Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann:
The oilmen anxiously pored over geological maps and tried to glean intelligence about leases from men they employed as “rock hounds” and spies. After a break for lunch, the auction proceeded to the more valuable leases, and the crowd’s gaze inevitably turned toward the oil magnates, whose power rivaled, if not surpassed, that of the railroad and steel barons of the nineteenth century. Some of them had begun to use their clout to bend the course of history. In 1920, Sinclair, Marland, and other oilmen helped finance the successful presidential bid of Warren Harding. One oilman from Oklahoma told a friend that Harding’s nomination had cost him and his interests $1 million. But with Harding in the White House, a historian noted, “the oil men licked their chops.” Sinclair funneled, through the cover of a bogus company, more than $200,000 to the new secretary of the interior, Albert B. Fall; another oilman had his son deliver to the secretary $100,000 in a black bag.
In exchange, the secretary allowed the barons to tap the navy’s invaluable strategic oil reserves. Sinclair received an exclusive lease to a reserve in Wyoming, which, because of the shape of a sandstone rock near it, was known as Teapot Dome. The head of Standard Oil warned a former Harding campaign aide, “I understand the Interior Department is just about to close a contract to lease Teapot Dome, and all through the industry it smells….I do feel that you should tell the President that it smells.”