Deja Vu – Repeat of Teapot Dome

We need to learn a lesson from history when it comes to natural resources.  Money, labor, privatization, and politicians operate the same.

Some things never change.

At the time of Presidents Harding and Coolidge, the oil companies, particularly Sinclair Oil was given our nation’s oil resources for a sweetheart deal – no bidding necessary. The oil was in reserve for the Navy in case of war – the Republicans in charge arranged for it to go to oil corporations for profit.

Some things never change.

In our day, international mining corporations are allowed to enter Nevada and stake claims for very small fees . The current Governor of Nevada most recently worked at Jones Vargas – the firm hired to mining lobby. Elected officials on all levels take campaign donations from mining. Mining pays barely anything for billions of dollars in gold and other minerals.

It is estimated that one trillion dollars worth of gold is in the center of the state.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 239-240

Out west, one of the navy properties was a great oil field that lay under a butte, officially Naval Petroleum Reserve No 3 but known as Teapot Dome for the butte’s funny shape. Some engineers were arguing that the surrounding private companies were tapping the oil out from under the Dome. The best thing to do might be to grant a concession to drill there; that would both allow commerce to take over the business there and reduce the United States’ dependence on oil drilling in Mexico …. Granting oil concessions to private companies was like granting a great company the right to operate Muscle Shoals, the dam that had been constructed to produce nitrates during the war. It was important to do this now, Harding and Coolidge believed. If they did not then these sectors might forever stay in public hands.

Some things never change.

Resource Land: international mining corporations are staking claims all over Nevada in a mighty land grab. They are allowed by fee simple to patent the land converting public land into private property. At least at teapot dome, there was a lease and they had to pay something. They are not paying anything to tie up the land.

Resource Water: The ancient water is dumped by mining into the the desert while Vegas fights with the North and other states over water rights.

Resource Clean Environment. British Petroleum owns the superfund site in Yerington. The radioactive site will cost billions to clean up. Water has to be brought in from outside for the people living close by to drink. Mercury is polluting the water, fish are not edible, and the EPA is fining the mining industry. Thousands of holes are dug all over the state and abandoned.

Corporations are costing the government and the tax payers billions in Nevada; corporations are reaping only benefits and profits.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 240

Albert Fall, intended to lease the valuable Naval Petroleum Reserve No 3 without putting the project out for bids. The transfer to Interior from Navy had already taken place with the seeming endorsement of all, including the navy secretary and the navy assistant secretary, Theodore Roosevelt, the president’s son and Alice’s half brother …. The Wyoming reserves, some 200 million barrels of high-grade oil, would be leased to Mammouth Oil Co., a company created by Sinclair Oil, the company of a Harding campaign donor, Harry Sinclair

Some things never change.

Nevada is a leading producer of high quality gold. A cash cow for the billion dollar mining industry. Barely a soul spoke against their monopolies hidden out in the desert for decades. Campaign donations were hefty for many Nevada politicians.

Mining does employ a few mostly transient workers and adds some benefit to the immediate communities. It is by no means comparable to the benefit the corporations receive.

Nevada has become a place for out-of-state profiteers.

While leadership is asleep at the switch.

Nevada also has its own “Keystone Pipeline”. This huge natural gas line crosses Nevada leaving a huge scar on the old ground. Yes, we had temporary jobs and a short term boost in the economy. That boost is history. The federal government smoothly permitted the 48″ gas line. Nevada politicians can be proud that Nevada got the burden of the pipeline but not the benefit of buying one gallon of natural gas. North Dakota is not the only state that is covered with pipeline. If you really want to generate and sell electricity, cheap natural gas is the way to do it. Ask California – they got the gas.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 240

Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin was moving with alacrity to spotlight the transaction and demanded an investigation of the teapot Dome concession …. Coolidge watched from the Senate president’s seat.

Tax issues — the rich did not want to pay.

Some things never change.

The people of Nevada have to take the matter into their own hands because the politicians would not. SJR15 is before the Nevada Legislature. This would remove a cap placed in the Nevada Constitution by miners in ancient times. We hope this will be placed on the ballot and the people will vote — doing the job that our elected officials should have done.

Why has it taken Nevada so long? Mining law from 1872? These laws need to change.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 241

In June, the administration won a key case against violent strikers: United Mine Workers v Coronado Coal affirmed that strikers were liable for the damage they inflicted on companies property. On July 1, 300,000 rail workers walked out, shutting down commerce. The strikes halted the upward trend of business; the strike was taking the recovery hostage. The administration had begun to appoint conservative judges who would be a help in the endless battles between companies and unions.

Some things never change.

Under conditions of austerity, labor is taking to the streets, protesting, and becoming unsettled. Activists are activating. Organizers are organizing. Regular people are asking: Why are we giving resources away while we are experiencing severe financial crisis? Vegas experiencing the recession in many ways worse than the rest of the nation. Highest foreclosure. Highest unemployment.

Union busting was and is the primary goal. Profit margins widen as the rich take advantage of the work of people’s hands. In a right to work state, unions stand between working people and oblivion.

Resources are allowed to be siphoned away.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 281

It was becoming clear now that the interior secretary had accepted cash via an intermediary. “Not in my time has the country been so startled by the act of a public servant as it has been by the disclosure that Secretary Fall actually took money in a satchel, ” wrote Morrow….

Some things never change.

Closed door legislative meetings. Decisions made at the last minute. Horse trading. Mining lobbyists boldly meeting in the middle of the legislative building as if they owned the place. Some people getting richer and the disadvantaged not part of the discussion.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 281

Longworth’s compromise was worse than the White House feared. Republicans teamed up with Democrats, 408-8, to pass a bill that diverged sharply from the Mellon Plan.

Some things never change.

In a move that surprised everyone this Nevada Legislative session a few Republicans are leading the charge to do something about remedying the taxation of Nevada Mining. They are questioning and standing up to the lobbyists.

Where are the democrats?
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 281

But there again, despite the special prosecutors and the recent resignation of Navy Secretary Denby, the shadow of Teapot Dome was still long. If leasing Teapot Dome to Harry Sinclair had been a corrupt mockery of privatization, then was not the sale of Muscle Shoals to Ford the same? Governor Gifford Pinchot, who had negotiated the coal situation the prior autumn, opposed the sale. Progressives in the Senate found endless reasons to block it.

Some things never change.

In Nevada the progressives are activating around the mining issues. Sheila Leslie and Representative Steven Horsford worked on SJR15. US Representative Steven Horsford participates in the Mining Accountability and Oversight Committee, MOAC.

But the situation is progressing slowly, with the Nevada Governor appointing MOAC auditors and inspectors of the billion dollar mining industries – who do not attend the meetings. It’s lip service to oversight but it is not meaningful.

This reminds me of the Anderson Firm auditing Enron.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 295

The Teapot Dome investigations continued: the federal grand jury indicted Albert Fall, Sinclair, and Doheny.

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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 296

“We are often told that we are a rich country, and we are,” Coolidge told the crowd. But as in the Gospel of Luke, “where more is given, more is required.” The President laid down the law for those departments that would not cut. “I regret that there are still some officials who apparently feel that the estimates transmitted to the Bureau of the Budget are the estimates which they are authorized to advocate before the Committees.” The only lawful estimates were the president’s Finally Coolidge again stressed his theme: “I am for economy. After that I am for more economy. At this time, and under present circumstances, that is my conception of serving the people.”

Some things never change.

Governor Sandoval is a leader in a state full of gold. The billionaires are allowed to hide, hoard, and stash the wealth. While the Governor cut 5,000 jobs his first months in office. Schools, hospitals, social services, mental health, are all cut cut cut. This definitely serves a few people – it is not serving THE people.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 305

La Follete and Davis might be able to use Teapot Dome to bring Republicans down.

Some things never change.

Scandal will bring politicians down. Careful politicos – ethical consideration and disciplinary rules may bite you.
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 321

The big question in the Veterans Bureau and Teapot Dome scandals was how much information Coolidge himself had picked up in the cabinet meetings. When Dawes made a show of avoiding the meetings, he raised the question of whether Coolidge had been compromised by attending. The alternative was that Coolidge had been ignorant of what had gone on among men he saw at the White House …. That surmise kept Coolidge’s name clear but also suggested that he was a simpleton.

Some things never change.

The people involved in Nevada Mining issues and allowing the corporations to take American resources like this are either not paying attention or not understanding?
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Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 391

Charles Forbes, Harding’s original Veterans Bureau chief, was still in Leavenworth Prison for the fraud he had committed with federal moneys. All over Washington could be found the detritus of war-related scandal, such as the Teapot Dome decision relating to naval reserves.

Some things never change.

Enough is enough. We need to use our Nevada resources wisely and be responsible stewards.

This post was written by Angie Sullivan