Golf’s Titanic Deal Stokes Anger on Capitol Hill

The trouble for the wealth fund and the tour is that Washington also has a bipartisan affection for lawmakers imitating sports executives, and browbeating actual ones, in public and in private. It can be good politics to glower at the commissioners who draw more jeers than many elected officials, and headline-making hostility from Congress could complicate the golf industry’s quest to sell the deal to the public — and then move past it.

The tour and the wealth fund can take some comfort in history, which suggests a successful congressional effort to thwart the deal directly is unlikely. The Hill, though, could still seek to make the transaction painful beyond a feisty public hearing or two. A change to the tour’s tax status, like the one envisioned in the bill introduced in the House, could cost it millions of dollars a year because it has been structured as a “business league” that is exempt from taxes under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Groups like the PGA Tour have combated legislative headaches surrounding their tax-exempt status in the past, with one effort to end the practice for sports leagues vanishing from a 2017 tax bill at the last moment. In the past 18 months, years after the N.F.L. and Major League Baseball surrendered their exempt statuses, public records show that the tour has spent at least $640,000 on lobbying, with much of that work tied to “tax legislation affecting exempt organizations.”

As a part of his inquiry, Blumenthal on Monday demanded documents related to the tour’s tax-exempt status and, in his letter to the tour, wondered whether the deal would allow a foreign government to “indirectly benefit from provisions in U.S. tax laws meant to promote not-for-profit business associations.”

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, similarly seethed that the tour had “moved itself right to the top of the leaderboard in terms of most questionable tax exemptions in professional sports.”

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