Democrats Ask Treasury To Determine If Golf Merger Is A National Security Risk

House and Senate Democrats involved in banking issues asked whether the merger qualifies for special review, given Saudi Arabia's involvement.

The top Democrats in the Senate and the House for banking issues asked the Treasury Department on Friday to see whether the controversial merger pact between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf could pose national security risks.

“We are deeply concerned by the announced merger,” Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The merger was announced June 6 and was proposed in part to resolve the legal fight between the PGA Tour and LIV, the latter of which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

But the plan drew immediate rebuke from families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, who blame Saudi Arabia for the attacks and felt the PGA Tour had betrayed them ― as well as from high-profile PGA Tour players who had not defected to the new circuit and who’d given up potentially lucrative contracts to stay where they were.

The letter from Brown and Waters asks Yellen to determine whether the proposed merger requires approval from the multi-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews mergers, acquisitions and takeovers of U.S. companies by foreign entities for national security risks.

“We understand and appreciate that CFIUS is, by statute, an authority of last resort,” the pair wrote.

“As several U.S. government agencies evaluate this announced merger and reviews its compliance with existing law and regulations, we request that CFIUS assess the nature of this merger to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the transaction, and if so, resolve any national security risks related to the transaction.”

“We understand and appreciate that CFIUS is, by statute, an authority of last resort.”

- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)

The new post-merger golf entity would be owned entirely by Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund, Waters and Brown said.

“Saudi Arabia has a repressive government, known for chilling dissent, jailing dissidents, and enacting draconian punishments,” they wrote, noting U.S. intelligence agencies have judged that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely approved the operation to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The merger has also drawn scrutiny elsewhere on Capitol Hill. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) suggested the Department of Justice block it on antitrust grounds. Other senators, such as Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), have also suggested a CFIUS review.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of using pro golfing as a means of “sportswashing,” or trying to improve its image by being associated with popular sports. But one golfer on the LIV tournament circuit, Bryson DeChambeau, recently told CNN the country is just trying to be seen in a new light.

“What I can say is they’re trying to do good for the world and showcase themselves in a light that hasn’t been seen in a while,” he said. “And nobody’s perfect, but we’re all trying to improve in life.”

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