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Pressler Remembers ABSCAM

December 20, 2013, 10:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

Pressler Remembers ABSCAM
Larry Pressler


The new movie "American Hustle" opens in theaters nationwide today. The film is set in the late 1970's when plaid suits and hairstyles were wild and corruption was king. That includes the so-called ABSCAM scandal in Washington. Several Congressmen went to prison for accepting bribes in an FBI undercover sting operation, but two Senators turned the bribes down, one of them was former U.S. Senator Larry Pressler.

Hidden video shows Senator Pressler turning down a $50,000 bribe by FBI agents disguised as Arab sheikhs in an undercover sting operation that became known as ABSCAM.

"It would not be proper for me to promise to do anything in return for campaign contributions, so I won't make any promises," Pressler said.

At the time, Pressler says he could have used the money to help pay off a campaign debt after withdrawing from the Presidential race.

"They would help me with investing in my home state, where they would help me with some money or cash, at that point I said 'I believe what you're proposing is illegal,'" Pressler said.

Pressler says he plans to see the movie, "American Hustle." He doesn't believe he's mentioned in it, but at the time, he did gain some respect from the most trusted man in America, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, who called him a hero for turning down the bribe when so many others didn't.

"I said 'I do not consider myself a hero, what have we come to if turning down a bribe is considered heroic, we're in pretty bad shape,'" Pressler said.

"I wouldn't feel intellectually honest doing that," Pressler told undercover agents.

A cartoon of Pressler was even circulated in 300 newspapers, depicting Diogenes, a Greek philosopher who spent his whole life searching for an honest man.

"I don't think anybody should be praised for doing what they're suppose to do. Any of my South Dakota constituents would have done the same thing," Pressler said.

Pressler also did an interview this morning with the Washington Post about the movie and the ABSCAM scandal. Pressler is considering running for the U.S. Senate again. If he does, he says he won't turn his ABSCAM honesty into a political issue.

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