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PGA Boosts DLA Piper Lobbying as Golf Rival, DOJ Challenge Tour

July 21, 2022, 8:00 PM

The PGA boosted payments to its lobbying firm DLA Piper as the golf tour faces challenges from a Saudi Arabia-backed rival and a Justice Department antitrust investigation.

The PGA paid DLA Piper $120,000 in the second quarter, according to the firm’s Lobbying Disclosure Act form. That’s the most the PGA has spent on lobbying in a three-month window at least since 1999. The PGA spent $70,000 in this year’s first quarter.

The tour paid DLA Piper to lobby Congress on matters including “Saudi Golf League proposals,” according to the form. DLA Piper, which has long worked with the PGA, also lobbied on issues such as tax legislation and coronavirus relief.

The PGA is facing a DOJ investigation over potential antitrust violations relating to its response to the threat posed by LIV Golf, the rival tour that debuted in June.

LIV, backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, has lured U.S. golf stars including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. The PGA Tour has suspended golfers in response.

DLA Piper, after first working on LIV Golf in the second quarter of 2021, ramped up its activity on the issue in recent months—a period when lawmakers increasingly voiced concerns about the Saudi-backed tour.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in a June 30 letter to President Joe Biden accused the Saudis of trying to “sports-wash” its image through the golf tour.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked the White House on July 13 to divulge information about the Justice probe of the PGA, arguing in a letter that Saudi Arabia engages on the world stage despite a history of “malign behavior.”

DLA Piper partner Evan Migdail and Melissa Gierach, the firm’s managing director for tax policy, are working for the PGA, according to the disclosure form.

Migdail has worked in private practice for roughly two decades, concentrating on matters including tax, trade and healthcare policy, according to his DLA Piper bio. Gierach joined DLA Piper in 2017 after serving as a senior adviser to former Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-La.

Migdail declined to comment. Gierach and a firm spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The PGA confirmed that DLA Piper is not advising the tour on antitrust matters, for which it has engaged separate outside counsel. The PGA declined to identify that firm.

The Justice Department has asked golfers’ agents for information about the PGA’s bylaws and its restrictions on players’ participation in other golf events, according to Bloomberg.

The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the Justice Department probe earlier this month.

— With Brian Baxter

To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Wise at jwise@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com