No sooner was Fall installed than his money problems disappeared, the dollars flowing into his bank accounts and those of other prominent Republicans as the oil flowed out of Teapot Dome. Sinclair thundered that he was too rich to be jailed.
He was wrong, but many others walked. A probing study of a scandal that spread even deeper than the standard histories claim—and one that has plenty of lessons for today. There was a problem adding your email address. Please try again. Be the first to discover new talent! Each week, our editors select the one author and one book they believe to be most worthy of your attention and highlight them in our Pro Connect email alert.
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The Teapot Dome Scandal
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Granted, he faces an uphill climb. Teapot Dome is shorthand for a complex scheme involving multiple players moving a lot of shells at lightning speed. In brief, a coterie of oil barons, led by Harry F.
How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country
Sinclair and Edward L. Doheny, bribed Albert B. Fall, the secretary of the interior under Warren G. Harding , to lease them Teapot Dome in Wyoming and two oil fields in California, all controlled by the Navy. Since Harding and Fall had, in effect, been installed by these same oilmen, the deal went smoothly. Senate investigators took years to figure it out. McCartney, who has written books on the Bechtel Corporation and the Oregon Trail, does his best to marshal the facts, sort out the intricacies of the plot and keep his extensive cast of characters in formation, but in the end it all proves too much for him.
The Teapot Dome Scandal : how big oil bought the Harding
Signs of struggle appear about halfway through. Chapter-ending cliffhangers languish, never to be revisited until so late in the book that their impact has been nullified. Desperate cues to the reader begin to appear, as names proliferate, and characters previously introduced but long absent from the stage suddenly reappear. McCartney is like a man herding cats.
Intermittently, when not tangled up in the minutiae of the evolving scandal, he delivers fresh, arresting portraits of the main players, some of them lovable rogues, others beady-eyed scoundrels. Harding, a back-slapping bon vivant who preferred a good game of poker and a curvaceous blonde to the dull routine of the Oval Office, beams like the sun.
Doheny, a rapacious brute, seduces press and public with a carefully cultivated persona that Mr. Hays skulks and slithers. View all New York Times newsletters.
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McCartney writes. Virtually everyone involved in Teapot Dome was crooked, even the press.
They then used the information for blackmail, extorting a cool million from their subject. Like most conspiracies, Teapot Dome unraveled because there were too many people involved and too many details to cover up. Sinclair really should have known better than to spread the wealth around in traceable Liberty bonds.
Walsh, the relentless, incorruptible senator from Montana, eventually prevailed, no thanks to the government, which obstructed his every effort.
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