February 12, 2004

Teapot Dome

Since this is a History and Stuff site I figured I'd do my bit...

The Teapot Dome Scandal
In 1921 the Department of the Interior took over control of two naval oil reserves from the Navy Department. The first was in Teapot Dome, Wyoming and the second Elk Hills, California. Warren G. Harding's Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, leased the fields to Harry Sinclair and Edward Doheny respectively. This was done without opening the lease to competitive bidding. In 1922-3 Senate hearings on the leasing it came to light that both Sinclair and Doheny had given Fall large interest free loans. Doheny gave $100,000 in '21 and Sinclair gave after Fall retired in '23. Fall was convicted of accepting bribes and fined $100,000 as well as a year in prison. Both Doheny and Sinclair were acquitted of bribery charges. The two oil fields were restored to government control in 1927 by Supreme Court decision.
Of course those are just the dry facts.
The story was broken by the Wall Street Journal on April 14, 1922. Senator John Kendrick (D, Wyoming) introduced a resolution to look into the matter the next day. When Senator Robert La Follete (R, Wisconsin) arranged for the Committee on Public Lands to look into the situation, he had his office ransacked. The hearings were lead by Senator Thomas Walsh (D, Montana) and his successful investigation pushed him into the national limelight. One of the larger judicial precedents to come out of the case was McGrain v. Daugherty. This establishes Congress' right to force testimony like a regular court by presuming legislative purpose in the request, even if the express purpose to show wrongdoing.

Hope you enjoyed this little foray into American history. Stay tuned for next time when we discuss the Whiskey Ring scandal.

Posted by at February 12, 2004 03:50 AM


The ultimate result of the Teapot Dome Scandal:

1) Many politicians learned to cover their tracks better.

2) The few that didn't do a good job of hiding their money making operations allowed George Santayana and his followers to say "See, I told you so" for the rest of time.

3) The development of the Conspiracy Theory Industry, a billion dollar business (I'm just making the revenue number up... no one's really gonna check to see if the facts support it. Hey, just like the conspiracy theorists!)

Posted by: JFH at February 12, 2004 06:04 PM

Not to plug my blog, but.....

I have been running a test there:

What is your favorite scandal?
Teapot Dome
Bobby Baker
Monica Lewinsky
Judith Campbell Exner
Whiskey Ring

All are more than welcome to vote for the scandal of your choice! You can vote early and often!

Posted by: Eric Scheie at February 12, 2004 09:40 PM

I'm partial to the XYZ affair myself...I'll do that one also.

Posted by: Kin at February 13, 2004 07:59 AM