|United States Senator
from South Dakota
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1997
|Preceded by||James Abourezk|
|Succeeded by||Tim Johnson|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's 1st district
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1979
|Preceded by||Frank E. Denholm|
|Succeeded by||Tom Daschle|
|Born||Larry Lee Pressler
March 29, 1942
Humboldt, South Dakota
Larry Lee Pressler (born March 29, 1942) is a U.S. Republican politician from South Dakota. He served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1979, then three terms in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1997, losing a re-election campaign to Tim Johnson in 1996. He was the first Vietnam veteran to be elected to the Senate.
Since leaving the Senate, Pressler has served as a lawyer, business advisor and lecturer, and has remained active in politics and government. He has either considered running, or briefly run, for office several times.
Pressler was born in Humboldt, South Dakota, the son of Antone Lewis Pressler and Loretta Genevieve Claussen. He was raised on his family's farm. He is a graduate of the University of South Dakota, Oxford University (attending St. Edmund Hall as a Rhodes Scholar), the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Harvard Law School.
Early career and military service
He was briefly a lawyer, and then served in the Vietnam War in the United States Army from 1966 until 1968. After returning from Vietnam, he served for several years in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer.
Political career, 1975-1997
Pressler was elected to the House of Representatives from 1975 to 1979. He was a Senator from South Dakota from 1979 to 1997, and was chairman of the Commerce Committee from 1995 to 1997. While in the Senate, he also served on the Science and Transportation Committee, Foreign Relations Committee and European and Asian Subcommittees.
He briefly sought the Republican Presidential nomination in 1980.
Pressler authored and won congressional and presidential approval of a sweeping reform of telecommunications legislations through the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Pressler negotiated the compromises that gained the support of diverse industry groups in telecom, broadcasting, and cable TV, as well as of the Bill Clinton White House, state utility commissions, and public morality advocates.
Ironically, though the law was touted as a 'rare legislative achievement in terms of bipartisan reform', it led to Pressler’s defeat in his re-election bid for a fourth Senate term, losing to Tim Johnson in 1996. Johnson argued that instead of promoting the economy of his home state of South Dakota, Pressler was promoting out-of-state business and high-tech industries and was in turn supported by them. Pressler was the only incumbent Republican senator to lose reelection that year.
Pressler is noted for being possibly the only member of Congress to flatly refuse to take a bribe from undercover FBI agents and then to report the bribe attempt to the FBI during the Abscam investigations in 1980. John Murtha also declined the bribe, but expressed interest in later opportunities. The Washington Post reported in a front page story on Sunday, February 4 the following:
Thanks to the FBI's undercover "sting" operation, there now exists incontrovertible evidence that one senator would not be bought. Preserved among the videotape footage that may be used as bribery evidence against a number of members of Congress, there is a special moment in which Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD) tells the undercover agents, in effect, to take their sting and stick it. Pressler, according to law enforcement sources was the one approached member of Congress who flatly refused to consider financial favors in exchange for legislative favors, as suggested by undercover agents posing as Arabs. At the time he said he was not aware that he was doing anything quite so heroic.
In an overall review of the Abscam cases, Judge J. Pratt had the highest praise for Senator Pressler. "Pressler, particularly, acted as citizens have a right to expect their elected representatives to act. He showed a clear awareness of the line between proper and improper conduct, and despite his confessed need for campaign money, and despite the additional attractiveness to him of the payment offered, he nevertheless refused to cross into impropriety."
Pakistan and the Pressler Amendment
Pressler was also the key sponsor of the "Pressler Amendment", which banned most economic and military assistance to Pakistan unless the President certified on an annual basis that “Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device and that the proposed United States assistance program will reduce significantly the risk that Pakistan will possess a nuclear explosive device.” No President has issued this certification since October 1989. When President George H. W. Bush determined that Pakistan had developed such a weapon, aid and many commercial relations to Pakistan were cut off. However, Pakistan had already footed the $463.7 million bill for a fleet of F-16 aircraft and had emerged empty-handed from this aborted purchase. More than eight years after George H.W. Bush issued the Pressler sanctions, Clinton agreed in December 1998 that the United States would eventually reimburse Pakistan.
After his reelection defeat, Pressler passed the New York bar and worked again as a lawyer. Pressler subsequently became senior partner of the law firm O'Connor and Hannan, where he served for six years, and then formed his own law firm, The Pressler Group. Pressler is a member of the New York Bar, the Washington DC Bar, and the Supreme Court Bar.
He has also lectured at more than twenty universities in China, India and the U.S., and has been granted two lifetime Fulbright teaching awards.
His business pursuits have largely centered on a telecommunications law practice; teaching telecommunications and internet law at various universities in South Dakota; and serving on corporate and advisory boards of several companies.
Senator Pressler has remained active in the political arena. In 2000, he was a member of Republican Presidential Candidate George W. Bush's Information Technology Steering Committee, and also served on the Bush Presidential Transition Team in 2001.
Pressler attempted a political comeback in 2002 by running for South Dakota's open at-large House seat but he essentially discontinued his campaign when Republican Governor Bill Janklow unexpectedly entered the race.
On November 10, 2009, President Obama named Pressler to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. He also serves on the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.
In October 2012, based on veterans' issues, Pressler endorsed Obama for a second term with an article in the Huffington Post and on national television networks. Pressler, a board member of the Jericho Homeless Veterans' Group, said his endorsement was related to Agent Orange issues for Vietnam veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans, and the homeless veterans issue. Pressler, based on his Vietnam service, is a member of the Disabled American Veterans. Pressler campaigned in a bipartisan team for Obama in the fall of 2012, speaking on behalf of the Obama ticket to certain veteran's groups in Virginia.
He taught as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Sciences Po University, Paris, France, and Reims, France, in the Fall of 2012. He chiefly teaches international relations to graduate students.
The Native American Times reported in November 2013 that Pressler, at the age of 71, was weighing a comeback bid for the seat held by retiring Democratic Senator Tim Johnson in the 2014 election. According to the report, Pressler indicated he would run as an independent, bypassing potentially competitive primaries with former Governor Mike Rounds and state legislator Larry Rhoden on the Republican side and former congressional staffer Rick Weiland on the Democratic side. The National Journal, in a November 13 article entitled "Former Republican Senator Making his Comeback as an Independent," said that adding another independent US Senator could help break the deadlock between Republicans and Democrats; "the former lawmaker says he sees a political system in which both parties are too entrenched in their respective ideologies at the expense of commonsense solutions. And he thinks voters see things the same way." In a Politico article of November 14, Pressler explained his becoming an independent: "I don't think I've moved, I think the party has moved. I feel like a man without a party...My intent is not to hurt anyone." 
Achievements and honors
Pressler was an Adjunct Professor of Telecommunication/Internet Policy at Baruch College (City University of New York). He was awarded a Fulbright Senior Lectureship at the University of Bologna, Italy for Spring semester 2009 and lectured on international relations from January to June 2009.
Pressler was awarded the following medals and citations for his two tours of duty as a U.S. Army Lieutenant (1967–68) in Vietnam: (which are included on his DD Form 214) Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation with one Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device, Overseas Service Bars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation Badge.
Pressler is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the Phi Beta Kappa national honor society, the Century Association and the Harvard Club of New York, the Cosmos Club and the Metropolitan Club of Washington, D.C., the Vietnam Veterans Association, and the American Rhodes Scholars Association.
He has been a longtime trustee of the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation in Huron, South Dakota, an educational and charitable foundation.
In 2010 Pressler was appointed to the board of the Jericho Project’s Veterans Advisory Council which assists homeless veterans in the Bronx.
Pressler has also been appointed to the board of directors for the Baruch School of Public Affairs in New York City.
He is a visiting professor and Senior Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the Thomas Hawkins Johnson Visiting Scholar at the United States Military Academy, where he lectures on international relations and has advised cadets seeking Rhodes scholarships and other graduate fellowships.
Pressler currently lives and works in both Washington, D.C., and New York City.
|United States Senate election in South Dakota, 1996|
|Republican||Larry Pressler (inc.)||157,954||48.67%|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
|United States Senate election in South Dakota, 1990|
|Republican||Larry Pressler (inc.)||135,682||52.39%|
|Independent||Dean L. Sinclair||6,567||2.53%|
|United States Senate election in South Dakota, 1984|
|Republican||Larry Pressler (inc.)||235,176||74.49%|
|Democratic||George V. Cunningham||80,537||25.50%|
|United States Senate election in South Dakota, 1978|
|Republican gain from Democratic||Swing|
- Current Biography Yearbook - Google Books
- PRESSLER, Larry Lee - Biographical Information
- FCC - Telecommunications Act of 1996
- "Sen. Pressler: He Spurned the 'Arabs'". February 4, 1980.
- "Excerpts from Ruling by Federal Judge Upholding the ABSCAM Convictions". The New York Times. p. 8.
- Larry Pressler
- The Pressler Amendment and Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Program (Senate - July 31, 1992)
- "F-16". Global Security.org. Retrieved 2013-02-25.
- Fulbright U.S. Scholar Directory
- Pressler, Senator Larry: Biography 2008
- A Report on Ukraine’s Presidential Election By The Delegation of Former Members of the U.S. Congress 18 – 23 November 2004 The Hon. Dennis Hertel (D-MI) The Hon. Daniel Mica (D-FL) The Hon. Larry Pressler (R-SD) The Hon. John J. Rhodes (R-AZ) The Hon. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) The Hon. Joseph Tydings (D-MD), retrieved 2013-02-25
- Burns, Alexander (October 26, 2008). "Former GOP senator, vet backs Obama". Politico. Retrieved October 28, 2008.
- President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 11/10/09 | The White House
- Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission
- Pressler, Larry (October 8, 2012). "Republican Senator, Vietnam Veteran Endorses President Obama". Huffington Post. Retrieved Dec 13, 2012.
- Williams, Megan (November 3, 2012). "Ex-senator, Navy chief stump area for Obama". Military News. Retrieved Dec 18, 2012.
- Sciences Po Course List: The 2012 US Elections
- "Politically Speaking: Rhoden enters S.D. Senate race, setting GOP primary with Mike Rounds". Sioux City Journal. July 10, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
- "Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin Decides Not To Run For U.S. Senate". KSOO-AM. May 13, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
- "Former SD senator explores run as Independent for US office". Native American Times. November 7, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
- "Former Republican Senator Making his Comeback as an Independent". National Journal. November 13, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
- "Larry Pressler may run again in South Dakota - as an independent". Politico. November 14, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
- South Dakota Famers Union - Board of Trustees
- Pressler, Senator Larry: Biography 2008
- Advisory Board - School of Public Affairs - Baruch College
- "Larry Pressler". UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research. Retrieved 2013-02-25.
- "Blackhorse Asset Management Pte Ltd Celebrates 3rd year in Vietnam, highlights recent developments and future expansion plans". VATC — Vietnamese American Vocational Training College. 2009-11-11. Retrieved 2013-02-25.
- Larry Pressler's website
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Biography at Ballotpedia
- Issue positions and quotes at On the Issues
- Voting record at The Washington Post
|United States House of Representatives|
Frank E. Denholm
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's 1st congressional district
|United States Senate|
|United States Senator (Class 2) from South Dakota
Served alongside: George McGovern, James Abdnor, Tom Daschle
|Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee