Fast and Furious reminiscent of Teapot Dome
By SOL LACHMAN
The House of Representatives, after 18 months of investigation and stonewalling by the Obama Justice Department, voted 255 to 67 to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress. Holder becomes the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt. Seventeen Democrats joined the GOP in a bi-partisan vote, most other Democrats walked out rather than vote no.
Everyone is talking about the Supreme Court decision and how it will affect the election but what about Fast & Furious? There is even talk that it might rise to the level of an impeachable offense ala Watergate. Will it make a difference or be overshadowed by healthcare?
Fast & Furious may not much matter in terms of this administration but it may make a great difference in terms of how we govern moving forward. The dynamic tension between the executive and legislative branches as balanced by the decisions of the judicial branch is the crowning glory (such as it is) of America’s federal republic. Congress and all branches need to focus on process not merely progress (as they see it) or product.
My continuing question is whether the voters will see Holder and Fast & Furious as an unimportant blip or as an egregious usurpation of powers that could translate into rejection of the current administration at the polls no matter how much party affiliation one may have.
The fact that Democrats would vote for this at all during an election cycle means they are truly alarmed. Yes, Congressional Black Caucus members walked out in support of the president and refused to vote calling it racism. Some of that may have been a convenient cover. What if even some members of that caucus choked on the idea of voting against the censure but could not afford to be seen as voting for it either? Remember the media flurry when several black leaders publicly came out against the president’s statements about corporations and capitalism. Walking out could, for some, be a fig-leaf to cover the fact that President Obama is losing support even within his expected core constituency.
For students of history, Teapot Dome comes to mind.
Teapot Dome was an oil reserve scandal that began during the administration of President Harding. In 1921, by executive order of the president, control of naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming and at Elk Hills, California was transferred from the Navy Deptment to Interior. The oil reserves had been set aside for the Navy by President Wilson.
In 1922, Interior Secretary Albert Fall, leased, without competitive bidding, the Teapot Dome fields to Harry Sinclair, an oil operator, and the field at Elk Hills to Edward L. Doheny. These transactions became (1922–23) the subject of a Senate investigation lead by Sen. Thomas J. Walsh.
It was found that in 1921, Doheny had lent Fall, $100,000, interest-free, and that upon Fall’s retirement as secretary of the Interior (Mar., 1923) Sinclair also “loaned” him another large amount of money. The investigation led to criminal prosecutions.
Fall was indicted for conspiracy and for accepting bribes. Convicted of the latter charge, he was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $100,000.
In another trial for bribery, Doheny and Sinclair were acquitted, although Sinclair was subsequently sentenced to prison for contempt of the Senate and for employing detectives to shadow members of the jury in his case.
The oil fields were restored to the U.S. government through a Supreme Court decision in 1927. Then Attorney General Harry Daugherty was twice investigated by special prosecutors but enough evidence was not developed to indict. Daugherty was, however, later indicted after leaving office and brought to trial over another bribery scandal but got off when the jury deadlocked 7-5 for conviction.
In terms of apparent corruption Holder has by his efforts, managed to exceed Daugherty in some ways, but lags behind him in others. The race to break the record continues.
Sol Lachman, host of America Works on the Paltalk News Network, is a licensed clinical social worker and carrer counselor in New York and New Jersey and frequent contributor here. www.AmericaWorksRadio.com
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