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.