Vivek Ramaswamy has fired one of the firms consulting for his presidential campaign after it was revealed that the firm had simultaneously been doing public relations work for a major Saudi-backed entity.
Gitcho Goodwin, the firm led by longtime political operatives Gail Gitcho and Henry Goodwin, registered retroactively on May 25 as foreign agents for the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league. The firm revealed that it drafted marketing materials, conducted media training for players, and advised the golf league on its corporate social responsibility strategy, according to a new Foreign Agents Registration Act filing.
An April memo sent out by Ramaswamy’s campaign CEO described both Gitcho and Goodwin as “senior advisors” to the candidate. But after POLITICO published the details of the firm’s work with LIV Golf, campaign spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin sought to downplay the strategists’ role with the campaign. Later she said that the campaign was no longer working with Gitcho Goodwin effective immediately.
“We became aware of this … when you (the press) made us aware,” McLaughlin said in a text.
The relationship with the campaign wasn’t the only one to end for Gitcho Goodwin. A lawyer who advised the firm on its decision to register as a foreign agent told POLITICO that Gitcho Goodwin had parted ways with the golf league as of Monday morning, and that the firm would take the appropriate steps to terminate its FARA registration.
“We registered with FARA as working for LIV Golf because it was the right thing to do under US law: if Vivek Ramaswamy wants to fire us for that, that’s up to him. We wish him the best,” Henry Goodwin said in a statement.
It’s not uncommon for foreign entities to seek out politically-connected consultants to help navigate U.S. regulations and politics. Their registration on behalf of LIV marked a stark overlap of foreign lobbying and a presidential campaign in which the state of U.S.-Saudi relations is likely to be a topic of debate.
It was two days after the firm struck an oral agreement to work for LIV, according to DOJ filings, that it was first reported that Gitcho and Goodwin were signing on to be Ramaswamy advisers. Since March, Gitcho Goodwin reported bringing in more than $167,000 in reimbursements and fees for its work on LIV’s behalf.
Officials with ties to foreign interests have served on campaigns before, though their involvement has led to controversy. The federal government has sought more disclosure in recent years around these arrangements while members of Congress have tried to curb foreign influences on elections.
The hiring of Gitcho Goodwin represented just the latest attempt by LIV Golf to make major inroads in U.S. politics, particularly on the Republican side of the ledger. It has teamed up with Donald Trump for events at his golf clubs, including one this past week, which the former president attended. It also plans to host an event at The Greenbrier, which is owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice who is currently a Republican candidate for Senate. It has also paid $370,000 to the firm HHQ Ventures — including former Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R-Ariz.) — to lobby on its behalf, according to Lobbying Disclosure Act filings.
LIV’s connections to Republican presidential candidates go beyond Ramaswamy and Trump. Gitcho Goodwin was contracted to work for LIV through 50 State LLC and P2 Public Affairs, two subsidiaries of the consulting conglomerate GP3 Partners, which counts Phil Cox as one of its leaders. Cox was a top adviser to the super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign before stepping down recently.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that Cox would be working for LIV. But the new filings indicate that the relationship began much earlier than previously known, dating back to at least February when Gitcho Goodwin struck an oral agreement with GP3 to work for LIV. According to the Justice Department filings, Gitcho Goodwin “entered into an oral agreement” with GP3 Partners around February 20 to provide the league with public relations and consulting services.
As part of the arrangement, Gitcho Goodwin received a $55,000 monthly retainer, and would have received “a one-time $125,000 bonus upon successful renewal of GP3 Partners’ contract with LIV Golf,” according to the filings.
The league’s launch in the U.S. has been supported by a small army of consulting firms and D.C. insiders that have included the PR giant Edelman, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and McKenna & Associates. According to a 2021 FARA filing, the CEO advisory firm Teneo reported working on “Project Wedge,” which ultimately became LIV, for the Saudi wealth fund.
Prior to their work consulting on Ramaswamy’s longshot campaign, Gitcho served as a communications adviser for former Georgia GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker. She is a 2012 Mitt Romney alum. Henry Goodwin previously advised Bobby Jindal’s 2016 presidential campaign.
According to the filings, Gitcho Goodwin did not originally believe it needed to register as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice. However, over the course of its work, it learned that the Public Investment Fund — the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia that finances LIV — ”occasionally oversaw its public relations activities.”
The firm also cited recent court filings in which representatives for the Public Investment Fund called the fund “inextricably intertwined with the [Saudi] government such that” the Public Investment Fund’s “objectives may be indistinguishable” from Saudi Arabia’s interests. A federal magistrate judge also wrote in a ruling in February that “PIF is not a mere investor in LIV; it is the moving force behind the founding, funding, oversight and operation of LIV.”
“My client is committed to full compliance with FARA, and in an era of unprecedented enforcement and out of an abundance of caution, they have registered regarding their performance of public relations services for LIV Golf, the global sports league,” said David Laufman, a partner at Wiggin and Dana who previously oversaw FARA enforcement at the Justice Department and advised Gitcho Goodwin on whether to register as a foreign agent.
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