Since last 12 months, the PGA Tour has been speaking behind the scenes with White House officials and congressional lawmakers about its concerns with LIV Golf, a rival league funded by Saudi Arabia.
As plans for LIV Golf were coming together, the PGA Tour quietly began reaching out to the White House and lawmakers from either side of the aisle within the second quarter of 2021, in line with lobbying disclosure reports and other people aware of the matter.
Since last 12 months, the PGA Tour has paid $360,000 to the firm DLA Piper to lobby lawmakers on their behalf for multiple topics, including “Saudi Golf League proposals.”
The PGA Tour shelled out $120,000 within the second quarter of 2022, which spans from April to June 30, in line with essentially the most recent filing. Records show that is essentially the most the PGA Tour has spent on lobbying in a given time period because it spent the identical amount in the primary half of 2004 to hunt federal appropriations and grants for a charity golf program for young people, in line with a filing.
The tour lobbied President Joe Biden’s Executive Office as recently because the second quarter this 12 months, the newest filing says.
Lobbying efforts last 12 months prompted Biden advisors to propose a sit-down meeting between a PGA Tour representative and Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, to debate the Saudi-financed golf league, in line with considered one of the individuals with knowledge of the hassle.
The PGA Tour declined to have the meeting because tour officials didn’t imagine it might lead to much of a course correction by the Saudis, this person said. This person declined to be named with a view to speak freely about private conversations.
A White House spokesperson didn’t return a request for comment. Laura Neal, a spokeswoman for the PGA Tour, told CNBC in an email on Thursday “we will not be going to comment on the particular meetings.”
The LIV Golf league, which reportedly saw one other $2 billion round of Saudi funding this past spring, officially began competition last month in England and can proceed next week at former President Donald Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. LIV Golf is led by former PGA Tour star Greg Norman.
The league has secured contracts from among the biggest American PGA Tour golfers, including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Each reportedly signed contracts with LIV Golf price well over $100 million.
Johnson and Mickelson are among the many golfers who’re suspended from the PGA Tour for participating within the LIV league. The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating whether the PGA Tour engaged in anticompetitive behavior.
U.S. officials have scrutinized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for years, including after the murder of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. A U.S. intelligence report says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi. The crown prince has denied the accusations. Biden recently visited Saudi Arabia to attempt to reorient relations with the country, and was criticized for fist bumping the crown prince.
The stress between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has now boiled over into skilled golf. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan ripped the LIV league at a recent press conference.
“We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League isn’t that. It’s an irrational threat, one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the sport,” Monahan told reporters.
Families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks spoke out against Trump for hosting the Saudi-funded tournament at his Latest Jersey club. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, were from Saudi Arabia. Mastermind Osama bin Laden was born there. The Kingdom has denied it was connected to the attacks. Trump’s golf course in Miami is ready to host one other LIV golf event in October.
Trump recently raved in a Truth Social post about LIV Golf and encouraged golfers to take the cash being offered from the Saudi-backed league.
“All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, can pay an enormous price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes, and also you get nothing but an enormous ‘thanks’ from PGA officials who’re making Tens of millions of Dollars a 12 months,” Trump said in his post. “When you don’t take the cash now, you’re going to get nothing after the merger takes place,” he added.
There is no such thing as a indication in any way that the PGA Tour and LIV will merge, contrary to Trump’s assertions.
The PGA Tour’s lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill have resulted in letters from lawmaker to the commissioner, even from some Trump allies.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. wrote to the PGA Tour’s Monahan last 12 months, saying: “I’m concerned that the actions of the Saudi Government, particularly in the realm of human rights, will change into center stage if the Saudi golf league is formed.”
Graham also called Saudi Arabia a “precious ally” and told the commissioner that “players should pay attention to the complications that might come from a golf league sponsored by the Saudi government.” Graham, who repeatedly plays golf with the previous president, has remained a vocal Trump supporter for the reason that 2020 election.
A spokesman for Graham didn’t reply to a request for comment.
Read more coverage of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf battle
In conversations with lawmakers, PGA Tour officials delivered a message much like Monahan’s remarks, speaking of their concern that the LIV Golf league is a way for the Saudi crown prince to enhance his image and wield influence in america, considered one of the people aware of the matter said.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and his staff, have heard from PGA Tour officials about their issues with LIV, a spokesman for Wyden’s office told CNBC during a Wednesday phone call. Wyden, who has been an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s regime and the LIV tour, briefly spoke to a PGA Tour representative in regards to the LIV league within the halls of Congress when the golf official was visiting Capitol Hill, the aide said.
These conversations between PGA Tour officials, Wyden, the Senate Finance Committee chair, and his office got here after Wyden spoke out publicly in April against the Saudi-backed golf tournament that in June had considered one of its events in Portland, Ore.
“When U.S. sports institutions cozy as much as governments helping their nationals evade the American justice system, they’re selling out their integrity for profits,” Wyden told an area Oregon newspaper in April. “Whoever is looking the shots for this Saudi-affiliated tournament on U.S. soil must step up and take responsibility for the way they’re effectively attempting to cleanse the stains of the Saudi regime.”
Wyden, together with Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., later cosigned a letter to Biden ahead of his trip to Saudi Arabia, asking, “at a minimum, put human rights at the middle of your meetings.”
A spokeswoman for Merkley told CNBC neither he nor his staff have spoken with PGA Tour representatives. Merkley has spoken out against the tour as recently as last month, tweeting “Saudi Arabia can’t be allowed to cover up their egregious human rights record — including the murder of journalists — with a flashy golf tour.” Merkley has also been a longtime critic of Saudi Arabia’s government.
A spokesman for Leahy said he and his staff haven’t met with PGA Tour officials. Representatives for Blumenthal didn’t reply to a request for comment.