June 13: Senator Thomas Dodd Censured

 

Today in 1967, the U.S. Senate took up a motion to censure Connecticut Senator Thomas J. Dodd, stemming from accusations of using funds from his reelection campaign for personal use.  Dodd was only one of six people formally censured by the Senate in the 20th century, and the first since Joseph McCarthy in 1954.

Senator Thomas J. Dodd

Dodd, a lifelong Connecticut resident, first entered the public spotlight as a successful attorney who served as the second-ranking lawyer in the Nuremburg Trials of 1945-1946.  After serving as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms, Dodd was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958, and re-elected in 1964.

In early 1966, a pair of investigative reporters based in Washington, D.C. began publishing a series of newspaper columns detailing unethical behavior by Dodd, ranging from alcoholism and verbal abuse of staff to financial misconduct.  In April, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee began a formal inquiry into the Senator’s conduct, with a special focus on potential misuse of campaign funds.

After a year-long investigation, the Senate committee issued a full report in April 1967.  Among other accusations of financial impropriety, the report concluded that Dodd had double-billed taxpayers for travel expenses and had pocketed over 25% of the money obtained through political fundraisers he hosted during his reelection campaign for “personal purposes such as income taxes, home improvements, and payments to family members.”

On June 13, 1967, the Senate began its formal review of the motion to censure Senator Dodd.  It only took the chamber ten days to review the evidence before voting to censure Dodd by an overwhelming margin of 92 to 5.  (Dodd himself cast one of the five opposing votes.)

Despite his censure, Thomas Dodd remained politically active for the last three remaining years of his senate term, successfully sponsoring the Gun Control Act of 1968 and co-drafting a federal ban on LSD in the same year.  When the Connecticut Democratic Party refused to endorse Dodd for re-election in 1970, Dodd ran as an independent candidate and ultimately lost his seat to Republican Lowell Weicker.  Dodd died of a heart attack in his Old Lyme, Connecticut home the following year.  Not long after his death, his son Christopher Dodd took up the mantle of national politics, serving as a Democratic U.S. Senator from Connecticut for thirty years from 1981 – 2011.

Further Reading

The Censure Case of Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut (1967),” United States Senate archives

David E. Koskoff, “Senator Tom Dodd Remains Defiant to the End,” Stamford Advocate