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Charles C. Diggs, Jr.

Democrat, Michigan (1955-1980)

The Honorable Charles C. Diggs, Jr. was found guilty in 1978 for taking kickbacks from three of his congressional staffers;  he was re-elected to office;  then censured by the House, and finally resigned, then went to prison for 7 months.

Indicted of 11 counts of mail fraud and 18 counts of falsifying congressional payrolls.  Prosecutors said he received $66,000 in kickbacks from 1973-1977 from several staffers, and used some of that money for his personal business and congressional expenses.

Guilty of: Diggs was found guilty of all 29 counts against him in October 1978, then the next month he was re-elected to his 13th term in Congress.

The Jailbird CountPrison term:  7 months at minimum-security prison at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.  Diggs became a member of the Congressional Prison Caucus.

Congressional censure:  In July 1979, the House of Representatives unanimously censured Diggs, after half an hour of floor discussion.  No Member of Congress stood up to defend him.  In a letter to his colleagues, Diggs admitted misuse of public funds for private use.  He apologized to Congress and agreed to repay the House more than $45,000 and accept the censure.  The fine would come out of his paycheck, at $500 a month.  (A nice sweet deal:  that means Diggs would have to stay in office another 7-1/2 years and have $500 deducted each month to pay restitution.  But that didn't happen.) 

Diggs also faced a $29,000 tax bill from the IRS for failing to pay income taxes on the payroll kickback money.

After having been found guilty, then disgraced by his colleagues in Congress, it still took Diggs another full year to resign from Congress, in June 1980.   He probably waited until June so that he could still collect his Congressional salary and to wait the verdict of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Diggs appealed to the Court to review his conviction;  the Court let his conviction stand without comment. 

Historical note:  Only once before in the twentieth century had the House censured a member, and that was 60 years earlier in a case of a Texas Congressman who was punished for inserting objectionable material into the Congressional Record

The C.B.B. Spin

Diggs's excuse:  The employees willingly gave him the kick-backs because he was in "very dire financial straits." 


Sources: Richard L. Lyons, "Rep. Diggs Admits Misuse of Funds, Accepts Censure," Washington Post, June 30, 1979, A1. Irvin Molotsky, "Obituary:  Charles Diggs, 75, Congressman Censured Over Kickbacks," New York Times, August 26, 1998, D18.