The Teapot Dome Scandal is widely known for being a bribery scandal that involved the Warren G Harding administration between 1921 and 1923. It’s important to note that during the early 20th century, the Navy was acquiring fuel oil via converting it from coal. In order to be certain that the Navy would get enough fuel at the right time, president Taft actually stated that some oil production areas were naval oil reserves. President Harding then issued an executive order in 1921 to ensure that the control of Buena Vista Oil Fields, Elk Hills, Teapot Dome Oil Fields would go to the Department of the Interior and not stay under the control of the Navy.
In 1922, the Interior Secretary leased the oil production rights from the Teapot Dome to Harry F Sinclair, which was working for Mammoth Oil, which in of itself was a subsidiary for Sinclair Oil Corporation. He also chose to lease the Elk Hills reserve to Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company. But where does the Teapot Dome Scandal come into play? The problem here is that both leases were provided without any competitive bidding. This was legal based on the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.
Needless to say, lease terms were favorable to the oil companies, and that made Albert Fall, the Interior Secretary at that time, a wealthy man. He also got a loan without any interesting in 1921, he received many gifts from Sinclair and Doheny that were around $400000+ in value. The thing to note here is that while leases were not illegal, having money change hands like that was illegal, and that quickly became an issue to deal with as quickly as possible.
Fall tried to keep all these actions a secret, but it became obvious that his standard of living increased exponentially. That made a lot of people very suspect about him, especially when he paid ranch taxes that were 10 years due. Having these things happen out of nowhere was obviously very strange. Carl Magee who created the Albuquerque Tribute, wrote about this issue and brought attention towards it.
The investigation started in 1922 and it took a lot of time. The investigation was actually winding down and Fall appeared innocent. But the $100000 loan to Fall from Doheny appeared and this reopened the scandal. It came to the point where the Supreme Court actually ruled the oil leases were acquired via a corrupted system. This led to 1929’s verdict.
The verdict showed that Fall was actually guilty of accepting bribes from Doheny, however, Doheny was acquitted of paying bribes to Fall the next year. Even if Fall was the one to blame for the scandal, it was Harding’s Reputation that was actually sullied, since he was involved with the wrong persons.
As a whole, this scandal is seen as one of the worst scandals in the US history. Many consider it to be the staple of cabinet corruption, and many people actually see it as a benchmark for other scandals that took place afterwards!
If you wonder why we are talking about this? Well, you need to go see the tea pot – in Washington State.