Larry Pressler, the once-and-maybe-future senator from South Dakota, may be the single most interesting candidate of 2014.
On Wednesday night, he'll recite some cowboy poetry at a campaign stop in Sioux Falls. It is unclear whether the poetry is his own or someone else's. Aside from being a poet laureate of the West, Pressler's career looks like a crazy quilt of personal and political moves. He was a Rhodes scholar, went to Harvard Law, and served two tours of duty in Vietnam before going on to serve for nearly 20 years as a Republican senator for South Dakota. Now, at 72, he's running for his old seat again, this time as an independent.
In February, Pressler wrote a column in The Huffington Post announcing his new bid for the Senate and describing his unwitting role in Abscam—the FBI sting operation depicted in the movie American Hustle. Pressler writes that a "prominent Washington D.C. socialite" approached him in the fall of 1979 asking if he'd like to meet with some wealthy donors who were interested in helping to bail him out of the debt he'd racked up during his failed presidential campaign. Pressler agreed to the meeting.
"On the appointed day, we arrived at a two-story redbrick colonial home on fashionable W Street," Pressler wrote. "Inside, the house was furnished with exquisite antiques, elegant chandeliers and, as I would later learn, a battery of hidden television cameras and microphones. Unwittingly, my inexperienced fundraiser had led me into a hornets' nest—the most elaborate undercover sting operation ever launched by the FBI."