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UFC adds an estimated $210,000 to Ali Act lobbying in 2017, Viacom joins in

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Lobbying disclosure reports reveal more money from the UFC spent to lobby the Ali Act. Documents show Bellator’s owner has lobbied the act, too.

In 2016 the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) revealed, through publicly disclosed lobbying reports, that they had spent an estimated $420,000 dollars to lobby H.R. 44 aka The Muhammad Ali Expansion Act. Through the first three quarters of 2017, the UFC has disclosed a further $210,000 in lobbying expenses, bringing their total amount spent in relation to the Ali Act up to $630,000.

H.R. 44 was introduced by Representative Markwayne Mullin [R OK-2], a former MMA fighter, to the 115th US Congress on January 3rd, 2017. He had introduced an identical version of the bill last year, but that bill was null and void once that session of congress ended on December 31st, 2016.

Mullin’s bills seeks, among other things, to protect MMA fighters from coercive contracts, establish an objective rankings system, and to commit promoters and sanctioning bodies to disclosing financial information to fighters.

H.R. 44 was referred to the House Education and the Workforce and House Energy and Commerce committees on the day Mullin introduced it. On January 25th it was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. The bill currently has 58 co-sponsors (32 Republicans and 26 Democrats).

To become law, the bill needs to first pass a vote in the US House of Representatives, then another in the US Senate. The last hurdle is the US President, who can either sign the bill into law, take no action (in which the bill becomes law after 10 days) or veto the bill; sending it back to Congress.

The first document to prove the UFC are lobbying the Ali Expansion Act in 2017 is an LD-2 Disclosure form dated April 20th. That document states that an estimated $10,000 was paid to Farragut Partners LLP (who also handled lobbying for the UFC in 2016). The specific lobbying issue listed in that form is ‘Work on the Muhammad Ali Act.’ That sum of money was used to have lobbyists Jeffrey MacKinnon, Jody Gale, Jeffrey Mortier, Sarah Walter, and J. Daniel Walsh lobby the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on the UFC’s position regarding H.R. 44.

Another document stating the UFC employed Farragut Partners LLP for ‘Work on the Muhammad Ali Act’ is dated July 20th, 2017. That form discloses an estimated $20,000 for the same team from Farragut Partners, LLP to again lobby the U.S House and Senate.

A separate document, also dated July 20th, 2017, revealed an estimated $80,000 to Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP (another lobbying firm the UFC worked with in 2016) to lobby politicians in the House and Senate regarding both H.R. 44 and issues around piracy of copyrighted programming. William Moschella, Zachary Pfister, and Marc Lampkin are listed as lobbyists working specifically on H.R. 44.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP received another estimated payment of $80,000 from the UFC according to a document dated October 20th, 2017. That disclosure form is identical to the previous Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP form in listing which issues are to be lobbied, who are the lobbyists involved, and which agencies within the U.S. government will be lobbied.

A separate document also dated October 20th, 2017 disclosed an estimated $20,000 fee to Farragut Partners, LLP. That document states that this payment was in regards to only lobbying done on the Ali Act, within the US House and Senate by the same team previously listed for Farragut Partners, LLP.

In addition to this estimated $210,000 worth of new lobbying spent by the UFC in 2017, the Ali Act was mentioned in disclosure documents from Bellator MMA’s owner Viacom. Those forms reval over a millions dollars in lobbying expenses.

In a form dated May 17th, 2017, it is disclosed that Viacom hired Ogilvy Government Relations for an estimated $50,000. That money was earmarked for lobbying work on:

  • Content, piracy and privacy related issues.
  • Tax reform issues including the film production tax credit.
  • H.R. 44, Muhammad Ali Expansion Act; all provisions.

It is impossible to tell from the form how the $50,000 was split among these three issues. What is clear is that Ali Act lobbying was performed by Chris Giblin, Moses Mercado, Dean Aguillen, Gordon Taylor, Karissa Willhite, Timothy McGivern, and Alissa Wilcox. Also clear is that these lobbyists lobbied the U.S House and Senate on the issue.

In a form dated May 16th, 2017 Viacom disclosed estimated lobbying expenses of $1,040,000 — paid to Viacom International Services, Inc. (that company’s in-house lobbying group). That fund was used to lobby on a host of issues including, but not limited to:

  • Regulation of Internet Video.
  • Film Industry Data.
  • H.R. 5 – “Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017” – all provisions related to film and television.
  • General Copyright Issues.
  • Internet Governance.
  • S. 133 – “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017” – all provisions related to film and television.
  • S. 631 – “Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2017” – all provisions related to film and television.
  • H.R. 44 – Muhammad Ali Expansion Act; all provisions

Again it is unknown, based on this form, what percentage of the one-million-plus dollars was spent to specifically lobby H.R. 44. What is known is that Hollyn Schuemann was the lobbyists responsible for lobbying this issue on behalf of Viacom International Services. The form also revealed that Schuemann lobbied the House of Representatives on the issue.

Viacom paid Ogilvy Government Relations another estimated $50,000 in lobbying fees according to a form dated October 19th, 2017. Like in the previous form naming Ogilvy Government Relations, the October 19th document shows lobbying work done on various issues including H.R. 44. The same team is listed in this form as was before. The target of their lobbying was also identical to the previous form: the U.S Senate and US. House of Representatives.

Also in 2017 the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Association (WBA) spent money on lobbying the Ali Act. It’s unclear whether they were lobbying for or against the act, which would expand various protections in boxing to the world of MMA.

In documents dated April 19th and October 18th, the IBF disclosed an estimated $20,000 paid to Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs for lobbying of ‘professional boxing related issues’ and ‘H.R. 44’. That lobbying targeted the U.S. House and Senate through lobbyist Noah Reandeau. In an October 10th dated document, WBA disclosed less than $5,000 in lobbying fees also paid to Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs for the same services mentioned in the IBF forms.

To learn more about the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act, and for a breakdown on the Congressional Hearing that took place last week and did not include Conor McGregor, watch/listen to the 20th episode of Show Money. That edition of the combat sports/business podcast aired on November 11th and was hosted by John S. Nash of Bloody Elbow, Paul Gift of Bloody Elbow and Forbes, and Jason Cruz of MMAPayout.com.

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