United States Senator Richard Blumenthal (District of Connecticut) said on Sunday that Congressional hearings regarding the proposed partnership between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund could happen “within weeks.”
Blumenthal, who initiated a probe into the deal between the tour and PIF, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that the American people deserve the right to look into the facts of the alliance since, in his estimation, a “repressive, autocratic foreign government” is taking over the tour.
“The Saudis have been very explicit that they have a strategic objective here,” Blumenthal said.
“They’ve been engaged in numerous malign activities antithetical to American interests and values, killing Jamal Khashoggi, as you mentioned, as well as other journalists, torturing and imprisoning dissidents and critics and supporting anti-democratic activities, even terrorist activities, like 9/11, as well as the internal war in Yemen.”
Blumenthal later added: “There’s a real risk to American interests in the Saudis taking over this American institution. We want to get to the bottom of it.”
Last week, Blumenthal informed PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan that the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was requesting records and communications between the tour and the PIF. The deal could be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which analyses mergers regarding potential threats to the nation’s security. When asked how quickly public hearings could materialise, Blumenthal pointed to an accelerated timeline.
“I think a hearing is possible within weeks,” Blumenthal said. “Again, not prejudging what the conclusions will be. But, what the Saudis are doing here is not taking control of a single team or hiring one player. They are, in effect, taking charge of the entire sport and it’s not just a Saudi individual. It is the regime.”
On Friday the PGA Tour and PIF’s LIV Golf filed a motion to dismiss LIV’s antitrust lawsuit and the tour’s countersuit, ending a nearly year-long litigation battle between the two organisations. The arrangement was part of the surprising announcement that the tour and PIF were forming a new entity together.
However, the tour remains involved in a probe by the Justice Department that was spurred by the advent of LIV Golf. The DOJ investigation has also spread to include other golf entities, including Augusta National Golf Club, the PGA of America and the USGA, which is hosting this week’s US Open. The tour’s deal with PIF is expected to fall under the current DOJ investigation.
Blumenthal has threatened to strip the tour’s tax-exempt status over the Saudi deal, although the proposed partnership between the tour and PIF would be a for-profit entity. Should the tour ignore Blumenthal’s request, the Senator said he will use “any of the tools at our disposal, including subpoenas and hearings, recommendations for action and legislation are all on the table.”
“We are ready and willing to seek information by whatever legal means we have to obtain it,” Blumenthal said.
In response to Blumenthal, Monahan issued a letter to Congress, stating the deal between the Saudis manifested due to the lack of government action against LIV Golf. Last week Monahan stepped back from day-to-day duties following an undisclosed health condition.