|American Hustle movie Bribery ad - Pressler turns down a bribe
How 'American Hustle' Is Helping One Former Senator's Campaign
A Senate candidate in South Dakota is highlighting his role in the Abscam scandal in a new TV ad.
A decades-old political scandal and grainy FBI footage are usually the stuff of Hollywood movies, not TV ads for Senate candidates. But a candidate from South Dakota is turning to the glitz and glamor of Tinseltown and his own brush with a dark chapter in U.S. political history to argue voters should send him back to Washington
Larry Pressler, a former three-term Republican senator who has launched something of a quixotic independent bid for South Dakota's open Senate seat, will run a new TV this Sunday that highlights his role in the Abscam scandal, an FBI sting operation that led to the conviction of a handful of Capitol Hill lawmakers back in the early 1980s. Pressler not only turned down the bribe, but was filmed by a secret FBI camera doing so.
The scandal later became the plot for the Academy Award-nominated movie American Hustle. And because the Oscars are this Sunday, Pressler's saw a unique opportunity to highlight his ethical pedigree.
"American Hustle shows the FBI making real-life bribes to Washington politicians," Pressler says in his ad. "I know, because as your U.S. senator, I turned them down."
The spot then shows the FBI's black-and-white footage, which appears to be taken from hidden camera, of Pressler telling disguised agents that "it would not be proper" to accept a campaign contribution.
"This is the type of honest leadership I would bring to Washington, D.C.," the independent candidate says.
The ad, according to Pressler, will run in South Dakota during the Academy Awards. It was not immediately clear how large the ad buy is.
Pressler surprised many this year when he unexpectedly declared he would run as an independent candidate for the state's open Senate seat. His bid is considered a long shot: Republicans have largely coalesced behind former Gov. Mike Rounds, and the state's conservative bent will make it difficult for any other candidate to claim victory.
Still, Pressler held the office for 18 years. And now he has a critically acclaimed movie helping him make the case that he deserves another six.
OPINION: Time to remember Pressler’s track record of integrity
In the movie, “American Hustle,” up for numerous Academy Awards on Sunday, there’s no mention of the South Dakota senator who wouldn’t be bought. While the 2013 film portrays politician after politician accepting bribes in an FBI sting, it omits Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., who refused an offer of $50,000.
“We want to invest in your state, and we want to make you wealthy,” said an agent posing as a Middle East investor in 1978. “We don’t want to do it in your name but you would get the money.”
“Wait a minute,” Pressler said. “What you are suggesting may be illegal. It would not be proper for me to do anything in return for a campaign contribution, so I would not make any promise.”
And with that, he stormed out of the meeting.
Pressler was the lone exception in the scandal that eventually led to convictions of seven members of Congress and five local officials. Pressler continued to serve in the Senate as a Republican until 1997, and is running again this year as an independent.
After the bribery case was exposed, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite referred to Pressler as a hero. The Washington Post ran a front-page story about the “special moment in which Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) tells the undercover agent, in effect, to take their sting and stick it.”
The FBI director called to congratulate him for performing “beautifully on the tapes.” Professor Alan Derschowitz used him as an exemplar of civic virtue in his Harvard Law School class. Judge George C. Pratt, who reviewed the cases when they came up for appeal, declared that Pressler “showed a clear awareness of the line between proper and improper conduct.”
A letter from the Senate Select Committee on Ethics said the senator’s rejection of the scheme “was immediate, forthright and unequivocal … in this test of integrity, your action upheld the honor of the United States Senate.”
Cartoonist Jim Berry drew a caricature of Pressler being greeted by the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who was looking for an honest man. “Senator Pressler, I am Diogenes. I’ve been looking for you,” the caption said.
Lauded by the Congressional Quarterly, Pressler commented, “Where have we come to if that’s considered heroic?” In South Dakota, he said, “your neighbors expect you to do the right thing and they don’t pat you on the back for just being a decent guy.”
In advance of his new political campaign, Pressler declared, “I’ve become profoundly troubled by the decline in our country’s moral standards, its work ethic and the erosion of its public integrity.”
Pressler is back on the campaign trail, seeking enough signatures by April to get on the November ballot.
As an independent, he is hoping to gain support from South Dakotans who are disaffected by both parties. As the political atmosphere becomes more dominated by money and dirty politics, he is hoping that voters remember the senator who couldn’t be bought.
-Michael Doan, of Arlington, Va., is a retired journalist and a volunteer in Larry Pressler’s campaign as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate.
|Larry Pressler, who served three terms as a Republican U.S. senator for South Dakota from 1979 to 1997, talks about his campaign to return to the job as an independent, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sioux Falls, S.D. The 71-year-old Pressler said he wants to end the gridlock between Democrats and Republicans.
|DIRK LAMMERS — AP Photo
Pressler taps support from friends in both parties
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A lifelong Democrat who lost an election to former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler nearly a quarter century ago is working to help Pressler get his old job back.
Ted Muenster, president emeritus of the USD Foundation, has been circulating petitions in Vermillion this week to get Pressler on the 2014 ballot as an independent candidate for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.
"He makes a lot of sense, in terms of telling both political parties that they need to get off of their ideological high horses and do some compromising for the good of the country," said Muenster. "And I think that message is a valuable contribution to the Senate campaign this year."
Muenster is among several well-known South Dakota political figures from both parties lending a hand to Pressler, who served two terms in the House followed by three Senate terms from 1975 to 1997.
Former GOP state lawmaker Gene Abdallah, who hosts an annual law enforcement dinner that draws 1,500 people, said he's backing Pressler partly because he doesn't care for the field of Republican candidates and partly as a show of loyalty to the man who helped him become U.S. Marshal for South Dakota in 1982.
"I just felt I should return the favor," Abdallah said.
Don Frankenfeld, a Rapid City economist and lifelong Republican, said Pressler is a candidate with extraordinary credentials and the timing is right for an independent voice. Pressler was first elected to the U.S. House in 1974 during the Watergate scandal when Republicans were losing in droves, Frankenfeld said.
"He ran against an incumbent and won, and I think that was because he was a new fresh, likable face at a time when we were all kind of desperate for somebody who wasn't a conventional politician," he said. "And I think that time is back again."
Johnson announced last March that he was retiring from the Senate seat he has held since beating Pressler in the 1996 general election.
Rick Weiland, an ex-staffer for former Sen. Tom Daschle, is the lone Democratic candidate. Former Gov. Mike Rounds is the most prominent Republican name in a crowded party field that includes Sioux Falls physician Annette Bosworth, Yankton attorney and Army Reserves Major Jason Ravnsborg and state lawmakers Larry Rhoden, of Union Center, and Stace Nelson, of Fulton.
Pressler needs to collect at least 3,300 valid signatures by April just to appear on the ballot, and voter registration numbers suggest that he faces an uphill battle if he gets to that point.
Of South Dakota's nearly 508,000 registered voters as of Jan. 15, just shy of 95,000 listed themselves as independent or having no party affiliation. That's a 27 percent increase from the 2006 general election, but the state has nearly 235,000 Republicans and nearly 177,000 Democrats, according to records from the South Dakota Secretary of State's office.
Pressler, a self-described "passionate centrist" or "moderate conservative," is taking the approach that the journey might be more important than the destination.
"We've got this situation that's just deadlocked and it becomes poisonous," said Pressler, 71. "And maybe in by old age I can do something to contribute."
Pressler, a Humboldt native and Rhodes scholar who now lectures at universities across the globe, said he expects to be attacked for his support of gay marriage and his voting for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
But he said it's important to work with others to get things done for the state, and that includes keeping a good working relationship with the administration and lawmakers from different parties.
Frankenfeld said even if Pressler doesn't win, he'll have a positive effect on the race.
"I'm not saying that his victory is by any means a foregone conclusion," Frankenfeld said. "It's plausible, and in the meantime, he's going to make for a very interesting contest. The debates now are going to be much more fun to watch."
|2014 BIOGRAPHY–US SENATOR LARRY PRESSLER
Attorney at Law
Admitted to The New York Bar,
The Washington DC Bar and U.S. Supreme Court Bar
5105 S. Rolling Green Ave
Sioux Falls, SD 57108
|[Member US Senate, 1979-1997]
|[Member US House, 1975-1979]
Recent Activities –
- U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad – Commissioner. Appointed by President Barack Obama on November 10, 2009
- 2013 - Member of the Congressional Fiscal Leadership Council for the Campaign to Fix the Debt (Simpson-Bowles Group)
- Distinguished Visiting Faculty at Sciences Po University, Paris, France - August 27-December 1, 2012– Taught and graded papers of French graduate students on foreign policy issues drawn from the 2012 U.S. elections
- Pressler Group Law Firm
- Blackhorse Enhanced Vietnam Inc. University Board of Directors
- Board, Jericho Homeless Veterans Projects in Harlem and the Bronx
- Distinguished Guest Lecturer at Georgetown University Law School and Catholic University
- Board of Advisors, Baruch School of Public Administration, City University of New York
- Keynote Speaker, Wyoming Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting in Sheraton, Wyoming on 02/29/2012, "Can we live with Simpson-Bowles?"
- Chairman, U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress Annual Meeting and Jobs Conference, "How America's Workforce Can Remain Competitive in a Global Economy" on 07/10/2012
- Currently Finalist for Additional Fulbright Professor Grant, 2014
- South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Board
- Special Advisor, India Globalization Capital
- Senior Advisor, A-1Technology Inc / Mobile Programming LLC
Born March 29, 1942, Humboldt, South Dakota – Graduated Humboldt High School 1960
- Harvard Law School- Juris Doctor, 1971
- Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government- Masters in Public Administration, 1966
- Oxford University, Oxford, England – Oxford Diploma in Public and Social Administration, Rhodes Scholar, 1964
- University of South Dakota , Vermillion, SD – B.A. Government, 1964; President of Student Body; Phi Beta Kappa
Lieutenant, U.S. Army: 1966-1968
- Served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam
- Awarded the following Vietnam Service Medals: Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Service Stars, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device (1960), Overseas Svc Bars (2), and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/Palm Unit Citation Badge
Foreign Service Officer (FSR): 1971-1974
- Legal Advisor's Office, Washington, D.C. and Geneva, Switzerland
Member of United States Congress (R-SD): 1975-1997
- Member, US House of Representatives: 1975-1979
- Committee on Education and Labor (1975-1979)
- Committee on Science and Technology (1975-1977)
- Committee on Small Business (1977-1979)
- Member, US Senate: 1979-1997
- Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (1979–1997)
- Chairman of Full Committee (1995–1997)
- Chairman of Subcommittee on Telecommunications (1995–1997)
- Committee on Finance (1995–1997)
- Committee on Foreign Relations (1981–1995)
- Chairman of European Subcommittee and Chairman of the Arms Control Subcommittee
- Committee on Small Business (1979–1997)
- Ranking Member of Full Committee (1993–1995)
- Committee on Environment and Public Works (1979–81, 1983–85)
- Committee on Banking (1991–1993)
- Committee on Judiciary (1993–1995)
- Committee on Budget (1979–1981)
- Highlights of Congressional Activity
- Authored/passed several South Dakota issues/projects regarding senior citizens, agriculture, water, transportation, economic issues, telecommunications, health and other matters affecting South Dakota
- Authored/passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996
- Authored/passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 1996
- Authored/passed the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995
- Authored/passed significant nuclear non-proliferation legislation (Pressler Amendment)
- Authored/passed legislation creating independent U.N. Inspector General office
- Authored/passed numerous pieces of legislation regarding international trade
- Authored/passed the Pressler Amendment requiring sanctions on Pakistan for using U.S. in terrorist and nuclear activities
- Authored two books: U.S. Senators from the Prairie, 1982; Star Wars: The Strategic Defense Initiative Debates in Congress, 1986
- Served as Congressional Delegate to the United Nations on two occasions
- Co-founding member of the Senate Internet Caucus and Tourism Caucus
- Served on the Boards of Visitors of the U.S. Military Academy and the Air Force Academy
Other Business History: 1997-Present
- Blackhorse Enhanced Vietnam Inc fund - Member of the Board of Directors. Recently the fund acquired the largest vocational school in Vietnam. 2006-Present.
- Jericho Project's Veterans Advisory Council- New York City. Current projects involve the construction of two homeless facilities for veterans in the Bronx for the Jericho Project's Veterans Initiative. 2008-Present.
- Member of the Board of Directors of Infosys Technologies, Ltd. of Bangalore, India for six years from 2000 until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 in 2006. Since then he has been a speaker at the Infosys Annual Strategic Planning Meeting in Bangalore and Mysore, India
- Member of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange until it was purchased by the NASDAQ
- Active member of the New York, D.C., and US Supreme Court Bars.
- Pressler Group LLC - founder, Washington D.C. and New York. 2002-present
- O'Connor, Hannon Law Firm - Senior Partner. Washington, D.C. 1997-2002
Academic History: 1996-Present
- Finalist for Additional Fulbright Professor Grant, January/February 2014
- Sciences Po University, Paris, France – Distinguished Visiting Faculty, August-December 2012
- University of Bologna, Italy –Visiting Fulbright Professor, January-May 2009.
- Lectured to doctoral candidates at the Department of Politics and History on the foreign policy decisions of the U.S. President/Congress during the last ten presidencies
- Lectured as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia and at the University of Naples—March 2009.
- Lectured at Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, on "President Obama's Foreign Policy: Engagement and Its Limits". Israel – March 2009
- Lectured to the Society of Individualists at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Bologna, Italy—2009.
- Lectured to various Hungarian Universities at the request of the Hungarian Fulbright Commission, 2009.
- Thomas Hawkins Johnson Visiting Scholar, U.S. Military Academy, West Point. Fall 2006.
- Lectured on international relations, presidential studies and government classes at West Point.
- Conducted a seminar of junior and senior West Point cadets applying for Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Truman, Gates, Rotary, Mitchell (to Ireland), Hertz, and other graduate fellowships.
- Additional teaching/lectures at the following universities: The Harvard Law School; Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Oxford University (England); University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA); Georgetown; The George Washington University; The U.S. Naval Academy; The Oglala Sioux SinteGleska University; University of South Dakota; Creighton; Catholic University, St. Johns University, New York, N.Y. and the St. John's University Graduate School of Business (Rome, Italy); and Adjunct Professor at City University of New York (CUNY, Baruch College (New York), St. John's University (Rome, Italy); The Indian National School of Law (Bangalore, India); Fudan University (China); Shanghai International Studies University (China); TongJi University (China); Zhongshan University (China); GuangDong University of Foreign Studies (China); and JiNan University (China).
- Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany - The President of Germany bestowed on Senator Pressler the German government's highest honor awarded a non-German citizen in a ceremony at the German Embassy and the U.S. Capitol. The award was given for Senator Pressler's work on European/German aviation and trade agreements. Senator Pressler has also been given high recognition by the governments of Greece, the Philippines, and England for his public service.
- Senator Pressler spoke in five Bosnia-Herzegovina cities on how U.S. Congressional oversight committees work in March, 2008.
- Keynote Speaker -US Embassy in Budapest, Hungary: Conference on the Upcoming US Election, October 14, 2008.
- Keynote Speaker at the Infosys Technologies Ltd. Annual Strategy meeting in Bangalore/Mysore, India. January 7-9, 2009.
- Keynote Speaker at the Future of Financial Markets Conference in Goa, India. January 2010.
- Married to Harriet, with one daughter (Laura) and four grandchildren who reside in Newburyport, Massachusetts