Anniversary Post: Teapot Dome Scandal

Albert FallOn this day in 1922, the Senate investigation of the Teapot Dome scandal started. I probably wouldn’t even bring it up, except for the fact that two years ago, 74% of Republicans polled said that the Benghazi “scandal” was worse than the Teapot Dome scandal. I’m pretty sure that almost none of those Republicans even knew what the Teapot Dome scandal was. And really, how could it ever be worse? There was no television at that time and thus no talking points to get wrong. Remember: the Benghazi “scandal” had nothing to do with the attack itself; it was all about what Susan Rice said on the Sunday morning political talk shows. That is the extent of Republican thinking on such matters. (It was only later that things were added as it became obvious that the Republicans were just scandal mongering and didn’t actually care about the attack.)

The scandal itself is nothing that special. Teapot Dome in Wyoming was one of several oil reserves held by the US Navy. When Warren Harding became president, he issued an executive order transferring control to the Department of the Interior. Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, leased the oil rights to a couple of different oil companies for great prices. There was no bidding — it was typical corruption. What is interesting is that this was not illegal.

What was illegal was that the oil companies gave Fall a few million dollars (in today’s currency). He was eventually jailed for a year. Interestingly, however, the man he was convicted of getting a bribe from, Edward Doheny, was found not guilty of bribing a public official. Sort of typical American justice, if you ask me.

What I think is very interesting in this case is that this 1922 act of public corruption is still the only thing that Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts thinks constitutes bribery. And of course, this isn’t how it works at all today. In general, these oil tycoons wouldn’t have to write checks to politicians; they would just write checks to super PACs who support the politicians. So John Roberts and the other crooks on the Supreme Court have simply defined corruption out of existence.

So there will be no more Teapot Dome scandals. We’ve sold honest government away so we can have anti-choice justices on the Supreme Court. Until they’re born, American humans will be the best protected in the world. After they are born, who cares? Certainly not the Supreme Court. Certainly not our politicians. Certainly not most of the American people. But at least the Teapot Dome scandal makes a good polling question. Is the Iran deal worse than the Teapot Dome scandal? I don’t know for sure, but I’ll bet 74% of Republicans would say yes.

Happy anniversary Teapot Dome scandal!

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