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Larry Pressler

In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by James Abourezk
Succeeded by Tim Johnson

Born March 29, 1942 (1942-03-29) (age 67)
Humboldt, South Dakota
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Harriet
Religion Christianity

Larry Lee Pressler (born March 29, 1942) is a U.S. Republican politician. He was the first Vietnam veteran to be elected to the United States Senate. On November 10, 2009 President Barack Obama named Larry Pressler to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad[1]



Born in Humboldt, South Dakota, Pressler 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. He became a lawyer, and then served in the Vietnam War in the United States Army from 1966 until 1968. After serving for several years in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer he 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. [2]



Political Career

Larry Pressler was a member of congress for twenty-two years, serving in the U.S. House (R-S.D.) from 1974-1979 and a member of the U.S. Senate (R-S.D.) from 1979-1997.[3] Pressler held such notable positions as the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Science and Transportation Committee, Foreign Relations Committee and European and Asian Subcommittees.

In his first year as chairman of the Commerce Committee, Pressler authored and won overwhelming congressional and presidential approval of a sweeping reform of telecommunications legislations through the Telecommunications Act of 1996.[4] 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.

The Act’s lowering of restrictions on media mergers helped to raise media concentration, in particular in the radio industry and was the first time the telecom and media laws were comprehensively updated in 62 years. Ironically, though the law was 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 successfully 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.

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. [5]

Pressler attempted a political comeback in 2002 by running for the South Dakota's open at-large House seat but he essentially discontinued his campaign when the Republican Governor unexpectatly entered the race. Pressler was also appointed as an official observer of Ukraine's national election in December 2004.[6]

In 2008, Pressler revealed that he cast an absentee ballot for Barack Obama, noting that he had never voted for a Democrat before.[7]

Abscam Investigation

Pressler is noted for being possibly the only member of Congress to 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.[8] John Murtha also declined the bribe, but expressed interest in later opportunities. 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[9] “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.”[10] 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.

Non-Political Career

Since leaving the U.S. Senate in 1997, Senator Pressler has pursued a business and teaching career. His business pursuits have largely centered on a telecommunications law practice; lobbying; and serving on corporate and advisory boards of several companies.

After his reelection defeat, Pressler passed the New York bar and worked 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.

Pressler currently serves on several corporate boards and is a visiting professor and Senior Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles.[11] He is the Thomas Hawkins Johnson Visiting Scholar at the West Point Military Academy, where he lectures on international relations and has advised cadets seeking Rhodes scholarships and other graduate fellowships. In the ten years since leaving Congress, Pressler has served as a senior adviser to Salomon Smith Barney, Monticello Capital, Blackhorse Asset Management[12] and Leopard Capital's Leopard Sri Lanka Fund. Pressler has lectured at more than twenty universities in China, India and the U.S. Pressler and currently lives and works in both Washington, D.C., and New York City.

On February 12, 2010 Diwakar Jagannath, CEO of IKON Global Markets, Inc. announced the appointment of Senator Larry Pressler as Chairman of its Global Advisory Board, stating that: “As the financial marketplace and international regulatory environment evolves, IKON believes Senator Pressler’s experience both in Washington and abroad will be invaluable as IKON seeks to forge new relationships and enter strategic international markets with our forex and futures business. We are honored to have him as part of our team .” [13]

Achievments and Associations

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 Association, the Century Club 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.


External links

Larry Pressler on the Issues

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

Succeeded by
Tom Daschle
United States Senate
Preceded by
James Abourezk
United States Senator (Class 2) from South Dakota
Served alongside: George McGovern, James Abdnor, Tom Daschle
Succeeded by
Tim Johnson
Political offices
Preceded by
Ernest Hollings
South Carolina
Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee
Succeeded by
John McCain


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