On September 19th, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced via an internal email and a subsequent press release a new initiative to “reemphasize hunting and fishing” at the DOI: “Secretary’s Shotgun Showdown,” a video game tournament in which department employees would take on then-Secretary Ryan Zinke in a game of “Big Buck Hunter Pro” for the chance to win “bragging rights” and a “Beverage on the Balcony” with Zinke.
However, according to emails released via FOIA after nearly two years of processing, just days before the game was dropped off, key details - such as whether or not the whole program had actually been approved and who was paying for the delivery - had yet to be finalized.
A couple of weeks earlier, on September 5th, Jason Funes, a special assistant for intergovernmental and external affairs to Zinke, had reached out to Kaprice Tucker of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor, who provided advice on how to get the approval process started.
Two days later, Funes emailed Mariane Gately and Richard Farr of the DOI’s Office of Facilities and Administrative Services, and let them know that “Big Buck Hunter Pro” had been cleared for installation in the basement.
Farr forwarded the email to Joe Nassar, the director for the Office of Facilities and Administrative Services, who checked back in with Tucker …
who seemed surprised by this announcement …
and ran it by other employees in the Office of the Solicitor, who again questioned the “approved” status.
The next day, Nassar forwarded the email thread to Farr, and told him that if Funes came asking about where they were with the installation, to ask him who in the Solicitor’s office had actually approved things.
Sure enough, the following Monday, September 11th, Funes reached out to Farr again to finalize a spot for the arcade cabinet, and Farr asked Funes to provide a name.
Funes responded that he had spoken with “multiple people” on the “many aspects” of this, and seemed determined to go ahead.
Meanwhile, as far as Nassar and Facilities was concerned, the game was still in limbo until final approval could be confirmed, and considerations such as “media optics” be weighed.
All of which proved rather moot once Funes informed Farr, who in turn informed Nassar, who in turn informed Tucker and the rest of the Solicitor employees, that the game had already been ordered. It would be arriving next Tuesday, and the fee would be $1,200.
What was the fee for, and how was it being paid? Those were excellent questions, and an increasingly exasperated Tucker asked them.
Nassar wasn’t sure either …
and Tucker resigned herself to finding the answers. As a final word, she noted to Nassar that the entire thing had “never been SOL approved, only SOL discussed.”
Which another Solicitor employee thought would make a great stamp.
That Friday, after what was no doubt a somewhat hectic search, a funding source had finally been tracked down - the non-profit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation would foot the bill.
A less-than-thrilled sounding Nassar let folks know that the machine was, indeed, on the way:
For which he was reminded that he was now on “vacation” and that Farr was the acting director of Facilities.
That next Tuesday, the “Big Buck Hunter Pro” cabinet was installed by the Bison Bistro without incident …
and a couple of months later, the National Park Service’s Jason McNatt would go on to beat Zinke in the final round of the “Secretary’s Shotgun Showdown.”
Read the full emails embedded below, or on the request page.
Image by Tami A. Heilemann via the DOI