Investor Peter Thiel, a senior Trump adviser who has defended the president's immigration ban, has stirred up controversy in the island nation over whether he got special treatment due to his wealth. On Wednesday, the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs released documents that it says support its decision to grant Thiel citizenship back in 2011. Thiel's application was supported by wealthy New Zealanders and business partners Sam Morgan and Rod Drury, who wrote letters of reference for him. The investor, who made headlines by funding a lawsuit that led to the end of Gawker, also touted his contributions to the Committee to Protect Journalists in his application as an example of "giving back to my community."
Although Thiel indicated that he lived in the U.S. and had no intention of moving to New Zealand, the department decided to accept his application and make him a citizen, concluding: "Given the investment Mr. Thiel has made in New Zealand companies and the support and contacts he is able to provide, the Department is of the view that granting Mr. Thiel's citizenship would be in the public interest due to his exceptional circumstances."
Prominent members of the parliament in New Zealand were outraged. "People are deeply uncomfortable with this," Iain Lees-Galloway, a Labor MP and opposition spokesman on immigration, told the Financial Times. "This was all done behind closed doors, and most New Zealanders don't think it is appropriate to offer citizenship for money or as some sort of insurance policy in a turbulent world."