The Teapot Dome Scandal : How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country
Mix hundreds of millions of dollars in petroleum reserves; rapacious oil barons and crooked politicians; under-the-table payoffs; murder, suicide, and blackmail; White House cronyism; and the excesses of the Jazz Age. The result: the granddaddy of all American political scandals, Teapot Dome.
In The Teapot Dome Scandal, acclaimed author Laton McCartney tells the amazing, complex, and at times ribald story of how Big Oil handpicked Warren G. Harding, an obscure Ohio senator, to serve as our twenty-third president. Harding and his so-called "oil cabinet" made it possible for the oilmen to secure vast oil reserves that had been set aside for use by the U.S. Navy. In exchange, the oilmen paid off senior government officials, bribed newspaper publishers, and covered the GOP campaign debt.
When news of the scandal finally emerged, the consequences were disastrous for the nation and for the principles in the plot to bilk the taxpayers: Harding's administration was hamstrung; Americans' confidence in their government plummeted; Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was indicted, convicted, and incarcerated; and others implicated in the affair suffered similarly dire fates. Stonewalling by members of Harding's circle kept a lid on the story-witnesses developed "faulty" memories or fled the country, and important documents went missing-but contemporary records newly made available to McCartney reveal a shocking, revelatory picture of just how far-reaching the affair was, how high the stakes, and how powerful the conspirators.
In giving us a gimlet-eyed but endlessly entertaining portrait of the men and women who made a tempest of Teapot Dome, Laton McCartney again displays his gift for faithfully rendering history with the narrative touch of an accomplished novelist.
McCartney (Friends in High Places: The Bechtel Story) does an efficient job of narrating 20th-century America's first great federal corruption scandal. Petroleum preserves (or domes) were set aside on public lands in California and Wyoming, to be kept until needed by the navy. During 1921, President Harding's secretary of the interior, Albert Fall, took control of the lands from Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby and leased two domes--Teapot Dome in Wyoming and California's Elk Hills--to Harry Sinclair's Mammoth Oil Co. and Edward Doheny's Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Co., respectively. Concurrently, Fall received personal payments from the two men totaling $404,000, some of which he distributed to underlings who helped with the transactions. Scandal ensued, continuing through the presidency of Harding's successor, Calvin Coolidge. Congressional investigations were held; Coolidge appointed special prosecutors, and in 1929 a federal court found Fall guilty of bribery, fining him $100,000 and sentencing him to a year in prison. Though McCartney adds nothing new to the story, he has a solid grasp of it in this retelling. (Feb. 5)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 04, 2008
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