Albert Bacon Fall was one of New Mexico’s first two U.S. Senators. He served in the Senate from March 21, 1912 until President Harding nominated him to be Secretary of the Interior on March 4, 1921.
The infamous Teapot Dome Scandal was Fall’s contrivance, one that made him the first cabinet member to be imprisoned for his official actions. In 1921, Harding issued an executive order that transferred possession of three specially designated Naval Oil Reserves from the Navy to the Department of the Interior. Secretary Fall then awarded no-bid contracts to private oil companies to lease Wyoming’s Teapot Dome Oil Field and California’s Elk Hills Reserve. As a two-year Congressional investigation was inauspiciously winding down, it was discovered that Fall had received a no-interest $100,000 loan and gifts totaling about $400,000 from the lessees. In 1927, the Supreme Court invalidated both leases as fraudulently conceived (Teapot Dome in Mammoth Oil Co. v. United States, Elk Hills in Pan American Petroleum & Transport Co. v. United States). Fall was convicted of bribery two years later, fined $100,000 (a net gain!), and sentenced to one year in prison.
Here’s the nomination of the most corrupt cabinet member in the most scandal-ridden administration in U.S. history: