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.
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.
Larry Pressler was a member of Congress for twenty-two years, serving in the U.S. House (R-S.D.) from 1975-1979 and a member of the U.S. Senate (R-S.D.) from 1979-1997. 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. He briefly sought the Republican Presidential Nomination in 1980.
Pressler then authored and won overwhelming congressional and presidential approval of a sweeping reform of telecommunications legislations through the Telecommunications Act of 1996. 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.
Ironically, though the law was touted as 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 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.
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 William J. Janklow unexpectedly entered the race. Pressler was also appointed as an official observer of Ukraine's national election in December 2004.
In 2008, Pressler revealed that he cast an absentee ballot for Barack Obama, noting that he had never voted for a Democrat before.