Larry Pressler

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Larry Pressler
Larry Pressler.jpg
Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byFritz Hollings
Succeeded byJohn McCain
United States Senator
from South Dakota
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byJames Abourezk
Succeeded byTim Johnson
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1979
Preceded byFrank E. Denholm
Succeeded byTom Daschle
Personal details
Born
Larry Lee Pressler

(1942-03-29) March 29, 1942 (age 78)
Humboldt, South Dakota, U.S.
Political partyIndependent (2013–present)
Other political
affiliations
Republican (before 2013)
Spouse(s)Harriet Pressler
Children1
MotherLoretta Genevieve Claussen
FatherAntone Lewis Pressler
Education
Signature
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1966–1968
RankFirst lieutenant
Battles/warsVietnam War
Awards

Larry Lee Pressler (born March 29, 1942) is an American politician from South Dakota who served in the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate as a Republican. He remained active in politics following his failed reelection campaign in 1996 and attempted to regain his former seat in 2014, but was unsuccessful.

Pressler is founder and president of The Pressler Group, a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, a small business to work on projects in service of veterans.

Life[edit]

Larry Lee Pressler was born in Humboldt, South Dakota to Loretta Claussen and Antone Lewis Pressler and was raised on his family's farm.[1] In 1961 he was selected as one of four 4-H members to attend the World Agricultural Fair in Cairo, Egypt.[2] At the 1962 National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago, Illinois he was one of two recipients of the national citizenship award and also selected to meet with President John F. Kennedy on March 4, 1963.[3]

In 1963 he defeated Steve Byrnes with 1,014 to 909 votes and was elected as president of the University of South Dakota's Student Association to serve until 1964.[4] He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1964 and was later awarded the Rhodes Scholarship.[5] Pressler attended St. Edmund Hall at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and received a Bachelor of Arts.

He joined the United States Army and served in the Vietnam War from 1966 until 1968. After returning from Vietnam as a first lieutenant, he served for several years in the United States Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer.[6] He later attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Harvard Law School where he graduated in 1971.[7][8] In 1970 he became the business manager of the Harvard Law Record.[9]

House of Representatives[edit]

During the 1968 House elections he considered running for the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional District, but chose not to run.[10]

In 1974 he filed to run for the Republican nomination in the First District on the last day possible and later won it, but the South Dakota Republican Party told him that he would not be given any campaign funds.[11][12] Despite the Watergate scandal hurting the Republicans nationally in the 1974 elections Pressler was one of six Republicans to gain a seat held by the Democrats.[13][14]

In April 1975 he was accepted as a member of the Congressional Rural Caucus, later supported having open committee meetings for the House Republican Conference, and throughout the year he served as Assistant Minority Leader to Minority Leader John Jacob Rhodes.[15][16][17] On April 2, 1975, he was hospitalized at the Bethesda Naval Hospital to be treated for diverticulitis and later had surgery in December for it.[18][19] Later in the month he cosponsored legislation to create a House select committee to reinvestigate the assassinations John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and the attempted assassination of George Wallace.[20] On July 30, the House voted 214 to 213 in favor of increasing its salary from $42,500 to $44,600. Pressler and eight other members of the House stated that they would not keep the raise given to members of Congress.[21]

During the 1976 Republican presidential primaries he criticized the rivalry between President Gerald Ford and former Governor Ronald Reagan which he stated would hurt moderate Republicans as both Ford and Reagan were pushing their conservative stances.[22]

In March 1976, Jack Anderson and Les Whitten accused Pressler of committing plagiarism with multiple articles written by Pressler being allegedly lifted entirely from the Washington Post and other newspapers.[23] Pressler denied the allegations, but stated that the portions from the Washington Post in an article from January 1976 were accidentally inserted into it by his staff.[24]

After winning reelection in 1976 with almost eighty percent of the vote Pressler stated that he was interested in running for Senate in 1978.[25]

Senate[edit]

In 1978, he was elected to the United States Senate, succeeding retiring Democratic incumbent James Abourezk and became the first veteran of the Vietnam War to serve in the Senate.[27]

He served in the Senate from 1979 to 1997 and was chairman of the Commerce Committee (1995–97).[28] 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 three points to Democratic Congressman Tim Johnson.[29]

He briefly sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, campaigning on Vietnam veterans' issues.[30]

Pressler authored and won Congressional and Presidential approval of a sweeping reform of telecommunications legislations through the Telecommunications Act of 1996.[31] Among Pressler's staffers included future U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Schieffer[32] and future state senator Neal Tapio.[33]

Abscam investigation[edit]

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). 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.[34]

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."[35]

Pakistan and the Pressler Amendment[edit]

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[36] "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."[37]

Post-Senate career[edit]

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.[38]

During the 2000 presidential election he served on Governor George W. Bush's presidential campaign on its Information Technology Steering Committee, and later served on the Bush Presidential Transition Team in 2001.[39]

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.

Pressler was appointed an official observer of Ukraine's national election in December 2004.[40]

On November 10, 2009, President Obama named Pressler to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad.[41] He also serves on the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.[42]

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.[43] 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.[44]

He taught as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Sciences Po University, Paris, France, and Reims, France, in the fall of 2012.[45] He chiefly teaches international relations to graduate students.[citation needed]

In 2013, Pressler was a signatory to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage during the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.[46]

During the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections he endorsed and voted for Barack Obama.[47] He endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.[48]

Pressler continued his public lectures including a speech at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Poland on Monday, June 4, 2018 for the 2018 International Security Forum.[49]

2014 U.S. Senate election[edit]

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.[50] 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."[51] 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."[52] Pressler faced Republican former Governor Mike Rounds, Democratic congressional aide Rick Weiland, and independent conservative state legislator Gordon Howie in a four-way race.[53][54]

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." [55] During his unsuccessful campaign, Pressler did not commit to caucusing with either party in the Senate if elected.[56] 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.[56] Pressler has said that he views both parties as being "too entrenched in their respective ideologies at the expense of commonsense solutions."[51]

Pressler supported raising taxes on the rich, possibly gradually increasing the retirement age for Social Security.[51] He said that his top priority was cutting the national deficit.[29] He also supported "much, much stronger" background checks for gun sales for mentally challenged persons.[51] 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." He had also voted for Barack Obama for president, citing "fiscally conservative reasons".[57] Pressler stated his support for same-sex marriage and filed an Amicus Curiae brief to the Supreme Court in regard to Hollingsworth v. Perry.[58]

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.[59][60] The race also drew some national attention. 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."[61] 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."[62]

Pressler ultimately lost the 2014 Senate election to Governor Rounds.[63]

Political positions[edit]

Domestic[edit]

Trade[edit]

In 1975 Pressler cosponsored a bill that would prohibit the importation of beef and dairy products to improve domestic sales of those products to help farmers and he later asked President Gerald Ford to place a tariff on all imported cheese products.[64][65] He later sent a letter to Vern Loen, one of Ford's advisors, stating that Harry S. Truman's victory in the 1948 presidential election was due to his support among farmers in swing states. He stated that in order to gain the vote of farmers that Ford should impose tariffs on dairy products while subsidizing exporting dairy products, removing most favored nation trade status for countries that have restrictions on United States beef, dairy, and pork products, and to give equal priority to agricultural products that industrial products were given at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.[66]

Foreign[edit]

Foreign aid[edit]

The House of Representatives voted 212 to 202 in favor of allotting $3.5 billion to foreign aid in the 1975 budget with Pressler voting against it stating that the United States couldn't afford to give money to foreign countries and criticized the $1 billion given to Middle Eastern countries for weapons.[67] On September 2, 1975, he criticized the Sinai Interim Agreement as it would have as it would give $2.8 billion to Israel, $2.3 billion to Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab states, and require the United States to send 100 technicians to observe the Israeli-Egyptian border.[68][69] On April 28, 1976, he voted against a $3.2 billlon foreign military aid increase as it would be given to both sides participating in the Cyprus dispute.[70]

Military[edit]

On April 28, 1975, Pressler stated that American military bases in Europe should be relocated to the United States to improve the economy and due to European aggravation against the United States military prescience.[71] After President Ford gave his State of the Union Address in 1976 Pressler criticized him for not offering national defense spending cuts.[72]

Vietnam War[edit]

In 1975 Pressler supported a bill to create a Missing In Action select committee to investigate the 921 cases of soldiers still missing in action from the Vietnam War.[73]

Electoral history[edit]

Larry Pressler electoral history
1974 South Dakota's 1st Congressional District Republican primary[74]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Larry Pressler 22,724 50.15%
Republican Ione Larsen 13,940 30.76%
Republican Cornelis VanHelden 8,650 19.09%
Total votes 45,314 100.00%
1974 South Dakota's 1st Congressional District election[75]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Larry Pressler 78,266 55.27% +15.80%
Democratic Frank E. Denholm (incumbent) 63,339 44.73% -15.80%
Total votes 141,605 100.00%
1976 South Dakota's 1st Congressional District election[76]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Larry Pressler (incumbent) 121,587 79.78% +24.51%
Democratic James V. Guffey 29,533 19.38% -25.35%
Independent Donald Stevens 1,282 0.84% +0.84%
Total votes 152,402 100.00%
1978 South Dakota Senate Republican primary[77]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Larry Pressler 66,893 73.88%
Republican Ron Williamson 23,646 26.12%
Total votes 45,314 100.00%
1978 South Dakota Senate Republican election[78]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Larry Pressler 170,832 66.84% +23.88%
Democratic Don Barnett 84,767 33.16% -23.88%
Total votes 255,599 100.00%
1984 South Dakota Senate Republican election[79]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Larry Pressler (incumbent) 235,176 66.84% +7.65%
Democratic George V. Cunningham 80,537 25.51% -7.65%
Total votes 315,713 100.00%
1990 South Dakota Senate Republican election[80]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Larry Pressler (incumbent) 135,682 52.39% -14.45%
Democratic Ted Muenster 116,727 45.07% +19.56%
Independent Dean L. Sinclair 6,567 2.54% +2.54%
Total votes 258,976 100.00%
1996 South Dakota Senate Republican election[81]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Tim Johnson 166,533 51.32% +6.25%
Republican Larry Pressler (incumbent) 157,954 48.68% -3.71%
Total votes 324,487 100.00%
2014 South Dakota Senate Republican election[82]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Mike Rounds 140,741 50.37% +12.86%
Democratic Rick Weiland 82,456 29.51% -32.98%
Independent Larry Pressler 47,741 17.09% +17.09%
Independent Gordon Howie 8,474 3.03% +3.03%
Total votes 279,412 100.00%

References[edit]

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  3. ^ "Pressler Will Visit President". Argus-Leader. December 11, 1962. p. 12. Archived from the original on February 9, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ "Larry Pressler New USD Student Group President". Argus-Leader. April 1, 1963. p. 3. Archived from the original on February 9, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
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  7. ^ Burger, Timothy J. (2014-10-23). "Meet Larry Pressler, the Most Interesting Candidate of 2014". Vice. Archived from the original on 2019-10-08.
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  9. ^ "Harvard Law Record". Argus-Leader. May 10, 1970. p. 26. Archived from the original on February 9, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
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  21. ^ "Nine Congressmen Reject Recently Approved Raises". The Gazette. August 10, 1975. p. 20. Archived from the original on February 11, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ "Pressler Say Rivalry Between Ford, Reagan May Hurt Chances Of Republican Candidates". Argus-Leader. November 14, 1975. p. 21. Archived from the original on February 11, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ "Pressler: Farm Ties Not A Facade". Argus-Leader. March 21, 1976. p. 4. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
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  40. ^ 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). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 4, 2012.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Frank Denholm
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's 1st congressional district

1975–1979
Succeeded by
Tom Daschle
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Hirsch
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from South Dakota
(Class 2)

1978, 1984, 1990, 1996
Succeeded by
John Thune
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
James Abourezk
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from South Dakota
1979–1997
Served alongside: George McGovern, James Abdnor, Tom Daschle
Succeeded by
Tim Johnson
Preceded by
Ernest Hollings
Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee
1995–1997
Succeeded by
John McCain