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Former US vice president's son accused of 'sportswashing' Saudi abuses: Report

Dawn is urging the US Department of Justice to investigate ex-congressman Ben Quayle and his lobbying firm over its ties to LIV Golf
Ben Quayle addresses crowd during Arizona Republican Party election night event in Phoenix, Arizona, on 2 November 2010 (AFP)

Former congressman Benjamin Quayle and his lobbying firm are accused of taking part in "sportswashing" activities for the Saudi government, a report released by Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn) said. 

According to the report, released Thursday, Quayle is potentially downplaying Saudi Arabia's human rights violations while reportedly lobbying for LIV Golf, which is financed by Riyad's Public Investment Fund. 

Quayle is the son of the 44th US vice president, Dan Quayle.

The report also suggests that Ben and his lobbying firm, Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures (HHQ), might have breached US regulations by not registering lobbying activities for LIV Golf with the US Department of Justice, as required for representatives of a foreign government.

"Ben Quayle and his partners at HHQ have chosen to contribute to and benefit from the Saudi government's gross human rights abuses by lobbying for the Saudi Public Investment Fund- owned LIV Golf," Sarah Leah Whitson, Dawn’s executive director said. 

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"They have misled Congress, the Biden administration, and the American public by not acknowledging the foreign interests they serve and reporting on their activities benefiting those foreign interests, as required by law." 

Ben has utilised his former status as a US public official and his lobbying firm to advocate for the interests of Saudi-owned LIV Golf in the US, Dawn said in its report. 

He has been accused of omitting essential details concerning Saudi Arabia's abuses and helped to “sportswash Saudi Arabia’s human rights record”, the report said.

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Dawn is calling on Ben and HHQ to terminate their agreement with LIV Golf, thoroughly assess all their clients, and discontinue representing clients such as LIV Golf.

Dawn is also calling on the US Department of Justice to thoroughly investigate HHQ's apparent violations.

"In this complex world of global politics and business, transparency and accountability are vital. Our democracy depends on our ability to understand who is influencing our policymakers and their true motives," Raed Jarrar, Dawn’s advocacy director, said. 

"Ben Quayle and HHQ's lobbying activities on behalf of Saudi-owned LIV Golf not only undermine these democratic tenets but also provide a smokescreen for the Saudi government's severe human rights violations. This case is not just about lobbying or golf - it is about preserving the sanctity of our democracy."

Human rights violations 

In June, the US Justice Department notified the PGA Tour that it will review the US golf operator’s planned merger with LIV Golf for antitrust concerns. The deal prompted calls from some US lawmakers for the Department of Justice to probe the deal, citing concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and competition in the game of golf.

“The PGA-LIV deal would make a US organisation complicit - and force American golfers and their fans to join this complicity - in the Saudi regime’s latest attempt to sanitize its abuses by pouring funds into major sports leagues,” the letter stated.

In 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia and columnist for the Washington Post and Middle East Eye, was killed by Saudi agents after entering the kingdom's embassy in Istanbul. 

It was an assassination that American intelligence services believe was approved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though he denies a role in the killing.

In 2021, the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) released its annual tracker, which said that Saudi Arabia is one of the most disempowering and unsafe countries from state abuse. 

This was a result of a poor record of torture, executions, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and the death penalty. HRMI noted that immigrants and people without a legal identity were at particular risk of having their economic and social rights violated in Saudi Arabia.

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