US Congressman Accuses LIV CEO Greg Norman of Pushing Saudi “Propaganda” | LIV golf series

Greg Norman has been accused of promoting Saudi “propaganda” following meetings with Washington lawmakers, in which the Australian golfer sought support for the Saudi-backed LIV Series in its bitter dispute with the PGA Tour.

Norman, who holds the role of CEO of LIV and was the public face of the breakaway tour, apparently came to the US capital this week to criticize what he called the PGA’s “anti-competitive efforts” to stifle LIV.

But – aside from a few lawmakers who allegedly tried to take a picture with Norman – the Saudi tour instead faced considerable backlash from both Democrats and Republicans, who defended the PGA and accused LIV of being little more than a sports washing vehicle for the kingdom.

Tim Burchett, a Republican congressman from Tennessee, left a Republican Study Committee meeting Wednesday where dozens of his party colleagues met with Norman, expressing dismay that congressmen were discussing a league. of golf backed by Saudi funds. He also called Norman’s LIV intonation “propaganda”.

“We have to get out of bed with these people. They are bad actors. We need to keep them at a safe distance, ”Burchett told the Guardian. He cited the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the kingdom’s treatment of gays and women, which he called “simply unacceptable”.

While Burchett is a conservative Republican, the LIV has also been targeted from the left. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin he said earlier this month on Twitter that the LIV tour used a “golf glove [to] try to cover a bloody hand ”of the Saudi government. He added that the series was part of an “ongoing, desperate attempt to clean up [Saudi Arabia’s] Image”.

Durbin added in a second tweet: “The money should not be allowed to cover the murder and dismemberment of a journalist or the incarceration and harassment of activists such as Raif Badawi, Waleed Abu Ak-Khair and Salma al-Shehab.”

LIV spokesman Jonathan Grella said, Greg Norman had a very productive day on Capitol Hill today in front of about 60 members of Congress. His message about the advantages of competition has been very well received, even if a couple of congressmen say otherwise. “

Although LIV and the PGA are engaged in litigation in the United States involving allegations that the PGA engaged in anti-competitive practices, some lawmakers have asked whether supporters of the Saudi-backed tour, which is owned by the sovereign wealth fund of the ‘Saudi Arabia, they are supposed to be foreign agents of the kingdom.

Department of Justice rules require agents of “foreign presidents” who are engaged in “political activities” to disclose their relationship with the foreign principal – in this case, Saudi Arabia – as well as receipts, contracts and payments in support of these activities. The Justice Department has notably stepped up enforcement of such rules – known as the Foreign Agent Registration Act (Fara) – over the past 12 months and has accused people the department deemed to have acted as foreign agents without disclosing their activities.

Chip Roy, a Conservative Republican congressman from Texas, in a July letter called on the DOJ to investigate “potential violations” of Fara’s rules.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is funneling money through its Public Investment Fund (PIF) to defend LIV Golf as a public relations exercise. In other words, foreign government dollars are used to enhance that government’s brand and positioning here in the United States, ”Roy wrote.

A legal expert interviewed by the Guardian said that business ventures owned by foreign governments sometimes get out of control, but not when owned by a nation’s sovereign wealth fund and not when there are legitimate questions as to whether the company has also public relations objectives that involve the image of the country abroad.

“I think there are many signs that LIV is not a typical commercial interest. I think there are many reasons why the DoJ could potentially kick the tires on this one. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, “said Matt Sanderson, a Caplin & Drysdale attorney who specializes in Fara cases. Sanderson said it was unclear whether LIV intended to make a long-term profit, raising further questions about its intentions.

He added that while he did not feel that golfers who enrolled in LIV should have applied personally under Fara, he said that any individual who talks to government officials or engages in public relations activities would most likely be examined if did not disclose their business.

Asked whether the LIV officials would file under Fara, Grella said, “Our lawyers have informed us it’s not applicable.”

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