Senate opens investigation into PGA Tour-Saudi Arabia deal


A top senator on Monday opened the first probe into the controversial deal between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf, raising the alarm that “a foreign government entity is taking control of a cherished American institution.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote to the leaders of the two Sports organizations request a set of documents related to the deal. Blumenthal highlighted documents that could shed light on the conduct of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which owns LIV Golf, the PGA Tour’s tax-exempt status and any law enforcement investigations related to the agreement or the previously disputed relationship between the two companies.

The Public Investment Fund “has announced that it intends to use investments in esports to advance the strategic goals of the Saudi government,” Blumenthal wrote in the letters he sent as chair of the investigative subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

“Critics view such Saudi investments in sport as a means of ‘sports laundering’ – an attempt to tarnish the country’s image worldwide – given Saudi Arabia’s deeply troubling human rights record at home and abroad,” the senator continued.

The PGA Tour fought LIV after its inception last year, including in federal court, and many top golfers condemned the Saudi move. The two agreed to end their legal battles after announcing their shocking plan to merge last week.

The PGA Tour claimed they would have ultimate power over the new golf giant. However, many observers consider this extremely unlikely, since the planned organization is dependent on a promised financial injection from the Saudi state.

LIV Golf declined to comment on Blumenthal’s investigation. PGA Tour officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Congress has limited leverage to block the agreement between the two bodies, but Blumenthal and other skeptics could provoke public outrage and complicate implementation.

US officials’ appetite to challenge Saudi Arabia has plummeted in recent years after many policymakers vowed to subdue the kingdom over its close ties with Russia and actions such as the 2018 state-sponsored assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to put pressure.

President Joe Biden’s promise during the 2020 campaign to reconsider US-Saudi Arabia relations resulted in few policy changes. And Republicans have shown little interest in challenging the Gulf Associations’ moves. Former President Donald Trump — a pro-Saudi voice and the GOP’s front-runner for the 2024 presidential election — has done so praised LIV and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Blumenthal’s counterpart on the Senate Inquiry, argued Capitol Hill plays no role in the deal.

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