|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 Denholm|
|Succeeded by||Tom Daschle|
|Born||Larry Lee Pressler
March 29, 1942
Humboldt, South Dakota, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (before 2013)
|Children||Laura, four grandchildren|
|Alma mater||University of South Dakota
St Edmund Hall, Oxford
Harvard Law School
|Religion||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)|
Larry Lee Pressler (born March 29, 1942) is a U.S. politician from South Dakota. He served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1975–79) and three terms in the U.S. Senate (1979–97), losing re-election to Tim Johnson (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. In December 2013, Pressler announced that he would run as an independent in the 2014 mid-term elections for the U.S. Senate seat he lost to Johnson, who was retiring. Pressler lost the United States Senate election in South Dakota, 2014, to Mike Rounds.
Pressler was born in Humboldt, South Dakota, the son of Loretta Genevieve (Claussen) and Antone Lewis Pressler. 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 (1966–68). After returning from Vietnam, he served for several years in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer.
Political career, 1975–1997
Pressler served in the House of Representatives from 1975 to 1979.
He served in the Senate from 1979 to 1997 and was Chairman of the Commerce Committee (1995–97). While in the Senate, he also served on the Science and Transportation Committee, Foreign Relations Committee and European and Asian Subcommittees. Pressler ran for a fourth term in 1996 but lost by two points to Democratic Congressman Tim Johnson.
He briefly sought the Republican Presidential nomination in 1980, campaigning on Vietnam veterans' issues.
Pressler is noted for being possibly the only one of the nine known members of Congress approached, 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 (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 over-all 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 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."
After his 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.
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 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.
2014 U.S. Senate election
The Native American Times reported in November 2013 that Pressler, at the age of 71, was weighing an independent comeback bid for the seat vacated by retiring Democratic Senator Tim Johnson in the 2014 election. After being approached by a group of citizens asking him to run, Pressler assessed his chances of victory by saying, "I think it's possible but unlikely." At the conclusion of an exploratory tour of South Dakota's 66 counties in late 2013, however, Pressler announced his candidacy and stated confidently, "I intend to win." Pressler faced Republican former Governor Mike Rounds and Democratic congressional aide Rick Weiland in a three-way race, with independent conservative state legislator Gordon Howie also on the ballot. Pressler lost the United States Senate election in South Dakota, 2014, to Mike Rounds.
Shortly before announcing his intention to run for office, 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."  During his unsuccessful campaign, Pressler did not commit to caucusing with either party in the Senate if elected. He stated that he would only serve for one term, and pledged that he would "never raise a dollar" in campaign funds while in office. Pressler has said that he views both parties as being "too entrenched in their respective ideologies at the expense of commonsense solutions."
Pressler supported raising taxes on the rich, possibly gradually increasing the retirement age for Social Security. He said that his top priority was cutting the national deficit. He also supported "much, much stronger" background checks for gun sales for mentally challenged persons. According to the Argus Leader, Pressler was "adamantly opposed to military adventurism, supports expanding background checks on gun sales, favors restricting corporate donations to political campaigns and has called for a museum honoring Native Americans wiped out by white expansion." Pressler supported marriage equality and filed an Amicus Curiae brief to the Supreme Court in regard to Hollingsworth v. Perry. A poll in early October 2014 showed Pressler in second place in the four-way Senate race. "Were [Rick] Weiland to drop out of the race," the article stated, "71 percent of his voters say they would back Pressler compared to only 9 percent for [Mike] Rounds. That would give Pressler 54 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for Rounds."
As Pressler climbed in the polls, the South Dakota race began to draw national attention—and money. “With control of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance, Democrats are suddenly plowing big bucks into a Senate race in South Dakota that they had long ago written off,” The Washington Times reported. The New York Times said, “A race that most had thought was safely Republican is suddenly the focus of national attention, thanks to the surprisingly successful candidacy of former Senator Larry Pressler, a Republican who is running as an independent.” Even The Times of London weighed in.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “Republicans had been expected to easily win the open Senate seat in South Dakota this year, but the race has tightened recently. Earlier this month, Democrats began sending cash to the race after concluding the unusual, four-way race was winnable.” And The Washington Post summarized the situation, “With less than four weeks until the all-important election in South Dakota, the former senator is a top target in the suddenly-competitive campaign. He's now taking heat from Democrats who say he's too conservative and Republicans who say he's too liberal, the surest sign yet he is picking up steam.”
During the 2014 campaign, Pressler was endorsed by South Dakota’s two largest newspapers, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the Rapid City Journal, as well as The Daily Republic in Mitchell and the Native Sun News, the largest Native American paper in the state and nation.
Tim Giago of Native Sun News began the endorsements with this concern: “Whatever happened to the independent thinkers serving in Congress who always put people ahead of Party?”
“But we think Pressler's approach and outlook have matured,” the Argus Leader Editorial Board wrote in its endorsement. “He professes a middle-of-the-road, moderately conservative political philosophy that we think is in line with the bulk of South Dakotans. When we use our checklist to evaluate the candidates, Larry Pressler comes out on top.”
At the opposite end of the state, the Journal Editorial Board weighed in with, “Pressler, a Vietnam veteran, Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law graduate, also demonstrates a deep sense of caring about South Dakota, and its people, and appears willing to tackle local issues such as improving air service to Rapid City and other smaller towns across the Great Plains. After considerable debate, and having met with all the candidates for U.S. Senate in person, the Journal Editorial Board urges a vote for Larry Pressler in Tuesday's election.”
“We wanted to wait and make our decision on Election Day,” The Daily Republic Editorial Board said. “It's a tight race in our eyes, even if the polls don't show it. . . . Pressler promises to ‘end the partisan gridlock,’ and that's what our country needs more than anything else. . . looking at all the options, we think Pressler's previous political experience makes him the best option for South Dakota. We're voting Pressler today for U.S. Senate.”
Senator Angus King (I-Maine) wrote, “I proudly endorse Larry Pressler to serve in the United States Senate as an Independent who will build bridges between Democrats and Republicans, who will work to find common ground in even the most partisan debates, and who will stand up for what is right. Larry doesn't need this job; he's seeking it as a true patriot who wants to help his state and country in a tough time.”
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.
In April 2015 Pressler was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His confirmation into the Church was performed by his fellow Rhodes Scholar Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School and Harry Reid.
|United States Senate election in South Dakota, 2014|
|Republican gain from Democratic|
|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|
- Shill, Aaron (April 20, 2015). "Spiritual journey leads 3-term U.S. senator to LDS Church". Deseret News. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
- Montgomery, David (December 27, 2013). "Independent voice needed, Larry Pressler says". Argus Leader. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
- Current Biography Yearbook. H. W. Wilson Co. 1984. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Lawrence: Abourezk's contempt for Pressler remains strong?". Aberdeen News. October 6, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
- "Pressler, Larry Lee". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Butler, Patrick (May 5, 2014). "Five questions with U.S. Senate candidate Larry Pressler". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
- "Telecommunications Act of 1996". FCC. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Sen. Pressler: He Spurned the 'Arabs'". February 4, 1980. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Excerpts from Ruling by Federal Judge Upholding the ABSCAM Convictions". The New York Times. July 25, 1981. p. 8. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Profile: Larry Pressler". History Commons. October 14, 2014.
- "The Pressler Amendment and Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Program (Senate - July 31, 1992)". fas.org. October 14, 2014.
- "Fulbright U.S. Scholar Directory". United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
- Pressler, Senator Larry: Biography 2008[not in citation given]
- 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) (November 18–23, 2004). "A Report on Ukraine's Presidential Election By The Delegation of Former Members of the U.S. Congress" (PDF). Retrieved February 25, 2013.
- Montgomery, David (December 27, 2013). "Independent voice needed, Larry Pressler says". Argus Leader. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
- "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 11/10/09" (Press release). The White House. November 10, 2009. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Commissioners". Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Pressler, Larry (October 8, 2012). "Republican Senator, Vietnam Veteran Endorses President Obama". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
- Williams, Megan (November 3, 2012). "Ex-senator, Navy chief stump area for Obama". Military News. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- "Sciences Po Course List: The 2012 US Elections". Retrieved October 9, 2014.
- "The Pro-Freedom Republicans Are Coming: 131 Sign Gay Marriage Brief". The Daily Beast. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
- "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.
- "Independent voice needed, Larry Pressler says". Argus Leader. December 27, 2013. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- Blake, Aaron (October 8, 2014). "There's something very interesting happening in South Dakota". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Jaffe, Alexandra (April 3, 2014). "Second independent running for SD Senate". The Hill. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
- "Larry Pressler may run again in South Dakota - as an independent". Politico. November 14, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
- Jacobs, Ben (January 17, 2014). "Larry Pressler Shoots for a Maverick Senate Comeback". Daily Beast. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
- Ellis, Jonathan (September 6, 2014). "Ellis: Republicans won't attack Pressler". Argus Leader. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
- Sammi Bjelland (June 18, 2014). "Larry Pressler Shows Support For Gay Marriage In SD". Keloland Television. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
- Scott Waltman (October 8, 2014). "Survey South Dakota: Pressler gaining on Rounds". Aberdeen News. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
- Hallow, Ralph Z., “Dems dump $1 million into S.D., hoping ticket split might land unlikely Senate win,” The Washington Times, October 9, 2014. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/9/larry-presslers-comeback-bid-roils-south-dakota-ra/#ixzz3KkzOVw4b
- Martin, Jonathan, “Senate Contest in South Dakota Is Free-for-All,” New York Times, October 13, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/14/us/politics/senate-contest-in-south-dakota-is-free-for-all.html
- Bhat, Devika, “Independents aim to shake up America’s two-party politics,” The Times of London, October 20, 2014. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/americas/article4241224.ece
- Peterson, Kristina, “FBI Agent in Abscam Sting to Campaign for Pressler in South Dakota,” The Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2014. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/10/21/fbi-agent-in-abscam-sting-to-campaign-for-pressler-in-south-dakota/
- Sullivan, Sean, “Meet Larry Pressler, the one-man band shaking up the battle for the Senate majority,” The Washington Post, October 10, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/10/10/meet-larry-pressler-the-one-man-band-shaking-up-the-battle-for-the-senate-majority/
- Giago, Tim (September 22, 2014). “An Independent Can Awaken 'Party' Zombies,” Native Sun News. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/an-independent-can-awaken_b_5857470.html) Huffington Post. November 21, 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2014
- Argus Leader Editorial Board, “Endorsement: Pressler best choice for Senate,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, November 1, 2014. (http://www.argusleader.com/story/opinion/editorials/2014/11/01/endorsement-pressler-best-choice-senate/18304441 )
- Journal Editorial Board, “EDITORIAL: Journal endorses Pressler for US Senate,” Rapid City Journal, November 2, 2014. (http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/opinion/editorial-journal-endorses-pressler-for-us-senate/article_d47214bc-6ffc-5473-825f-a9e317e2bc79.html )
- Daily Republic Editorial Board, “OUR VIEW: Pressler best candidate in Senate race,” The Daily Republic, November 4, 2014. (http://www.mitchellrepublic.com/content/our-view-pressler-best-candidate-senate-race )
- King, Angus (October 28, 2014). E-mail to Larry Pressler.
- "Board of Trustees". South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "2014 Biography\US Senator Larry Pressler". Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Dean's Advisory Board". School of Public Affairs - Baruch College. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Larry Pressler". UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
- "Blackhorse Asset Management Pte Ltd Celebrates 3rd year in Vietnam, highlights recent developments and future expansion plans". VATC — Vietnamese American Vocational Training College. November 11, 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
- Las Vegas Sun article on Pressler's conversion
- "Election Results: Statewide Races". South Dakota Secretary of State. South Dakota Secretary of State. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 6, 1984 (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. May 1, 1985. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 1978 (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. April 1, 1979. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Larry Pressler's website
- Larry Pressler at DMOZ
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's 1st congressional district
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from South Dakota
1978, 1984, 1990, 1996
|United States Senate|
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from South Dakota
Served alongside: George McGovern, James Abdnor, Tom Daschle
|Chairperson of the Senate Commerce Committee