LIV Golf’s tentacles are penetrating deeper into the nation’s capital.
The Saudi-bankrolled enterprise, which has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill in recent months, has hired a prominent firm based in Arlington, Va., to help advance its efforts to upend the golf industry.
McKenna & Associates, a non-partisan firm headed by Bush administration alum Andrew McKenna, is providing LIV with management consulting services, according to copies of correspondences viewed by POLITICO and people familiar with the arrangement. The firm helped LIV with monitoring and tracking the advocacy of families of 9/11 victims who were protesting the tour because of its ties to the Saudi government, according to the correspondence.
LIV Golf confirmed its relationship with the firm in a statement to POLITICO.
“McKenna has supported the management team as we continue to reinvent the global game of golf,” it said.
It’s not the first time in recent years that McKenna & Associates has done work for a controversial, high-profile client. The firm was at the heart of accusations that the National Rifle Association engaged in insider dealing when it hired the wife of a top NRA official. The NRA’s own accountants reportedly raised concerns about the conflicts posed by that arrangement and its work in general, for which McKenna & Associates earned millions. And in 2020, New York Attorney General Tish James sued the NRA, alleging in part that top NRA officials hired McKenna’s firm without going through the NRA’s contract process and paid it $5 million over five years. That case is ongoing.
It’s unclear when the firm picked up LIV as a client. But in a statement to POLITICO, McKenna & Associates defended its work on behalf of the golf tour.
“LIV’s goal is to grow and to reinvent the global game of golf and our entire team is proud to be part of that effort,” the statement said.
McKenna & Associates is not registered to represent LIV Golf under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and the firm did not respond to a request for comment about why it has not. FARA generally mandates that entities lobbying or providing public relations consulting for a foreign principal, such as a foreign government, in the U.S. must register that work with the Department of Justice. However, there are exemptions to the law, including for activities “in furtherance of the bona fide trade or commerce,” sometimes even if the foreign principal is state-owned.
Earlier this year, POLITICO reported that a subsidiary of the public relations giant Edelman had also done work for LIV Golf. That work was also never reported under FARA. Edelman maintained that it had been contracted through a golf-focused marketing firm.
In August, former Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) registered to lobby on behalf of the company, and last month LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman visited Capitol Hill as part of a Washington blitz.
The strongest political ties LIV has seemingly forged are with former President Donald Trump. The tour held an event in late July at Trump’s country club in Bedminster, N.J. And in late October, LIV Golf will host a tournament at Trump National Doral in Miami.
The efforts illustrate the degree to which LIV Golf has sought to ingratiate itself in D.C. circles. The rollout of the tour has roiled professional golf and captivated Washington lawmakers, largely because of the organization’s Saudi funding.
This month marked the four-year anniversary of the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which U.S. intelligence believes was approved by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The website for McKenna & Associates describes Andrew McKenna as an alum of the George W. Bush administration and the 2000 Bush campaign. McKenna was also a former employee of the consulting and lobbying firm DCI Group, according to records with the Federal Election Commission. A source familiar with the arrangement said that firm also has done work for LIV Golf.
DCI Group is not registered to work with LIV under FARA, and the firm did not return requests for comment.