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Leases Upon Naval Oil Reserves: Senate Committee Hearings before the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, Vol. 3, 1924

Senate investigators discovered that Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall had accepted large sums of money from Mammoth Oil Company owner Harry Sinclair. Sinclair protested the Senate investigation, claiming that his transactions with Fall were a private matter and outside of Congress’s reach. Fall, convicted for corruption, was the first cabinet secretary to be imprisoned.

Senate Library

Leases Upon Naval Oil Reserves: Senate Committee Hearings before the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, Vol. 3, 1924

The Teapot Dome Scandal

The 1923 Teapot Dome scandal and investigation concerned bribery in the leasing of naval oil reserves. Senator Thomas Walsh of Montana, who chaired the investigation, explored allegations that Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall had issued no-bid oil reserve leases, including one at Teapot Dome in Wyoming, in exchange for generous, illegal gifts. Evidence obtained through the course of the Senate inquiry resulted in Fall’s conviction and incarceration, the resignation of Attorney General Harry Daugherty, and two landmark Supreme Court cases.

Congress has plenary power to dispose of and to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the naval oil reserves, other public lands and property of the United States. . . . the Senate had power. . . to investigate and report what had been . . . done by executive departments . . . and to make any other inquiry concerning the public domain.

Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263 (1929), April 8, 1929