- The PGA Tour has paid $190,000 to lobby Congress and the President so far this year, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed by DLA Piper LLC.
- In 2021, the disclosures began to list “Saudi Golf League proposals” to its specific lobbying issues.
- The PGA Tour’s investment in lobbying grew by $50,000 in Q2, to $120,000 as LIV Golf held its first events.
According to public disclosure reports, the PGA Tour has so far spent $190,000 to lobby Congress and the Biden administration this year on various issues, including what is specified as “Saudi Golf League proposals.”
The reports show the PGA Tour paid $70,000 in Q1 and $120,000 in Q2 of 2022 to the law firm DLA Piper LLP, which in turn lobbied members of the House, Senate and the Executive Office on issues of tax legislation, implementation of the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan, and of course, the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
The upstart league, backed financially by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has recently attracted several high-profile players away from the PGA Tour — from world No. 16 Dustin Johnson to erstwhile Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson, who was stripped of his Team Europe duties Wednesday because of his decision to join LIV.
First appearing on the disclosures in Q2 of 2021, when the first unofficial reports of a Saudi-funded breakaway golf tour began to come to light, “Saudi Golf League proposals” has been a consistent lobbying issue for the PGA Tour since.
The Tour referred Insider to DLA Piper, which declined to comment specifically about its work for the PGA Tour and discussions with government officials.
The amount the Tour has paid DLA Piper increased by 40% in the second quarter of this year, just as LIV Golf staged its first events in June. The series now turns to its third event later this month, taking place at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, at the home course of former President Donald J. Trump.
Earlier this week, Trump chimed in on the widening rift between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, posting to Social Truth: “All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, will pay a big price when the MERGER with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big ‘thank you’ from PGA officials who are making Millions of Dollars a year. If you don’t take the money now, you will get nothing inevitable after the merger takes place, and only say how smart the original signees were.”
The emergence of LIV Golf has stoked widespread criticisms and concerns over the practice of what’s known as “sportswashing,” wherein authoritarian regimes attempt to cleanse their public image through funding sports. Saudi Arabia’s involvement in professional golf, some would argue, distracts from the country’s history of human rights violations and the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The PGA Tour, of course, also has business interests in maintaining the status quo, as marquee names —whether players or perhaps, someday, sponsors — leaving the established Tour could ultimately hurt its bottom line.
Incidentally, last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice is investigating the PGA Tour to determine if it “engaged in anti-competitive behavior” in its decision to ban players that have left for LIV Golf.
The PGA Tour was previously investigated in 1994 by the Federal Trade Commission regarding similar rules that kept players from competing in non-Tour events. Nothing came of that inquiry.
“This was not unexpected,” a PGA Tour spokesman told the Wall Street Journal of the DOJ’s current investigation. “We went through this in 1994, and we are confident in a similar outcome.”