The government of Hungary hired another lobbying firm in Washington, D.C: according to documents filed with the Department of Justice, Sanitas International is working for Orban government on behalf of BSI Public Affairs. The latter firm is led by two Israeli lobbyists who worked for the Trump campaign in Israel. One of them, Tzvika Brot, served as campaign chief of Donald Trump in the country and is credited with creating a well-organized and disciplined operation.
Lobbyists working for foreign governments have to register with the Department of Justice according to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). From documents recently uploaded to the Fara.gov website, Hungary has been employing the services of Sanitas International, Inc. since October 2017.
Sanitas’s documents appeared on the Fara website at the beginning of March and they reveal that the D.C. lobbying company is currently working for three foreign governments: the Hungarian, the Azeri and the Bulgarian.
According to the document describing the business with the government of Hungary, Sanitas will ‘develop a strategic communications and outreach campaign designed to strengthen the bilateral relationship and cooperation between both countries and the region; promote national security and economic interests through closer cooperation with the United States; and build relationships with private sector companies and investors to facilitate increased investment and business opportunities.’
The documents do not reveal how much the Hungarian government is paying Sanitas but it reveals that the point of contact for the DC lobbying firm is Hungary’s ambassador to the U.S., László Szabó.
The documents on Fara.gov reveal that Sanitas is working on behalf of BSI Public Affairs, Inc., a company registered in Delaware in April 2017. BSI Public Affairs, Inc. is not registered in the FARA database.
The memorandum between the two companies was signed by the co-chairs of BSI Public Affairs, Inc. named Tzvika Brot and Ariel Sender.
According to press reports, Tzvika Brot was U.S. president Donald Trump’s campaign chief in Israel. Brot is credited with running a disciplined and well-organized campaign aimed at the approximately 200,000 American citizens living in Israel.
Brot also reportedly has ties to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanjahu.
The other BSI co-chair who signed the document is Ariel Sender. There is an Israeli lobbyist of the same name at Gilad Government Relations and Lobbying. According to his profile on Gilad’s website Sender also worked on Trump’s campaign in Israel.
Gilad was involved in a high-profile scandal recently when investigative TV show Udva published secret recordings where Gilad lobbyists are boasting about pushing a law through the Israeli parliament for the sake of one of their clients. Gilad lobbyists, including Sender, were banned from the Knesset for a period of time because of this scandal.
BSI and Sanitas started working after the new ambassador arrived in D.C.
The timing of the agreement between Sanitas and BSI is interesting. Hungarian PM Viktor Orban fired Réka Szemerkényi, the former Hungarian ambassador to D.C. in April 2017. It was announced soon after that László Szabó would follow her.
Szabó is a business manager who was the CEO of the Hungarian branch of Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva for four years.
Szabó arrived in D.C. late August and presented his credentials to the U.S. president on September 9.
At the very beginning of October 2017, news portal Index ran a story about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs allegedly being fed up with its current D.C. lobbyist, Connie Mack. The news site suggested that the firing of Mack could be imminent.
A few days later BSI and Sanitas signed the agreement and the D.C. lobbying firm started to work for the Hungarian embassy in Washington.
However, Mack is still working for Hungary: on January 205, 2018 he still sent out his usual newsletter to his D.C. contacts.
Atlatszo turned to the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and asked how much BSI Public Affairs, Inc. and Sanitas International Inc. were paid by the Hungarian government. We also asked what the reason was for hiring new lobbyists and what kind of work BSI Public Affairs, Inc. and Sanitas International Inc. are doing for te Hungarian government. The ministry did not immediately reply to our questions.
Written by Anita Komuves
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