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Sinclair v. United States, Supreme Court of the United States, No. 555, October Term-1928, slip opinion, April 8, 1929

In Sinclair v. United States (1929), the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had a right to investigate anything related to its legislative and oversight duties, including Harry Sinclair’s personal dealings with the Secretary of the Interior. In an earlier Teapot Dome case, McGrain v. Daugherty (1927), it ruled that congressional committees could compel private citizens to testify.

Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration

Sinclair v. United States, Supreme Court of the United States, No. 555, October Term-1928, slip opinion, April 8, 1929

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