SBJ/20100201/This Week's News

PGA Tour lobbying efforts detailed

The PGA Tour spent $420,000 to lobby Congress in 2009 to combat the backlash against sports-related spending by companies receiving federal bailouts, maintain nonprofit tax exemptions and increase government funding of its First Tee program.

The recreational golf industry spent an additional $200,000 on issues related to golf course management.

Fourth-quarter lobbying reports are still being filed by sports properties, but the PGA Tour’s spending through the first three quarters of 2009 was eclipsed only by MLB’s office of the commissioner ($370,000) and the NFL ($990,000).

In the five-year stretch from 2004 to 2008, MLB’s $5.2 million in spending leads all major sports properties, followed by the NFL ($3.6 million), the PGA Tour ($2 million), International Speedway Corp. ($1.5 million) and the NBA ($1.4 million).

PGA Tour lobbying expenses
2009 $420,000
2008 $450,000
2007 $420,000
2006 $380,000
2005 $420,000
2004 $440,000
2003 $320,000
2002 $180,000
2001 $180,000
2000 $140,000
Source: Lobbying Disclosure Act

The PGA Tour has reported at least $400,000 in lobbying expenses every year but one since 2004, primarily on taxation issues affecting exempt organizations.

The tour spent $220,000 with its lead lobbyist, DLA Piper, to lobby members of Congress on tax legislation and provisions in the federal stimulus package regarding how companies receiving federal bailout money could spend the funds. There were fears that, in TARP contracts, the government would place spending limits on marketing budgets.

DLA Piper, which has worked for the tour since 2002, also tried to influence the extension of part of a now-expired tax code that exempted the PGA Tour and other nonprofits from paying income tax on business activity related to their exempt purpose or on income from dividends, interest, rent and royalties.

The PGA Tour’s other lobbying dollars were spent on issues it addresses annually on Capitol Hill. Holland & Knight and Dan Tate were paid about $80,000 and $120,000, respectively, to lobby for appropriations and grants for First Tee and other taxation issues affecting exempt organizations.

Congressional lobbying has traditionally been led at the tour by co-COO Charlie Zink and CFO Ron Price, with assistance from executive vice president Ty Votaw. Commissioner Tim Finchem, a former White House adviser, is involved on key issues.

The recreational golf industry — led by the PGA of America and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America — focused most of its lobbying dollars on issues affecting golf course ownership, such as health care, tax legislation, environmental issues and temporary worker laws. The two organizations are part of a new collective lobbying effort launched last week called We Are Golf.

Among the golf equipment manufacturers, Acushnet and Nike lobbied for legislation to reduce import tariffs on their products.

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