Twist

The character was based on Pennsylvania politician Patrick J. Kennedy, son of Senator Ted Kennedy. In 2006, Russo resigned from Congress after being arrested for driving under the influence; his father also died in 2006 due to alcoholism-related liver failure. Tragically, a similar story unfolded in real life just six years later when Patrick J. Kennedy himself suffered a seizure while driving and was charged with operating under the influence—just five years after publicly admitting he had been treated for an addiction to prescription drugs.

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