Bettendorf, aka Bettenberg, makes the big time on Emmy winning Netflix series 'House of Cards'

U.S. President Francis Underwood in the popular Netflix series 'House of Cards' has hit the Iowa campaign trail, just like the real presidential hopefuls now crisscrossing our state.

And in one of this season's episodes, Underwood's female challenger, Heather Dunbar, fires up a blue-collar crowd in a small, union hall calling for a higher minimum wage and criticizing WalMart. As she leaves the meeting, the sign in the background proclaims the location as "Bettenberg Union Hall." A smaller message on the same sign advertises "Sweet Corn Roast Thursday."

With the fictitious House of Cards presidential campaign consuming a good deal of the show's third year, Iowa references aren't hard to come by.

A "Des Moines Register" newspaper and a "Dubuque Herald-Telegraph" logo are shown in one shot, leading into to a sex scene between the presidential biographer and a troublesome Washington reporter.

Typical "Iowa" landscapes show rural gravel roads, bucolic farm landscapes and the obligatory field of corn. However, according to wikipedia, the show is filmed primarily in Maryland thanks in part to tax credits from the Maryland Film Office. The company got $11.6 million in tax credits the first year, $15 million in season two and is expected to receive another $15 million for season three.

One, not-so-subtle jab at Iowa farm interests and their political lobbying comes in the episode following the Bettenberg Union Hall scene, when a rotund lobbyist for "Iowa food processors" is taken aboard Air Force One to talk with Underwood on the flight back to Washington.

The lobbyist is shown pigging out on a very large lobster (no beef steak in sight) on Air Force One, and later disses the president's black chief of staff, Remy Dalton.

While driving the lobbyist to the airport, Dalton tries to reassure him the president's jobs bill will help his food industry clients.

The lobbyist tells him not to bother taking to him. "I talk to candidates, not chauffeurs."

When Dalton protests that he's no chauffeur, the lobbyist retorts: "You're the one who's got your hands on the wheel."

The exchange leads to Dalton becoming a bit unhinged after being stopped for speeding by D.C. cops. When he can't show officers an ID, he is frisked, handcuffed and put in a squad car.

Watching the popular Netflix drama depicting presidential campaigning in Iowa is a bit like looking at a carnival funhouse mirror.

The image you see is obviously distorted from reality, but the exaggerated reflection contains some truths we might otherwise choose not notice in our daily routine. The funhouse reflection also tells us much about how non-Iowans view us and our political role in presidential politics.

Go to top