Rashid Hallaway, a partner with the lobbying firm Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures (HHQ), has been employed by the Saudi Public Investment (PIF)-owned LIV Golf to promote the political interests of Saudi Arabia and help sportswash the Saudi government's human rights abuses.
In its U.S. government filings, HHQ has omitted important information regarding the foreign interests benefiting from its lobbying activities and failed to register as an agent working for a foreign government, as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and in clear violation of the U.S. law.
Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS), have been aggressively using sportswashing to divert attention from MBS's personal involvement in the country's gross human rights abuses, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, without regard to costs or profit. As part of this effort, they have used Saudi Arabia's state-owned and controlled sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), to establish LIV Golf, a professional global golf tournament organization, in 2021, and now seek to acquire PGA Tours, the preeminent U.S.-based global golf tournament organizer. Similarly, in recent months and years, PIF has purchased the English Premier League's Newcastle United Football Club, soccer superstars such as Cristinao Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, Formula 1 sponsorships, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) exclusive events and rights, eSports and many other global sporting and entertainment assets. LIV Golf itself is widely perceived not to be a commercially viable entity and created solely to take over global golf by either competing with or acquiring PGA Tours. By acquiring these global assets, the Saudi government nudges public opinion in its favor, diverts attention from its abuses, and influences players, business persons, and politicians to represent it sympathetically and stay silent about its abuses.
Rashid Hallaway and HHQ's Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) filing on behalf of LIV Golf suggests possible violations of LDA regulations. HHQ registered as a lobbyist on behalf of LIV Golf on August 1, 2022 and has earned $140,000 in the first three months of 2023 alone, according to their LDA filing (Quarter 1, 2023). It listed Ben Quayle, Rashid Hallaway and David Natonski as lobbyists on behalf of LIV Golf for the purposes of "Education and Issues related to the game of professional golf in the United States and abroad," "Protecting the rights of professional golfers to play when and where they choose," and "Issues related to tax exempt organizations." Despite specifying on its LDA registration that PIF owns 100% of LIV Golf, HHQ responded "no" to the question (Item #19) as to whether there is an interest of a foreign party to its specific lobbying activities. In further possible violation of LDA regulations, HHQ's LDA forms also fail to mention that LIV Golf, Inc. is itself a foreign company, as provided by the LIV Golf's UK registration forms and the State of Florida Foreign Corporation registration form.
While HHQ and its lobbyists, including Rashid Hallaway, registered with LDA, they did not register with FARA in clear violation of the FARA statute, which requires lobbyists of foreign entities to register with FARA and report all of their activities on behalf of foreign entities. There is no question that PIF, a foreign entity, owns and controls LIV Golf, also a foreign entity, and that it is itself owned and controlled by the Saudi government and chaired by MBS. Additionally, HHQ would have known or should have known that LIV Golf terminated its lobbying contract with HHQ's predecessor Gitcho Goodwin four days after Gitcho Goodwin appropriately recognized its status as a foreign agent and accordingly filed as a foreign agent with FARA. These facts suggest an intentional omission of legally required information and should face appropriate sanctions under the FARA statute.
In addition, HHQ appears to have breached its business human rights obligations by contributing to, and benefiting from, Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses. Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, businesses have a responsibility to "avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities" as well as "to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts." Lobbying on behalf of governments, agencies, government investment funds, or officials like those in Saudi Arabia responsible for grave crimes, including war crimes, torture, arbitrary arrests, and extrajudicial killings, effectively contributes to such abuses. This includes, but is not limited to, misrepresenting or omitting information about such violators of international human rights and humanitarian law. HHQ and Rashid Hallaway are contributing to and benefiting from the Saudi government's abuses by sportswashing these abuses and omitting material information about them. In this regard, it should specifically be noted that the PIF owns and operates, and owned and operated, the airplanes used to transport the Saudi hit team who kidnapped, tortured and murdered Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018.
Rashid Hallaway has leveraged his network of former U.S. public officials, omitted crucial information about Saudi Arabia's unlawful, dangerous, and destabilizing abuses, and served the aim of sportswashing Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses, while violating LDA and FARA regulations. Hallaway has worked as legislative staffer for the former U.S. Senator Evan Bayh (1999-2011), whom he has advised "on matters of national security, serving as the Senator's designated staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee." He has "developed a strong network of former Department of Defense appointees and retired general officers" and worked for or advised private equity and U.S.-based global investment companies, where he has "managed government affairs and provided strategic counsel for highly regulated industries."
DAWN calls on Rashid Hallaway and HHQ to drop their contract with the LIV Golf, conduct a thorough review of all their clients, and cease representation of abusive clients such as the PIF and the Saudi government. Hallaway and HHQ should comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities and to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.
DAWN also calls on the relevant U.S. authorities to investigate HHQ's possible LDA and FARA violations and subject them to the appropriate sanctions specified by U.S. laws.
LIV Golf is a professional golf tour that was established in 2021 to challenge the PGA Tour in the United States. It is a foreign company registered in the United Kingdom as LIV Golf Ltd and incorporated on June 23, 2021, in Knutsford, England. It is also registered in the state of Florida as a "foreign corporation to transact business in the state of Florida." LIV Golf (both company and tour) is owned and funded by the PIF, which is chaired and run by MBS and represented by Minister of State and PIF Governor Yasir al-Rumayyan. One of the directors of the company registered in Florida is Saudi national Majed Al-Sorour, who previously served as CEO of Golf Saudi and Managing Director of LIV Golf and is now President of Sports.com.
LIV Golf (both company and tour) is owned and funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, of which MBS is Chairman. The PIF is Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, established in 1971. According to its website, the fund was "'reborn' in March 2015, when the Kingdom's Council of Ministers issued Resolution 270, which placed the Fund under the direction of the newly formed Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), with the Crown Prince, HRH Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz as chairman."
The PIF is investing heavily in sports, including ownership of foreign teams (Newcastle United in the United Kingdom) and bringing star footballers to play in Saudi Arabia, including Portuguese superstar Ronaldo and French superstar Karim Benzema in the last year. However, it is widely understood that MBS is using PIF and its investments in sports to change the public perception of the country and distract attention from the country's human rights abuses and authoritarian rule. The PIF is state-owned and state-controlled, using the resources of the Saudi state to exert public and political influence globally. LIV Golf itself is widely perceived not to be a commercially viable entity and was created solely to take over global golf by either competing with or acquiring PGA Tours.
On June 6, PGA Tour announced that it would enter into a merger with the PIF that would combine the PGA Tour's and LIV Golf's commercial businesses and rights into a new global golfing entity. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a first hearing on the dangerous national security implications of this acquisition on July 11, 2023, and has promised to hold additional hearings. The Senate's finance committee has also announced that it is investigating the deal, and the Justice Department is investigating the antitrust ramifications of the proposed combined entity.
On April 6, as part of the 10-month-long antitrust lawsuits filed against each other, a U.S. District Court judge upheld a magistrate judge's ruling that PIF and its governor Yasir al-Rumayyan are not entitled to sovereign immunity, citing "disruption to the Tour's contractual relationships with its players resulting from PIF's conduct in founding, funding, and participating in LIV's operations." The judge also ruled that al-Rumayyan and other PIF officials' depositions must take place in New York City.
Rashid Hallaway, Lobbyist for Saudi Government-Owned LIV Golf
Rashid Hallaway is a lobbyist and advisor to the energy, defense, and infrastructure industries. He served as a legislative assistant to Evan Bayh, former U.S. Senator from Indiana (1999-2011). He then managed and executed as vice president the government affairs strategies of American Patriot Holdings, LLC., a marine consultancy business, and AmeriQual Group, LLC., a food processing, packaging, and distribution business. Hallaway holds a BA degree from Purdue University.
Hallaway has 15 years of experience managing government affairs and providing "strategic counsel for highly regulated industries." According to HHQ's website, he has "developed a strong network of former Department of Defense appointees and retired general officers" and provided "due diligence on regulatory matters," among others.
Hallaway currently serves on the advisory boards of numerous private equity and global investment companies in the energy, security, cyber, fintech, and lighting industries. These companies do business with the U.S. government, such as UNCOR, the U.S. Federal Prison Industries, as well as companies in India, Yemen, and China.
Hallaway co-founded and joined the lobbying firm HHQ Ventures as Partner in 2015. The firm's website describes it as focused on managing "relationships among businesses, government and politics…to help clients from a wide range of industries with federal and state advocacy, regulatory affairs, market analysis, and business development." The firm's website adds that "HHQ Ventures principals have worked for some of the most influential committees and members of the U.S. House and Senate." It emphasizes that the firm has a "Singular Focus on Business Goals… where the only thing that really matters is meeting business goals."
Hobart Hallaway Quayle Ventures (HHQ), Lobbyists for LIV Golf
HHQ Ventures registered as a lobbyist with Congress' Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) on behalf of LIV Golf, Inc. on August 1, 2022. According to its most recent LDA filing (Quarter 1, 2023), HHQ Ventures earns $140,000 per quarter from LIV Golf, paid for by the Saudi government's PIF. The firm listed Ben Quayle, Rashid Hallaway, and David Natonski as lobbyists on behalf of LIV Golf.
HHQ's lobbying purposes are listed as: "Education and Issues related to the game of professional golf in the United States and abroad," "Protecting the rights of professional golfers to play when and where they choose," and "Issues related to tax-exempt organizations." Despite specifying on the LDA registration that PIF owns 100% of LIV Golf, HHQ responded "no" to the question (Item #19) as to whether there is an interest of a foreign party in its specific lobbying activities. In further possible violation of LDA regulations, HHQ's LDA forms also fail to mention that LIV Golf, Inc. is itself a foreign company, as provided by the LIV Golf's UK registration forms and the State of Florida Foreign Corporation registration form.
While HHQ and its lobbyists are registered with LDA, confirming the firm has been engaged in covered lobbying activities, neither the firm nor its lobbyists have registered under FARA. FARA exempts LDA-registered lobbyists from FARA registration but only if the lobbying activities are not on behalf of a foreign government or the foreign government is not the primary beneficiary of the lobbying activities:
An agent who is properly registered under the LDA is exempt from registration under FARA, if (i) the agent has engaged in lobbying activities and (ii) the representation is not on behalf of a foreign government or foreign political party. The exemption does not apply where a foreign government or a foreign political party is the principal beneficiary of the activities.
However, the Government of Saudi Arabia/PIF, the owner of LIV Golf, Inc., is indeed the principal beneficiary of HHQ's lobbying activities on behalf of LIV Golf, Inc. Accordingly, HHQ appears to be in breach of FARA rules for its failure to register as a foreign agent and should face the appropriate punitive sanctions under the statute. HHQ's failure to register as a foreign agent with FARA would appear to be intentional, given the fate of its predecessor, Gitcho Goodwin, whose contract LIV Golf terminated four days after Gitco Goodwin appropriately recognized its status as a foreign agent and filed as a foreign agent with FARA
FARA has previously ruled that the commercial exemption is also not available to lobbyists representing a foreign sovereign investment fund because the lobbying promoted the public interests of the foreign government, and the interests of the foreign corporation and the government were "inextricably intertwined," as is exactly the case with the PIF-owned LIV Golf. The commercial exemption (22 U.S.C. § 613(d)) from FARA provides that:
Activities undertaken on behalf of foreign principals that are private and nonpolitical activities in furtherance of the bona fide trade or commerce of such foreign principal or not serving predominantly a foreign interest. Such activities on behalf of a state-owned enterprise may qualify for this exemption. However, the exemption will not apply if such activities are directed by a foreign government or political party, or they directly promote the public or political interests of the foreign government or political party.
But in an Advisory Opinion issued on September 18, 2019, Brandon Van Grack, Chief of the FARA Unit, determined that the firm under consideration was ineligible for the commercial exemption and required to register as a foreign agent due to its representation of a foreign sovereign wealth fund. Mr. Van Grock noted:
The nature of [US firm]' proposed activities on behalf of [foreign corporation] are not "private" because they directly promote the public interests of the [foreign government]. The interests of [foreign corporation] are inextricably connected to the public interests of the [foreign government]. As you have disclosed, [foreign corporation] was incorporated to manage the [foreign government]'s assets. Stated differently, its core function is to generate funds for the [foreign government]. That fact distinguishes [foreign corporation] from other state-owned enterprises, which often act with a commercial purpose separate from a government's interests. [Foreign corporation] is a type of sovereign wealth fund for the [foreign government], not a commercial business that happens to be state-owned.
The Advisory Opinion went on to note that engagement of the lobbying firm by the foreign principal meant that the foreign principal and government would benefit, thus requiring FARA registration:
Moreover, [US firm]'s proposed representation of [foreign corporation] before U.S. Government officials would directly promote the interests of the [foreign government]. [US firm]'s engagement with those officials would directly aid [foreign corporation]'s decision-making and improve its standing in the eyes of those officials. Such promotion of and benefit to [foreign corporation], and by extension, the [foreign government], is evident by the very engagement of [US firm] to conduct such outreach. If [US firm] were merely a conduit for questions and nothing more, [foreign corporation] could obtain the desired information by other means.
This case is directly relevant to HHQ's LIV Golf representation, even if LIV Golf is determined to be a U.S. corporation (though the evidence cited above shows that it, too, is a foreign corporation). HHQ's representation of LIV Golf, which is 100% owned by PIF/Saudi government, advances their interests; this representation should be registered under FARA, as Gitcho Goodwin did when it represented LIV Golf.
Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Record
Saudi Arabia's laws prohibit freedom of speech, association, assembly, and religion. Moreover, there are no independent civil society organizations in the country, which is ruled as an absolute monarchy with no constitution or legal protections that guarantee the rights of citizens.
Since the ascension of King Salman in Saudi Arabia in 2015, the country has seen a dramatic and unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of his son, Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, known as MBS. MBS has exercised his power to conduct wide-scale arrests against those perceived to have independent power centers in the country, including the country's intellectual and independent religious leadership, the business and media community, rivals from within the royal family, and reformists advocating for human rights and democratic institutions. He has established security and intelligence services answerable only to himself, circumventing existing institutions in the defense and interior ministries. He has confiscated billions of dollars in assets of previously independent businesses and individuals through a secretive campaign euphemistically described as an "anti-corruption" effort. He has kidnapped and in some cases killed activists and royal family members abroad. He has also held hostage foreign government leaders, including former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and former nominal Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and jailed the family members of political exiles.The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions found in her June 2019 report that there was credible evidence warranting the investigation of MBS's involvement in Jamal Khashogg's murder in October 2018. U.S. intelligence reports concluded that MBS dispatched the 15-man hit squad responsible for the murder.
MBS and his loyal officials shattered any remaining semblance of legality and institutional integrity of Saudi Arabia's judiciary by blatantly interfering in its affairs. MBS pressured the judiciary to detain prisoners past their sentenced release dates, arbitrarily increase prison sentences deemed too "lenient," and routinely violate basic due process and prisoner rights. Not even MBS' allies are safe: in February 2023, the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh, which is used to prosecute "terrorism" cases in Saudi Arabia, charged six former prominent SCC judges and four former judges of the High Court, the country's supreme court, with "high treason" – a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia – for being too "lenient." Several of these judges had themselves previously carried out judicial violations at the orders of MBS. Their arrests and trial sent a chilling message to all those whom MBS considers not loyal enough to follow his erratic and increasingly brutal directives.
While reforms in 2018 and 2019 allowed women the right to drive and ended certain aspects of the "male guardianship" system, those who have long campaigned for these changes languish in prison and have faced sexual harassment, torture, and electrocution by the government. The Personal Status Law, which the government passed on March 8, 2022 and touted as a major reform, codified discrimination against women and perpetuated the male guardianship system over Saudi women. The law requires women to acquire the consent of their male guardian for marriage and clarified that it expects women to "obey" and "submit" themselves to their husbands for financial support. While the law granted men the right to unconditional divorce, it denied the same rights to women, stating that women can separate from their husbands only after the husband's consent and the wife's return or repayment of her dowry. The law also failed to criminalize marital rape.
The Saudi government also ended an unofficial 21-month-long moratorium on executions for drug-related offenses in November 2022 and resumed executions on almost a daily basis. The UN called the resumption of these executions "a deeply regrettable step" and "incompatible with international norms and standards." State executions disproportionately target the country's Shi'a Muslim minority and migrant workers, many of whom received death sentences after trials that lacked any semblance of due process. Several Saudis executed since November 2022 were under 18 years of age when they allegedly committed the "crimes" for which they were issued death sentences, representing a clear violation of international law.
Saudi repression is also transnational. Saudi agents are regularly deployed on social media platforms to surveil and harass dissidents living abroad. On November 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice charged two former Twitter employees with spying for the government of Saudi Arabia in exchange for payment. These two individuals accessed the firm's data on over 6,000 users. Additionally, a Saudi agent, Ibrahim Alhusayyen, pled guilty to lying to FBI agents about social media accounts he used to intimidate Saudis in the U.S. and Canada and a U.S. federal court sentenced him in 2022 to two months in prison followed by deportation.
Saudi Arabia and MBS have been aggressively using sportswashing to divert attention from MBS's personal involvement in the country's gross human rights abuses, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, without regard to costs or profit. As part of this effort, they have used Saudi Arabia's state-owned and controlled sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), to establish LIV Golf, a professional global golf tournament organization, in 2021, and now seek to acquire PGA Tours, the preeminent U.S.-based global golf tournament organizer. Similarly, in recent months and years, PIF has purchased the Premier League's Newcastle United Football Club, soccer superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, Formula 1 sponsorship, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) exclusive events and rights, eSports and many other global sporting and entertainment assets. LIV Golf itself is widely perceived not to be a commercially viable entity and created solely to take over global golf by either competing with or acquiring PGA Tours. By acquiring these global assets, the Saudi government nudges public opinion in its favor, diverts attention from its abuses, and influences players, business persons, and politicians to represent it sympathetically and stay silent about its abuses.
Despite registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), Rashid Hallaway and HHQ have not registered as foreign agents with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This failure to register raises concerns, as both the nature of his client—a wholly-owned foreign company of a foreign sovereign wealth fund—and the work he has reported on his LDA registration and reporting forms potentially indicate a violation of FARA.
At the same time, Hallaway would or should have known that HHQ's predecessor firm, hired by LIV Golf to lobby on its behalf, was fired by LIV Golf four days after registering with FARA. On May 25, 2023, lobbyist firm Gitcho Goodwin LLC registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) Unit of the Department of Justice to represent LIV Golf. By doing so it "breaks ranks on LIV's own position that the new league doesn't need to register under the law — and by doing so, may expose the circuit and other firms working on its behalf to additional legal complications."
The FARA registration information provided by Gitcho Goodwin offers a detailed accounting of the nature of the relationship between the Government of Saudi Arabia, PIF and LIV Golf. In the FARA form's field #10, Gitcho Goodwin answers affirmative to the characterization that LIV Golf is "supervised," "owned," "directed," "controlled," "financed," and "subsidized in part" by a "foreign government, foreign political party, or other foreign principal." The Gitcho Goodwin filing leaves no ambiguity as to the nature of the relationship between LIV Golf and PIF, and the status of PIF as a proxy for the Saudi government – information that comes from a Saudi lawyer acting on behalf of PIF.
In light of these concerns, DAWN proposes the following recommendations:
To Rashid Hallaway and HHQ:
- Assess your engagement with the Saudi Arabian government, via its wholly owned LIV Golf, conduct a thorough review of your clients, and cease representation of entities involved in serious human rights abuses, such as the Saudi government's PIF.
- Refrain from representing foreign governments, including foreign government agencies, implicated in credible allegations of gross human rights violations or breaches of international humanitarian law.
- Adopt and pledge to comply with the OECD Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying that provide decision-makers with guidance to foster transparency and integrity in lobbying, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including those aiming to enhance transparency, honesty, and accuracy in information provided by lobbyists to government officials. U.S. lobbyists should also formally adopt the UN Guiding Principles.
- Regularly assess your existing lobbying activities for foreign governments, agencies, or officials to evaluate whether they contribute to or benefit from adverse human rights impacts, pursuant to the UN Guiding Principles. Where such contributions or benefits exist, lobbyists should take appropriate measures to address them, including, when necessary, terminating an existing lobbying contract. This assessment includes a responsibility to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to lobbying activities, even if the lobbyist has not contributed to those impacts.
To the U.S. Congress:
- Enact legislation that explicitly prohibits lobbyists from representing foreign government clients engaged in serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including Hallaway's and HHQ's representation of Saudi Arabia's PIF.
- Reintroduce and pass the Fighting Foreign Influence Act and the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act to reduce the influence of money in politics.
To U.S. elected officials and their staff members:
- Avoid meetings with Hallaway, HHQ and other lobbyists representing the Saudi Arabian government to send a clear message that human rights violations will not be overlooked or ignored.
To U.S. State Bar Associations:
- Investigate, suspend, and disbar unethical lobbyists who communicate false and misleading statements, including material omissions, to lawmakers and the public at large in their capacity as lobbyists.
DAWN's Lobbyist Hall of Shame will continue to expose American lobbyists—including lawyers, former elected representatives, and government officials—who are working as agents for abusive Middle Eastern governments to garner U.S. government support, including military aid, weapons sales, and diplomatic protection.