Way back in 2017, Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey and notorious Far Right troll Charles Johnson landed a meeting with then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. The three met for half an hour to talk about using technology to help build a border wall. After leaving Oculus, Luckey founded Anduril, a company that wants to build a “virtual border wall.” Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act Request, Motherboard has learned how Luckey and Johnson scored the meeting. It was easy, Luckey is a billionaire.
Johnson reached out to Scott McEwen, who wrote both Zinke’s biography and Chris Kyle’s American Sniper. “Palmer Luckey, who sold his company to Oculus Rift for $2.5B, wants to meet Secretary Zinke while we are in DC this week. Can you make this happen?” Johnson asked.
“Another Billionaire wants a meeting-up to you guys,” McEwen wrote to Scott Hommel at the Department of Interior, according to the emails. “I don’t know this guy...but confirmed he did make some serious cash recently. Tell me if you’re interested in talking.”
The Department of the Interior took two-and-a-half years to respond to the FOIA request, which was filed shortly after the meeting took place.
The emails don’t shed any light on what actually happened at the meeting, but they do show just how easy it is to get a meeting with the Trump administration: You just have to be a billionaire.
Luckey and Johnson gave the Department of the Interior basically no information about what they actually wanted to talk about, and Zinke still met with them.
“Would you be able to provide specifics about what regarding the Border Wall you would like to address so that we can best prepare the Secretary for your meeting,” a DOI employee asked Johnson.
“,[sic] please tell him that Palmer Luckey is working on it with a major telecom company,” Johnson responded.
Luckey made his fortune by selling his virtual reality company to Facebook. In 2016, Luckey donated $10,000 to a pro-Trump "shitposting" organization called Nimble America. The group was registered as a 501(c)4 non-profit and took credit for an anti-Hillary Clinton billboard outside of Pittsburgh.
Luckey left Facebook in March of 2017, after his donation to Nimble America just two months before his meeting with Zinke. After he left, Luckey founded Anduril, a zoomer Raytheon. Since his meeting with Zinke, Luckey and Anduril have been hard at work using robots, apps, and VR headsets.
Zinke resigned as Secretary of the Interior a year ago amid various ethics controversies.