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LIV Golf Wants to Talk About Sports. Donald Trump Still Looms.

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LIV Golf Wants to Talk About Sports. Donald Trump Still Looms.

It was only on Sunday evening that LIV Golf, the men’s league awash in billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, met its greatest athletic triumph to date when one of its headliners, Brooks Koepka, emphatically won the P.G.A. Championship.

By Thursday morning, though, LIV’s road show had been reinfused with the political bent that has trailed the second-year circuit as it has convulsed professional golf: the loquacious, limelight-seizing presence of former President Donald J. Trump, who is hosting one of the league’s tournaments this weekend at a course northwest of Washington.

Whether LIV can outrun Trump’s shadow, and whether it even wants to, could do much to shape how the league is perceived in the years ahead, particularly in the United States, where it has struggled to gain a meaningful foothold against the PGA Tour.

But for now, besides major tournament winners like Koepka and Phil Mickelson who have joined the circuit, there is probably no figure beyond golf more publicly linked to LIV than Trump, who has repeatedly and enthusiastically cheered Saudi Arabia’s thunderous, flashy entrance into sports. At its events, he often seems like an eager M.C. whose role is at once decidedly conspicuous and deeply mysterious — neither the Trump Organization nor LIV have disclosed how much money the former president’s company is making for the events — as the league looks to make inroads in a hidebound sport.

“They want to use my properties because they’re the best properties,” Trump said on Thursday, when he spent five hours appearing in a pro-am event with the LIV players Graeme McDowell and Patrick Reed (and staging what amounted to a rolling news conference about politics and an infomercial about his property over 18 holes along the Potomac River).

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The Trump portfolio does indeed feature some exceptional courses, including the Washington-area location, which once held a Senior P.G.A. Championship, and LIV executives have said in the past that they were drawn to them because many top-caliber properties in the United States were not willing to host a circuit intended to rival the PGA Tour. But Trump’s persistent, growing place in LIV’s orbit also invites sustained skepticism of the motives and intentions of the league, which some critics see as a glossy way for Saudi Arabia to rehabilitate its image.

The former president is unbothered by the league’s patron, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and the kingdom’s budding place in professional golf, despite its record of human rights abuses. He is still casting aside objections from family members of Sept. 11 victims, some of whom believe Saudi Arabia played a role in the 2001 attacks, because, as he said Thursday, LIV tournaments are “great economic development.” He is openly admiring the millions and millions of dollars that the Saudis are raining down onto players and, of course, properties like his, even though he asserted Thursday that hosting tournaments amounts to “peanuts for me.” This year, LIV will travel to three of his properties, up from two in its inaugural season.

He has remained steadfast in his loyalty even though a special counsel from the Justice Department, Jack Smith, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for records related to LIV.

In an interview as he walked between holes on Thursday, Trump described Smith’s aggressive approach as “retribution” because the Biden administration wants “to do something to take the spotlight off what’s taken place.” He said he did not know why his ties to LIV had drawn the special counsel’s scrutiny.

Trump’s affection for LIV can be traced, at least in part, to years of friction with golf’s establishment.

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In 2016, the PGA Tour ended a longstanding relationship with Trump’s course in Doral, Fla., near Miami, because of what its then-commissioner described as “fundamentally a sponsorship issue.” And in 2021, after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, the P.G.A. of America — which is separate from the PGA Tour — abandoned its plan to host its flagship men’s championship at a Trump property in New Jersey in 2022.

Trump has not fared much better abroad. The R&A, which organizes the British Open, has signaled it does not intend to take the tournament back to Trump-controlled Turnberry, where LIV’s commissioner, Greg Norman, won one of his two Opens.

LIV has embraced Trump, though, and in return gotten a former president’s imprimatur, along with bursts of news coverage for events that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. He brings prestige and power, diluted as both might be by the divisiveness in which he revels.

“They have unlimited money and they love it,” he said Thursday, “and it’s been great publicity for Saudi Arabia.”

But for every day Trump appears at a LIV event, it is a day that LIV might as well write off as one in which it will not escape the pointed questions that it has spent a year trying to move past, or at least saying it wants to move past.

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It has been hard enough for the league, even on a day when Trump is not playing a round, not to have its players confronting questions about the morality of accepting millions in Saudi money.

“We’re contracted to play golf,” Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open winner who finished in a tie for fourth at the P.G.A. Championship last weekend, said on Wednesday. “I think the most important part is to provide great entertainment wherever possible on whatever platform that is, whatever platform that provides it. When you can talk about ethics, that’s people’s perception. I completely disagree with it, but everybody has the right to their own opinion, and I’d say, was it worth it? Absolutely.”

But DeChambeau hardly has the same megaphone or presence as a former occupant of the Oval Office. When Trump appears at a LIV event, even winners of the Masters Tournament or the U.S. Open are relegated to supporting actors.

LIV executives have generally brushed aside questions about whether the former president is good for business, or merely essential for it, given their troubles landing quality venues. They seem convinced that, at some point, sports will overtake politics, which might be wishful thinking since Trump suggested Thursday that nothing — not even a return to the White House — would easily dissuade him from doing business with the league.

But LIV’s strategy still involves a gamble that the presence of one of the nation’s most polarizing figures will not scare off even more of the sponsorship contracts and television rights that are already proving hard to come by for the operation. And Trump can just as easily alienate prospective fans as he can entice them.

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Trump himself insists that LIV craves him at its events and that he is not a distraction from the league’s proclaimed goal of growing the sport and giving it doses of needed energy.

“They wanted me to be here, and I said sure,” said Trump, who said that LIV’s contracts with his properties did not require his appearances in events like the pro-am.

Perhaps all of that is true. But as long as it is, LIV will linger in the political thicket, no matter how well Koepka plays on the game’s biggest stages.

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Less than 1 in 4 Americans have favorable opinion of federal government: poll

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Less than 1 in 4 Americans have favorable opinion of federal government: poll

Less than a quarter of the United States population has a positive opinion about the federal government, according to a new poll.

The Pew Research Center released a report Thursday derived from their American Trends Panel survey, noting shifts in public perception of government at the local, state, and federal level.

The survey found that only 22% of U.S. adults hold a favorable view of the federal government.

GEN Z HAPPINESS IS MOST DRIVEN BY ONE SURPRISING THING, GALLUP POLL FINDS

US President Joe Biden, center, speaks during a State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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This rating, recorded at the end of 2023, marks a 10% drop from the previous data from the end of 2022.

Approximately 32% of Democrats and “Democratic-leaning independents” view the federal government favorably, according to Pew Research. This marks a 17-point drop in approval since May 2022.

Only 11% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents hold a positive view of the federal government. This is on par with 2022 responses, but a marked drop from 41% approval documented in 2019 under the Trump administration.

NEW POLL REVEALS CRUCIAL BATTLEGROUND STATE PREFERS TRUMP OVER BIDEN IN HEATED 2024 REMATCH

Early voting in NYC

Voters casting their ballots at a polling station during early voting in Brooklyn, New York City, New York. (Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

U.S. adults responding to the survey had less overwhelmingly negative feelings towards state-level governance, according to Pew Research.

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50% of respondents reported a favorable opinion of their state government, compared to 49% who reported an unfavorable view.

The poll found that approximately 61% of respondents reported a favorable view of their local government. Pew reported that political party affiliation had much less influence on local approval compared to state or federal.

The United States Capitol building is seen in Washington, District of Columbia. ((AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite))

The American Trends Panel survey was conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, 2023. 

It surveyed 5,203 U.S. adults on a variety of political, cultural, and social issues. It has a margin of error of +/- 1.8%.

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Builders may fight 'impact fees' that fund municipal projects in California, Supreme Court rules

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Builders may fight 'impact fees' that fund municipal projects in California, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that developers and home builders in California may challenge the fees commonly imposed by cities and counties to pay for new roads, schools, sewers and other public improvements.

The justices said these “impact fees” may be unconstitutional if builders and developers are forced to pay an unfair share of the cost of public projects.

Developers have contended that limiting California’s high fees would lead to the construction of more affordable new housing.

California state courts had blocked claims arising from “a development impact fee imposed pursuant to a legislatively authorized fee program” for new development in a city or county.

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But the 9-0 Supreme Court decision opened the door for such challenges. The justices revived a constitutional claim brought by an El Dorado County man who put a manufactured home on a small lot and was told he would have to pay a “traffic mitigation fee” of $23,420.

The decision could have wide impact in California, since local governments have increasingly relied on impact fees rather than property taxes to pay for new projects.

But the justices did not spell out when such fees become unfair and unconstitutional.

Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson said they joined the majority opinion in Sheetz vs. El Dorado County because it merely allows such challenges.

In a separate opinion, conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said he saw merit to the “common government practice of imposing permit conditions, such as impact fees, on new development through reasonable formulas or schedules that assess the impact of classes of development rather than the impact of specific parcels of property.”

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State and county attorneys had made just that argument. They said it was fairer to impose a development fee on all the lots in an area.

But the justices nonetheless ruled that homeowners and developers may sue to challenge these fees as an unconstitutional taking of their private property. The case will now go back to the California courts.

The Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento hailed the ruling as a significant victory for property rights.

“Holding building permits hostage in exchange for excessive development fees is obviously extortion,” said attorney Paul Beard, who represented the El Dorado County homeowner. “We are thrilled that the court agreed and put a stop to a blatant attempt to skirt the 5th Amendment’s prohibition against taking private property without just compensation.”

Beard said El Dorado County “failed to show — and cannot show — that the fee is sufficiently related and proportionate to the traffic impacts” of his client’s “modest home.”

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The debate over development fees is especially relevant in California, where local governments have increasingly relied on the charges to finance parks, streets, schools and other infrastructure and services since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13 limited property tax revenues.

The fees have come under scrutiny in other cases as developers and others have blamed them for driving up the cost of housing and for a wide disparity in cities’ fees.

A 2018 study by UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that, depending on the city, fees for new single-family homes could range from $21,000 to $157,000, and could account for 6% to 18% of the median home price.

For decades, the Supreme Court has cast a skeptical eye at California’s regulation of private property. In a pair of decisions, it limited the power of government officials to demand concessions from a property owner in exchange for a building permit.

In 1987, justices ruled for the owner of a beach bungalow in Ventura who was told he could not obtain a permit to expand his home unless he agreed to allow the public access to the beachfront. The conservative majority at the time described this demand as akin to “extortion” and said it violated the 5th Amendment’s clause that forbids the taking of “private property … for public use without just compensation.”

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In a follow-up decision involving a store owner who was forced to allow a bike path on her property, the court said the government may not impose such special conditions on property owners unless it can show an owner’s new development would cause direct harm to the community.

But since then, it has been unclear whether this property right applies to development fees or in situations where fees are set by legislation rather than imposed on a single owner seeking a permit.

Writing for the court in Friday’s ruling, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett said that “there is no basis for affording property rights less protection in the hands of legislators than administrators. The Takings Clause applies equally to both — which means that it prohibits legislatures and agencies alike from imposing unconstitutional conditions on land-use permits.”

The case arose when property owner George Sheetz sought a permit to put a manufactured home on a lot he owned in Placerville, outside Sacramento. El Dorado County required him to pay a “traffic impact mitigation” fee to obtain the permit. Some of the money was to go toward upgrades to Highway 50, which runs through the area, but most was to go toward new or expanded roads in the county.

Sheetz paid the fee and obtained his permit, then sued to challenge the fee as unconstitutional. He argued that the taxpayers of the county, not the new owner of a small home, should be required to pay for road building.

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The justices agreed to hear his appeal after he lost in the California courts.

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who has supported legislation to rein in developer fees, said he didn’t expect Friday’s decision by itself to have a significant effect on the debate in Sacramento because it only called out one extreme situation.

“Ultimately, the solution is the same today as it was yesterday,” Wiener said. “The California Legislature needs to put in place an actual structure for impact fees. Right now, it’s all over the map.”

Wiener said he sympathizes with local governments that turn to the fees because it’s easier than raising revenue through broad-based taxes — but he said some cities use sky-high fees to block housing development.

“There is something a little odd about effectively taxing new housing to pay for societal needs that should be paid generally by taxpayers — by the entire community,” he said.

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Graham Knaus, executive director of the California State Assn. of Counties, said in a statement Friday that the organization was still reviewing the ruling to understand its implications.

But he said that “limiting the ability to legislatively enact fees will negatively impact the ability of our 58 counties to protect the health and welfare of their communities and drastically limit the building of vital local infrastructure.”

“In many cases,” Knaus said, “these fees are the only tool available to pay for new infrastructure around certain development projects.”

Times staff writer Liam Dillon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Video: Pro-Palestinian Protesters Complicate Democrats’ Ability to Campaign

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Video: Pro-Palestinian Protesters Complicate Democrats’ Ability to Campaign

Lisa Lerer, a political correspondent for The New York Times, explains how protests over the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war are disrupting the activities of Democratic officials from city halls to Congress to the White House.

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