Teapot Dome Scandal
Government corruption is nothing new, as shown by the Teapot Dome Scandal, which took place in the 1920s. As the U.S. Navy modernized to use oil instead of coal on all its ships, special oil reserves on federal government land were set aside to be controlled by the Navy and tapped only in the event of a national emergency.
One such reserve was on land in Wyoming with a rock formation that looked like a teapot. Albert Fall, the secretary of the interior under President Warren G. Harding, convinced Harding to put the land under the Department of the Interior’s control, and then subsequently granted leases to his oil-drilling buddies in exchange for several hundred thousand dollars of monetary bribes.
After the corruption was uncovered, Fall was found guilty of accepting bribes and sentenced to a year in prison. He became the first Cabinet-level officer to go to jail for crimes committed while in office. One of the oilmen was found guilty of contempt of court and of Congress, serving over six months in prison. But none were convicted of bribery.
The leases were initially upheld as valid when first brought to trial. But ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court found them invalid.
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