Hon. Joseph J. DioGuardi
Joseph DioGuardi was the first Member of Congress to bring the issue of Albanian rights in the Balkans to the attention of the U.S. government through a Congressional Resolution that he sponsored as a new Member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. He was also responsible for the first Congressional hearing on Kosova in 1987. He has made more than forty trips to the Balkans since leaving Congress in 1989 in his capacity as the founding, volunteer president of the Albanian American Civic League.
DioGuardi has worked with members on both sides of the political aisle in an effort to bring lasting peace and stability to Southeast Europe. In 1990, he and Congressman Tom Lantos visited Kosova in order to challenge the brutal policies of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic’s regime there, after which they made the first official trip to Albania in fifty years, opening the doors to democracy in this former Communist dictatorship. In Albania, the last Communist dictator Ramiz Alia, seeking to ingratiate himself with Congressman Lantos, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, presented never-before-seen archives containing letters, photographs, and newspaper clippings about Albanians who saved Jews during World War II. DioGuardi subsequently sent the files to Israel, where they were authenticated by Yad Vashem.
In 1996, DioGuardi returned to Albania with the Civic League’s Balkan Affairs Adviser, Shirley Cloyes, and Congressman Benjamin Gilman, then chairman of the House Committee on International Relations, to meet with President Sali Berisha to discuss Albanian national security. He traveled to Albania again in 1998 to assess the humanitarian crisis emanating from the war in Kosova, at the request of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. In the summer of 1999, he and Cloyes traveled to Kosova after the NATO bombing campaign ended to assess conditions and report back to Chairman Gilman. Since then, DioGuardi and Cloyes have made numerous additional fact-finding missions to Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Presheva.
In 2003, they were responsible for the introduction of a Congressional Resolution (H.Res. 24) and a hearing calling on the U.S. government to recognize Kosova’s independence now, with the active support of then House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde and Ranking Member Tom Lantos. In August 2003, they led a delegation with Congressman Lantos to Montenegro to assess the status of Albanians there and helped to create the first Congressional hearing on this issue. They returned to Montenegro in August 2005 with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee.
In May 2005, DioGuardi, Cloyes, and the board of directors of the Albanian American Civic League and the Albanian American Foundation held a 15th anniversary dinner, “A Salute to Albanian Tolerance, Resistance, and Hope: Remembering Besa and the Holocaust,” in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. The dinner was devoted to the role that Albanians played in rescuing Jews from the Holocaust, after which the Civic League took Kosova’s Bishop Mark Sopi, Fr. Lush Gjergi, Fr. Shan Zefi, and Minister of the Environment Ardian Gjini to Congress to testify before a House International Relations Committee hearing on the current and future status of Kosova. At the hearing, Sopi, Gjergji, Gjini, and Cloyes countered propaganda that Albanians are a Muslim majority who pose a potential fundamentalist, terrorist threat in the heart of Europe. This groundbreaking hearing was instrumental in convincing the U.S. government to support the independence of Kosova. Two years later, in November 2007, DioGuardi and Cloyes traveled to Israel to attend the ceremony at Yad Vashem honoring the saving role of Albanians during the Holocaust.
Before coming to Congress, DioGuardi was a practicing CPA who served twenty-two years with the international accounting firm of Arthur Andersen & Co., twelve of them as a partner. In 1984, he became the first practicing certified public accountant ever elected to the U.S. Congress. In addition to his human rights work while in the House, DioGuardi took the lead in sounding the call for federal financial reform. After leaving Congress, he established a nonpartisan foundation, Truth in Government, and published a book entitled Unaccountable Congress: It Doesn’t Add Up. He also has served as an independent director and trustee for several publicly traded and privately held U.S. companies.
DioGuardi was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, where he graduated from Fordham Prep in 1958 and Fordham University with honors in 1962. His late father, who immigrated to America in 1929, was an ethnic Albanian who was born in Greci (near Naples), the oldest Albanian-speaking village in Italy. His late mother was a first-generation Italian American whose family immigrated to New York in 1910. He married Shirley Cloyes in 1998.