House of Cards Wiki
House of Cards Wiki

"SanCorp is a big fish, but Raymond Tusk is a whale."
— Remy Danton describing Tusk.

Raymond Alan Tusk is a billionaire industrialist who specializes in nuclear power and owns several nuclear power plants. He was also a close friend and adviser of President Garrett Walker.

Early life

Raymond Tusk was born to a middle-class family of steel workers. 

Education and early career

After getting a mechanical engineering degree from the Carnegie Mellon University in 1970, Raymond Tusk went on to work in the power generation division of General Dynamics. Within 3 years, Tusk was promoted to junior project manager.

Tusk then left General Dynamics to attend University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. While exposed to world class business executives and professors at Wharton, Tusk became increasingly interested in the realm of investment banking and private equity. With an MBA from Wharton, and a strong technical background in mechanical engineering, Tusk set out on a new path that would one day allow him to build a global firm similar to that of his former employer, General Dynamics.


The Rise of Raymond Tusk

From 1976 until 1980 Tusk worked for Kravis, Kohlberg & Roberts (KKR), the infamous firm that essentially pioneered the business of private equity and leveraged buyouts. KKR helped Tusk develop the strategic abilities he would need to one day be at the helm of North America's largest nuclear energy conglomerate.

In 1980, Tusk left KKR, and with the help of contacts he had met in the industry, launched an LBO of his own. His target: Clayton West, a distressed mid-cap energy firm specializing in coal and natural gas. The firm was a victim of terrible management and irresponsible oversight. Upon buying out the remaining shareholders, Tusk replaced the board, taking command as the firm's new CEO.

Over the course of the next 20 years, Tusk expanded the business on a massive scale. As the firm's earnings grew, Tusk borrowed on a serial basis. He began acquiring any competition he could find, and at any cost. If the target of his takeover did not accept his tender offer, a hostile takeover ensued instead.

By 1990, Tusk had increased Clayton West's market cap from US$450 million to over 12.5 billion. The 1990s brought on increased activism from environmentalists and as a result, further scrutiny against coal producers like Clayton West. Tusk decided that rather than preserve his coal business in the short-term, he would steer Clayton West towards the future of energy, nuclear power and fission power research. Clayton West divested itself from coal exploration and sold off all its dirty energy arms. In combination with a massive issue of debt, the revenue generated by the firm's liquidation of countless coal divisions provided Tusk with enough cash to launch a full scale switch to nuclear power. Beginning with power plants in the Midwest, Tusk began building his energy empire as never before.

At the turn of the century, Clayton West expanded its nuclear business to Asian markets, a region that relied heavily on smog inducing coal power. China was the primary, and largest project of the firm's global expansion. China was also in the middle of political revolution, from communist ideals to managed capitalism. The Chinese's government's exit from business provided the conditions for Clayton West to secure a dominant market share in China's infant, but exponentially growing public economy.

By 2005, Clayton West's market cap had increased to an astounding US$90 billion, 30% of which was owned by well grounded CEO, Raymond Tusk.

In 2013 and with the 20-yr veteran Tusk at the head, Clayton West reached a market cap of US$150 billion USD, making it the largest nuclear power producer in history. As of 2014, Raymond Tusk has an estimated net worth of US$42.5 billion. 

Money vs. Power: Battling Frank Underwood

Spotsylvania back channel

In May 2014, Tusk, who by this time had managed to build up a solid and mutually productive working and personal relationship with President Walker, was entrusted with arranging a back channel to the official U.S.-China trade summit, the idea being to allow for an open and honest exchange of requests and information that couldn't be discussed in the formal setting of an official summit. In fact, the president's level of trust in Tusk was such that the American billionaire was even allowed to enlist Xander Feng, his Chinese business partner with ties to the Chinese Standing Committee, as the person on the other side of the back channel. For the American side of the back channel, Tusk chose vice president Frank Underwood with whom he had a gentleman's agreement about working together.

The summit was of major importance to the president's domestic agenda that identified foreign investment into infrastructure as one of the keys to reducing the deficit, with one particular project singled out as priority one item — the Port Jefferson Bridge, linking Port Jefferson, New York and Milford, Connecticut over the Long Island Sound, which the U.S. government's Committee on Foreign Investment had been planning to let a Chinese company build in return for a 25-year toll collecting contract.

Tusk and Feng, for their part, had their own project on the summit agenda — a rare earth elements refinery in China that the Chinese government had been keen to offer to Tusk as a 40-year lease. However, there was another key item they wanted to introduce through the back channel — a request for the U.S. to continue with its currency manipulation lawsuit against China in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a suit that the U.S. had given numerous indications it's ready to drop at the successful conclusion of the summit. The idea on their part was that keeping the external pressure of a possible unfavorable WTO ruling would benefit Feng's open currency efforts within the Chinese Standing Committee, which, if successful, would result in an interest rate spike in China — an event both Tusk and Feng would see an enormous financial benefit from.

Finally, despite having a broadly defined verbal agreement on cooperation with the Clayton West CEO, scheming VP Underwood wasn't the slightest bit interested in merely playing along, being under no illusion about Tusk's sudden diplomatic efforts. Seeing Tusk as an opportunist, Underwood considered the upcoming Tusk-organized back channel to be just another instrument for furthering the American billionaire's personal financial interests rather than a genuine initiative at improving diplomatic ties between U.S. and China. Being an opportunist himself, Underwood therefore went into the back channel with his own personal agenda, seeing it as a sudden opportunity to loosen Tusk's grip on the president.

At the back channel, when told by Feng of Chinese request for the U.S. to keep on with its WTO suit — explained by the Chinese businessman as being put forth for appearances purposes due to China supposedly wanting to present to the domestic public its end to the interventionist domestic currency policies as having been forced by the United States' lawsuit — Underwood immediately found the whole thing fishy. He right away suspected Tusk's and Feng's financial gain in this and, furthermore, didn't even believe Feng had the full support of the Chinese Standing Committee for his open currency efforts. Unfazed by Feng's threat of taking the Port Jefferson bridge project off the table if this unexpected request isn't met, Underwood decided on the spot to antagonize both Tusk and Feng by first not relaying their WTO lawsuit related request to Secretary of State Catherine Durant at the official summit in D.C., but relaying the exact opposite and, second, leaking the U.S. intent of dropping the suit to Ayla Sayyad of the Wall Street Telegraph. The news made the Telegraph's online edition within an hour.

Seeing what had transpired, Tusk and Feng immediately arranged another meeting, this time between Feng and Underwood's chief of staff Doug Stamper, attempting to intimidate Underwood into relaying the proper message back to DC. The VP ignored their request and began plotting and preparing his act before the president, as Tusk, having been sabotaged by Underwood, was now sure to bring the issue up in front of President Walker.

The next day, at a teleconference, Tusk was with the president and secretary Durant in D.C. while Underwood was dialing in from Spotsylvania. Furious at the latest development — since Chinese side had just decided to take the bridge project off the table in reaction to the announcement of the WTO suit being dropped — President wanted the project back on the table by any means necessary and was completely dumbfounded as to why the Chinese have decided to remove it from the summit agenda when their back-channeled request through Feng had been met. Things looked even worse for Underwood when Tusk confronted him in front of the president by mentioning talking to Feng who accused Underwood of not relaying his message accurately. Underwood now went into full defense mode, dismissing Feng's words to Tusk as Feng's own business agenda slipping through as he stands to profit from open Chinese currency, before feigning outrage that his own truthfulness is even being questioned followed by convincingly lying to the President he had relayed every word of Feng's request accurately, and finally even appealing to the President along the lines of "who do you believe more - your own vice-president or some corrupt Chinese businessman", which seemed to be enough for the President to dismiss Feng's accusation and become convinced of Underwood's version that Feng was attempting to play them all telling Underwood one thing and a completely different one to Tusk. However, the President was still none the wiser about why the Chinese have decided to take the bridge project off the table, with Underwood's suggestion that it's just negotiations leverage getting mild approval. The President made an on-the-spot decision to end all back-channeling for the time being, ordering both Underwood and Tusk to stop talking to Feng until the bridge project is back on the table.

Despite now being under direct orders from the President about stopping further back channeling efforts with Feng, another meeting between Frank and the Chinese businessman got arranged. It ended in acrimony as Underwood refused to give an inch to Tusk and Feng.

Next day on a three-way call with Tusk in DC and the President in a moving car, Tusk confronted Underwood with the fact he met Feng despite President's orders not to do so. Underwood lied, denying meeting Feng and countering by asking Tusk why he communicated with Feng when he had also been under the same orders. Tusk said Feng reached out to him and he picked up. Getting more and more disappointed at what he's hearing, exasperated President directed a veiled suggestion at Frank that months of back channeling and clear prearranged terms are being messed up here to which Underwood answered that "we're dealing with a regime that is not being forthright and will seize upon the faintest whiff of trepidation", imploring the President "not to play their game" and end the talks. Tusk was completely against this, saying the economic fallout would be catastrophic, which Frank used to question Tusk's allegiances. Angered by Frank's suggestion, Tusk angrily barked back at which point the President stepped in, relaying his disappointment in both men, adding the whole thing was a mistake — both allowing Tusk to enlist one of his business partners for these talks as well as enlisting Frank who delivered "poor diplomacy and miscommunication instead of clarity". President then decided to pull out of the trade talks with China, letting his VP Underwood know specifically that it wasn't because he suggested it, but because he made such a mess of the negotiations that there was no other choice but a show of strength. President Walker then hung up on both of them, prompting rattled Tusk to admit to Frank that was the first time in 20 years Garret's hung up on him.

July 2014 energy crisis

After having his attempt at laying the groundwork for securing an even bigger financial windfall from his Chinese business activities via organizing a Spotsylvania back channel to the May 2014 US-China trade summit scuttled by VP Underwood, Tusk found himself completely frozen out by President Walker who not too long before that was under the powerful tycoon's complete control. President Walker's decision to pull out, itself brought about by Underwood's cunning and self-serving ploy, killed the summit and the trade relations with China took a big turn for the worse. Realizing the US energy dependence on samarium, a metal imported from China, China raised the price, resulting immediately in the spike in energy prices across the United States with consumers already paying triple the standard rate for electricity and a projected five-fold increase by August 2014.

Realizing his inferior momentary position to Underwood when it comes to having the President's ear, Tusk — desperately intent on having the President relax his relations with China — offered Underwood willingness to put the bitterness of Spotsylvania behind them, reminding the VP to work together like they agreed to months earlier. Though cordially accepting the offer and agreeing with its sentiment to Tusk over the phone, Underwood's actual plans were quite different and he committed to nothing concrete. Feeling the tycoon's desperation and seeing him on the ropes, Underwood wanted to land a few more blows on the beleaguered Tusk.

As President considered his strategy towards China in a cabinet meeting, Underwood advocated remaining tough on China in present circumstances. He suggested the President issue an executive order of purchasing the samarium through a third party, stockpiling it for defense purposes, while quietly selling the remaining amount to American nuclear power companies at a cut price — a subsidy for the nuclear industry in order to avert the energy crisis. Clearly still holding his VP Underwood in high regard, despite directly blaming him for the Spotsylvania fiasco, the President agreed after getting assurances of possessing enough resources for a moderate samarium stockpile. The third party conduit — India — was chosen by the Secretary of State Durant.

The subsidy plan didn't sit well with Tusk since the continuation of the trade war with China meant even his co-venture with Xander Feng — rare earth metals refinery in China — previously a foregone conclusion for Beijing's approval, was now on hold. Not to mention looking at having his profits undercut should he accept the subsidies. Anticipating Tusk's disapproval, his lobbyist Remy Danton paid Frank a visit, trying to suss his former boss out in regards to what's really behind the subsidy decision. Frank, however, remained bullish and disinterested in any of Remy's arguments, concluding by saying the message he's trying to send Tusk is that "stubbornness is far more costly than obedience".

Tusk decided to put up a fight, refusing to implement the subsidy plan along with a few other nuclear providers, while most of the providers did agree to go along with it. Though lacking proof, VP Underwood was convinced Tusk was colluding with the few holdout providers over this and voiced as much to the president. VP's plan of making them all fall in line was hitting their distribution channel by adding an anti-trust agreement as an amendment to the emergency energy bill thereby breaking-up the regional supply and distribution monopolies. The president protested that such a motion would be immediately challenged in courts, but Underwood was adamant that the threat alone would do the trick and the president tentatively agreed if there's a way of pulling it off without it getting into papers. To avoid this, Underwood then instructed Majority Whip Jackie Sharp to convey their intentions to the Tusk camp by personally meeting with Remy. Upon hearing the relayed news, Tusk's response was that he'll fight the amendment in Supreme Court.

Seeing Tusk didn't blink at the amendment threat, still extremely bullish Underwood came back with a proposal to the president of raising the bet by getting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) involved, activating a price-fixing review on Tusk's activities. Surprised president protested such an investigation would take months to which Underwood countered with the same logic of the threat alone being enough to yield results. The president disagreed, thinking Tusk would apply the same strategy of drawing the process out and fighting back with appeals to which aggressive Frank countered that Tusk would be forced into divulging his accounting should FERC take action, something no businessman wants to do. Seeing that Underwood's previous attempt at intimidating Tusk got nowhere, the president began rapidly cooling on the aggressive approach, mentioning the whole thing has gotten out of hand and that they shouldn't be duking it out with Raymond Tusk. He even mentioned perhaps talking to Tusk directly to which Underwood vehemently protested, trying to convince the President such a course of action would just be playing into Tusk's hands who wants to force himself back into the mix. Despite Underwood's vehement protestations, President Walker saw the whole thing as having degenerated to a pissing contest and decided to call Tusk, which Underwood saw as the biggest threat to his personal plan of minimizing Tusk's influence on the president.

Desperately trying to prevent restoration of the president's relationship with Tusk, Underwood, behind the president's back, invited Tusk to his house after Tusk's conversation with the president. At the meeting, Underwood proceeded to lie to Tusk they're ready to initiate a FERC price-fixing investigation against him, which Tusk was surprised to hear since the president never mentioned any such thing in their conversation. Underwood then further misconstrued the situation to Tusk, presenting it to the billionaire as the president lying to him through omission in order to keep him off-balance. Furthermore, Underwood presenting himself as only wanting to avoid the unnecessary conflict by letting Tusk know about FERC. Underwood then directly accused Tusk of engaging in illegal activity by deliberately keeping electric prices at inflated rates, which Tusk brushed off as only responding to free market. The two men began shouting at one another with somewhat exasperated Tusk wondering about the personal nature everything has devolved to between the two of them, at one point wondering if it's all about the Secretary of State snub 17 months ago in January 2013. Rattled though still confident, Underwood ended the ugly encounter with a bluff threat to Tusk — accept the subsidies or deal with FERC, giving him 24 hours to decide — despite none of this having been agreed to by the President.

Tusk refused to be intimidated again, striking back with his own plan. That evening, a huge power blackout occurred, forcing large part of D.C. into emergency. Speaking to Tusk on the phone, the president wanted to know if this was intentional, a suggestion Tusk rejected. Underwood was convinced Tusk caused the blackout on purpose, but, sensing president's doubt, went for the jugular, admitting to president about already mentioning possible FERC action to Tusk, but misconstruing the circumstance of their conversation as Tusk having called and VP just answering the call. Shocked president wanted to know why he was not immediately informed of this to which Underwood responded by continuing to lie that it happened because Tusk told him about having a productive talk with the president and being on board with the subsidy. At this point, rattled president who momentarily seemed to be on Underwood's side again said that Tusk actually proposed renewed trade talks with China and that subsidies weren't discussed at all. Underwood continued his performance by feigning being incensed, saying that Tusk has been playing them both. Putting two and two together, the president now wanted to know if Underwood was told by Tusk that the tycoon accepted the subsidy why did he then bring up FERC to which quick-on-his-feet Underwood responded about being relieved and that he mentioned FERC as only their next move that would now be averted. Sensing more doubt in president who now seemed to be swinging towards Underwood again, Underwood suggested that president take over Tusk's power plant's citing a precedent by Woodrow Wilson during World War I. Underwood continued imploring the president not to bend to Tusk, which the president agreed to.

Next day, Underwood met with Tusk at Freddy's BBQ joint, telling him about the president being ready to seize Tusk's plants through an executive order in time of emergency. Tusk protested by mentioning he's fight it in court, but came up empty for arguments when Underwood reminded him such a procedure would take even longer than FERC investigation and that throughout it all he wouldn't be making anything on those plants. At the end of his wits Tusk even brought up their agreement to work together, calling it a "mutually beneficial partnership" and accusing Underwood of breaking it. However, Underwood accused Tusk right back of not honoring his end of the bargain either, giving him a phone to call Linda in order to accept his request or face consequences.

Directing the campaign money to the Republicans for the 2014 midterm elections

Realizing he's now in an all out war with VP Frank Underwood who managed to completely wrest President Walker away from his influence, Tusk decided to hit their Democrat camp where it hurts - transferring a huge chunk of the campaign money for the upcoming Midterms away from the Democrats and towards the Republicans. The way this decision manifested to Walker's and Underwood's Democrats was a series of television attack ads as well as realization upon investigation that one of the party's biggest donors Indian casino owner Daniel Lanagin has recently redirect his significant campaign donations from the Democrats to the Republicans.

Campaign Finance Scandal and Arrest

Upon dispatching Doug Stamper to investigate further, Underwood realized Lanagin has been nothing but a front all these years and that his donations had actually been originating from Tusk, and now possibly Feng. As the campaign finance scandal unfolded, Frank successfully convinced him to testify before Congress. During his testimony, Tusk, who received was by Walker, admitted that over a ten year period, he"orchestrated" and "facilitated" an illicit campaign contribution scheme and that Walker "knew about it." Tusk, who neglected an opportunity from Walker to have his testimony immune from incrimination after a deal they struck was cancelled, is soon afterwards arrested. Tusk described being arrested as being on "my bucket list."

Tusk was pardoned by President Frank Underwood after admitting that Xander FengDaniel Lanagin, and himself used Lanagin's casino as a front for money laundering.

Season 4

In Chapter 44, Claire has a semi-retired Remy act as a liaison with Tusk, not seen since getting a pardon in a scandal that forced President Walker out of office. While Remy is not enthused, he tracks down Tusk on a bird-watching expedition. Tusk passes on the offer to be Remy’s new client, but his hands are tied when Remy threatens jail over his past perjury. Tusk’s relationship with China will help ease the oil crisis, thus making Claire look like a miracle worker. However, White House Chief of Staff Doug Stamper is not pleased when he discovers Tusk and Remy’s meeting with Acting President Donald Blythe. Claire returns to the White House to hear Remy and Tusk lay out their plan for Russia, proposing a partnership between Chinese and American energy companies. In Chapter 45, Blythe, Tusk, Remy, and Catherine Durant have a meeting to discuss their Russia/China plan. China and the IMF will split the majority of the costs for Russia’s bailout, with the U.S. chipping in drilling rights. Later, Tusk says the Chinese may back out of their deal if Petrov keeps refusing to give up access to Russian regions, though Claire gets tough with Petrov and tells him the deal is his way of getting his dignity back. The argument works: Petrov offers joint control of two zones, and the bailout deal is reached.

Behind the Scenes

Raymond Tusk was portrayed by Gerald McRaney in Seasons 1, 2, 4 and 5 of House of Cards. Interestingly, Tusk is the catalyst for the entire series, as he was responsible for Frank being denied Secretary of State by advising Garret Walker to break his promise with Frank, in order to control Congress and America's trade tariffs with China. Ironically, Tusk himself would admit to Frank in Chapter 12 that this was one of the larger mistakes he had ever made. Appearances

Season 1
"Chapter 1" "Chapter 2" "Chapter 3" "Chapter 4" "Chapter 5"
"Chapter 6" "Chapter 7" "Chapter 8" "Chapter 9" "Chapter 10"
"Chapter 11" "Chapter 12" "Chapter 13"
Season 2
"Chapter 14" "Chapter 15" "Chapter 16" "Chapter 17" "Chapter 18"
"Chapter 19" "Chapter 20" "Chapter 21" "Chapter 22" "Chapter 23"
"Chapter 24" "Chapter 25" "Chapter 26"
Season 4
"Chapter 40" "Chapter 41" "Chapter 42" "Chapter 43" "Chapter 44"
"Chapter 45" "Chapter 46" "Chapter 47" "Chapter 48" "Chapter 49"
"Chapter 50" "Chapter 51" "Chapter 52"
Season 5
"Chapter 53" "Chapter 54" "Chapter 55" "Chapter 56" "Chapter 57"
"Chapter 58" "Chapter 59" "Chapter 60" "Chapter 61" "Chapter 62"
"Chapter 63" "Chapter 64" "Chapter 65"