GOP Ex-Sen. Pressler Ties Comeback Bid to 'American Hustle'

Saturday, 01 Mar 2014 08:01 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler is drawing on the Oscar-nominated movie "American Hustle" in his longshot bid to return to the chamber as an independent from South Dakota.

In a new television spot, Pressler is shown rejecting a bribe from an FBI agent during the Abscam corruption scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The ad was first reported by  The Hill.

"It would not be proper for me to promise to do anything in return for campaign contributions," Pressler said in the undercover FBI footage. He served three terms in the Senate, losing in 1996.

Story continues below video.

"'American Hustle' shows the FBI making real-life bribes to Washington politicians," Pressler says in the 30-second spot, which is scheduled to run twice during the Academy Awards on Sunday. "I know, because as your U.S. senator I turned them down.

"This is the type of honest leadership I will bring to Washington, D.C. — one term as a South Dakota independent free to fight to protect South Dakota families," he says.

Pressler, 71, was the only legislator to turn down bribes in the Abscam corruption scandal depicted in "American Hustle." The FBI sting operation began in 1978 to target trafficking in stolen property but eventually became a public-corruption investigation.

The agency was aided by a convicted con artist, Melvin Weinberg, and videotaped politicians as they were offered bribes by a fictional Middle Eastern sheik in return for political favors. The scandal targeted 31 politicians.

Abscam led to the conviction of Democratic Sen. Harrison "Pete" Williams, along with six members of the U.S. House of Representatives; a member of the New Jersey State Senate; members of the Philadelphia City Council; the mayor of Camden, N.J.; and an inspector for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Pressler, who has struggled to raise funds for his candidacy, faces former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, who is considered the leading GOP nominee and likely general election winner this fall, the Hill reports.

If he wins, Pressler pledges to serve only one six-year term so that he does not have to raise money while in office, The Daily Beast reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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