Greg Norman, pitching LIV Golf, gets rough Congress welcome
Greg Norman visited Congress this week seeking allies for his Saudi-funded, Donald Trump-connected LIV Golf operation, locked as it is in a legal war with the PGA Tour. But instead of a gimme putt, the famous linksman found himself in something of a sand trap. Sorry.
My colleague Rick Maese reported on Norman’s visit to the Capitol, where he met with senators like Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday and members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) on the House side on Wednesday.
“While some lawmakers posed for selfies and seemed receptive to Norman, others questioned LIV Golf’s Saudi financing and said Congress shouldn’t spend time intervening in a business dispute between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. LIV Golf and seven of its golfers have sued the PGA Tour, saying the tour violated antitrust laws, allegations that the Department of Justice is also reportedly probing,” Rick explained.
- Because so few lawmakers talked after the meetings, it’s not easy to get a full picture of the sort of welcome Norman received. But as a general rule, if you’re working with the Saudis and someone brings up 9/11, things aren’t going flawlessly.
And that’s what happened after Politico’s Andrew Desiderio reported Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) walked out of the RSC meeting with Norman complaining of “propaganda,” saying he struggled with the golfer’s Australian accent, and that the group should not waste time on “billionaire oil guys” and the Saudis.
Burchett quote-tweeted Andrew and added this:
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.Rick reported that Roy, who had urged the Justice Department for an investigation into LIV Golf’s non-registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act was also unimpressed.
“Don’t sell us ‘this is just about competition’ when they won’t answer about a billion dollars to buy off PGA Tour players … resulting in a billion dollars of PR for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (quoting President Trump) in likely violation of FARA,” Rick quoted Roy’s statement.
A LIV spokesman told Rick that Norman was “very well received, even if a couple members of Congress say otherwise.”
Saudi Arabia’s critics see in LIV a blatant attempt at “sportswashing,” the practice of repressive regimes using athletic competitions to polish their image — think the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany, or subsequent games in places like China or Russia. (Moscow first invaded Ukraine shortly after hosting the 2014 Olympic Games.)
“The Olympics and the World Cup in 2018 weren’t just ways to showcase Russia to the rest of the world, but were also ways for Putin to consolidate internal support from Russians for his leadership,” said Jane McManus, the executive director of Seton Hall’s Center for Sports Media.
“The internal approval is more impactful sometimes than the external rewards,” McManus told The Daily 202.
- Athletes can be in a tough spot. Some have trained their whole lives and may never see another Olympics. And wasn’t it worth seeing Jesse Owens collect four gold medals and ruin Adolf Hitler’s garbage race theories in front of the fuhrer himself?
Perhaps mindful of this — and of the fact that Olympic boycotts have never worked — President Biden let American athletes compete in the winter games in China but kept U.S. officials away in what amounted to a “diplomatic boycott.”
Saudi Arabia and human rights
With Saudi Arabia, the question is whether some of the golf world’s brightest stars are lending their popularity indirectly to a government the State Department accuses of “significant” human rights abuses, while the U.S. intelligence community says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Tiger Woods reportedly turned down a payday of up to $700 million if he agreed to join LIV.
- Norman’s visit to Congress came as LIV has yet to land a deal to televise its tournaments, which would increase its earnings and broaden its influence. (If people can’t sports-watch, you can’t sports-wash?)
In a November 2021 interview with Golf Digest, just a week after he became CEO of LIV Golf Investments, Norman bristled at the suggestion he was effectively doing PR for the regime in Riyadh but also tried to get some daylight between his funding and the crown prince.
The Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund “invested in major U.S. corporations because of commercial reasons. They invested in LIV Golf Investments for a commercial opportunity. They’re passionate about the game of golf,” he said.
Norman told Golf Digest it was unfair to criticize the regime in Riyadh “unless you actually go there” before extolling progress on women’s rights: “You walk into a restaurant and there are women. They’re not wearing burkas. They’re out playing golf.”
That prompted an editor’s note that quoted from a Human Rights Watch report: “Saudi women still must obtain a male guardian’s approval to get married, leave prison, or obtain certain health care. Women also continue to face discrimination in relation to marriage, family, divorce, and decisions relating to children, including child custody.”
Still, whatever happened on Norman’s visit to Washington, he can still count on support from Trump. The former president’s New Jersey golf club hosted one event earlier this summer with plans for more events at the former president’s properties. It usually doesn’t take long for Republicans to follow Trump’s lead. Even if that means landing in the rough.
Central banks raise rates again as Fed drives global inflation fight
“A host of central banks from across the world raised interest rates again on Thursday, following the U.S. Federal Reserve in a global fight against inflation that is sending shockwaves through financial markets and the economy,” Reuters‘ Francesco Canepa reports.
Senate Democrats to press doomed procedural vote on Disclose Act
“Democrats in the Senate will try — and probably fail — to advance legislation to provide disclosure of donors to super PACs. None of the bills is expected to reach President Biden’s desk before the midterm elections, but party leaders think that considering them sends an important message,” John Wagner and Azi Paybarah report.
No let-up in hostilities in Ukraine despite prisoner swap
“Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged missile and artillery barrages that killed at least six people Thursday as both sides refused to concede any ground despite recent military setbacks for Moscow and the toll on the invaded country after almost seven months of war,” the Associated Press reports.
The Post’s lunchtime readings
Inside the civil rights campaign to get Big Tech to fight the ‘big lie’
“A coalition of five dozen civil rights organizations is blasting Silicon Valley’s biggest social media companies for not taking more aggressive measures to counter election misinformation on their platforms in the months leading up to November’s midterm elections,” Naomi Nix reports.
“Through memos and meetings, the Change the Terms coalition for months had pleaded with Facebook parent Meta, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube to bolster the content moderation systems that it says allowed Trump’s baseless claims about election rigging to spread, setting the groundwork for the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to interviews and private correspondence viewed by The Washington Post. Now, with less than two months before the general election, coalition members say they’ve seen little action from the platforms.”
How the NFL blocks Black coaches
“In 1989, the Los Angeles Raiders hired Art Shell, who became the first Black head coach in the modern history of the NFL. He is one of 191 people who have been head coaches in the three-plus decades since. A brief uptick of Black coaching hires in the mid-2000s provided hope that racial equity was within reach. But that glimmer of progress was a mirage. In the 33 years since Shell’s hiring, just 24 other head coaches have been Black,” Dave Sheinin, Michael Lee, Emily Giambalvo, Artur Galocha and Clara Ence Morse report.
Watchdog group accuses Senate GOP campaign arm of breaking the law
“A campaign watchdog group has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, accusing the group of breaking federal law by using money that is supposed to be earmarked for legal expenses on campaign ads instead,” the New York Times‘ Shane Goldmacher and Reid J. Epstein report.
Biden declares major disaster in Puerto Rico to energize Fiona recovery
“President Biden issued a major disaster declaration on Wednesday for Puerto Rico, unlocking additional federal assistance as island residents navigate the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona,” Politico‘s Gloria Gonzalez reports.
“The major disaster declaration allows FEMA to directly help individuals pay for temporary housing and home repairs, provide low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and pay for other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the storm.”
How the gas industry capitalized on the Ukraine war to change Biden policy
“The Russian tanks and armored vehicles had barely begun to roll into Ukraine before the fossil fuel industry in the US had swung into action. A letter was swiftly dispatched to the White House, urging an immediate escalation in gas production and exports to Europe ahead of an anticipated energy crunch,” the Guardian‘s Oliver Milman reports.
“The letter, dated 25 February, just one day after Vladimir Putin’s forces launched their assault on Ukraine, noted the ‘dangerous juncture’ of the moment before segueing into a list of demands: more drilling on US public lands; the swift approval of proposed gas export terminals; and pressure on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent agency, to green-light pending gas pipelines.”
Hurricane Fiona’s destruction of Puerto Rico, in maps and photos
Our colleagues Marisa Iati and Daniel Wolfe walk you through the destruction in Puerto Rico, from the initial blackouts to flooding to landslide risks.
“The southeast part of the large island was deluged by rain, with many areas getting more than 20 inches and some areas receiving over 25 inches. Fiona dumped more than 32 inches on the Ponce region, where the island’s second-largest city is located, and prompted emergency crews to rescue 400 people from flooding in Salinas, on the southern coast.”
“San Juan, the capital, was spared the storm’s worst effects, and parts were among the first to get power back. Departures from the international airport there resumed Monday afternoon. But some nearby areas were hit hard by flooding. In Toa Baja, about 16 miles west, water flowed over the top of La Virgencita bridge and made it impassible.”
“Landslides broke out in mountainous regions as waterways breached their banks. The Puerto Rico National Guard rescued 21 elderly and bedridden people from a care facility in the mountain town of Cayey on Monday as landslides threatened the home, said Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary.”
Trump says presidents can declassify docs ‘even by thinking about it’
“In his first TV appearance since a court-authorized search of his Florida home last month, Donald Trump reasserted Wednesday that any documents taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago were declassified while he was in office, adding that a president can carry that out ‘even by thinking about it,’” Julian Mark reports.
- Context: “Presidents do have the authority to declassify information — though typically there’s a process for doing so, which can include coordinating with the agencies or Cabinet members from which the information originated to prevent possible national-security risks.”
GOP hopes ‘crime talk’ is a golden ticket for midterm candidates
“On his Fox News show in August, Tucker Carlson concluded a segment with this advice: “If every Republican office-seeker, every Republican candidate in the United States focused on law and order and equality under the law, there would be a red wave’ in the November midterm elections,” Bill Lueders writes for the Bulwark.
“Since then, writes Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters who tracks Fox News and other right-wing outlets, ‘Republican strategy appears to have fallen in line with Carlson’s suggestion.’ GOP candidates are increasingly using the golden-oldie issue of crime to quite literally scare up votes, making sweeping claims about skyrocketing lawlessness that, outside of the Trump Organization, is not actually occurring.”
The president is currently in New York City.
At 2:15 p.m., Biden will get a hurricane briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency’s office at One World Trade.
He will then participate in a Democratic National Committee event at 4:40 p.m.
At 5:55 p.m., Biden will leave New York. He will arrive at the White House at 7:45 p.m.
On Trump’s latest predicament
Thanks for reading. We will see you tomorrow.