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Ten weeks later Jesse Smith, Daugherty’s private secretary, also committed suicide—one day after a long conversation with Harding in the White House.Rumours had been circulating that Smith and a group known as the “Ohio Gang” had been profiting from a variety of corrupt activities.
Soon Harding, a man of little discernible intellect or imagination, found himself invited to join leading corporate boards and fraternal organizations.Pledging a nostalgic “return to normalcy” following World War I, Harding won the presidency by the greatest popular vote margin to that time.He died during his third year in office and was succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge.On most issues he allied himself with the conservative (“Old Guard”) wing of the Republican Party, standing firm against U. membership in the League of Nations and always supporting legislation friendly to business. When the 1920 Republican Convention deadlocked over its selection of a presidential nominee, party leaders turned—supposedly in a smoke-filled room in Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel—to the handsome, genial Ohioan as a compromise candidate.He achieved national visibility when he was chosen to nominate William Howard Taft at the 1912 Republican Convention, and in his next campaign he was elected U. Paired with vice presidential candidate Calvin Coolidge, Harding eschewed a speaking tour in favour of a “front porch” campaign in which he read carefully scripted speeches to delegations of visitors at his Marion home.
Far more serious was the unfolding of the Albert Fall had persuaded Harding to transfer authority over two of the nation’s most important oil reserves—Elk Hills in California and Teapot Dome in Wyoming—from the Navy Department to the Department of the Interior.