Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a letter to the PGA Tour on Thursday, questioning whether it should keep its tax-exempt status given its deal with LIV Golf, which is owned by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. File Photo by Mandel Ngan/UPI | License Photo
June 15 (UPI) -- The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance on Thursday raised a long list of questions about the proposed deal between the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf.
"I'm using my power as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to launch an investigation into the Saudi-backed PGA-LIV merger, and am announcing a plan to revoke special tax treatment for Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a tweet.
The move comes after Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-N.Y., on Monday announced a separate investigation into the same deal, to be conducted by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that he chairs.
In a letter to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Chairman Ed Herlihy, Wyden cited concerns over Saudi Arabia's "gross violations of human rights" and intimated the PGA Tour's tax exempt status could be in jeopardy if the buyout proceeds.
Monahan is on an indefinite leave as he recovers from an unspecified medical condition, the PGA Tour said on Wednesday.
Few details have emerged since news of the deal became public nine days ago, although it would create a new entity and ostensibly see the 1-year-old LIV Golf buy out and absorb the PGA Tour.
Wyden's letter also raises questions about Monahan's use of the PGA Tour's private jet and whether it complies with the Internal Revenue Code. It also raises conflict of interest concerns as Herlihy is also a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the New York City-based law firm serving as legal adviser in the deal.
Herlihy is also co-chairman of the firm's executive committee.
The letter's final point asks the PGA Tour if there "are any provisions of the agreement that would protect players' free speech with regard to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
Wyden, the senior senator from Oregon, spends a lengthy part of the letter addressing Saudi Arabia's human rights record, including the orchestrated murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"The PGA Tour's involvement with PIF (Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund) raises significant questions about whether organizations that tie themselves to an authoritarian regime that has continually undermined the rule of law should continue to enjoy tax-exempt status in the United States," Wyden wrote in the letter.
"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has committed gross violations of human rights in the Middle East, abroad and here in the United States. The Saudi government has a long history of detaining dissidents, torturing women's rights activists and carrying out arbitrary killings."
The PGA Tour has not commented publicly on the letter or on Blumenthal's investigation.
The U.S. Open, one of four major championships, is underway at the Los Angeles Country Club.