Government of Hungary spent a total of $3.54 million on lobbying Washington in 2018

The Hungarian government spent $3.54 million on lobbying in DC last year. This number includes three new lobbying companies that were hired in November: Barnes&Thornburg, Policy Impact Strategic Communications, and Munk Policy & Law. The embassy of Hungary in Washington signed a $50,000 contract with each, and the contracts cover the period starting at the beginning of November and last until the middle or the end of January.

The Hungarian government has a cordial relationship with the U.S. government, so much so that Orban got away with kicking out CEU, an American university from Hungary. Officials of the Trump administration changed the policy of the Obama State Department and decided that it will follow a cordial relationship with the Orban government.

While protesters were tear-gassed by police, the U.S. Ambassador attended a soccer match with PM Viktor Orban

U.S. ambassador to Hungary David B. Cornstein watched a soccer match last Sunday in Székesfehérvár in the VIP section. One of the teams playing was Mol-Vidi, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’s favorite, so it is no surprise that Orban was also present. Atlatszo was informed that Cornstein and Orban chatted for about five minutes.

However, the results of the U.S. midterm elections might worry the Hungarian government: a House led by Democrats will not view Orban as favorably as the Republicans and the Trump White House. This the Orban government can expect criticism coming from Congress.

This is most likely the reason why the government of Hungary hired three different lobbyists right at the time of the midterms.

The contracts are worth $50,000 each, $150,000 in total. According to the contract uploaded to the Department of Justice’s FARA website, Barnes&Thornburg will lobby the White House and the person responsible for the work is Craig S. Burkhardt.

Policy Impact Strategic Communications will be tasked with lobbying Congress, and the person responsible for helping the embassy of Hungary is Benjamin May.

Munk Policy & Law will lobby the State Department, and the person working for the Hungarian government is Jeffrey Munk.

GoH spent $3.54 million on lobbying in DC in 2018

According to Atlatszo’s calculations, the Orban government spent approximately 998 million Hungarian forints ($3.54 million) in Washington last year to try and help its image and mend U.S.-Hungarian relations. This sum includes the latest numbers mentioned above, the $150000 spent on the three newly hired lobbying firms.

The largest sum was given to the Magyar Foundation of North America (MFNA): the 504(c)4 organization received $2.19 million from the Hungarian government. The mission of MFNA is to promote Hungarian culture in the U.S. and to help Hungarian-American relations. It has been working since 2015 and all of its budget is coming from the government of Hungary.

MFNA is led by the former co-workers and mentees of the late Republican campaign strategist Arthur J. Finkelstein, thus we include the amount spent by MFNA among money spent on lobbying.

The foundation is run in a non-transparent manner. Atlatszo has been filing FOI requests with the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, overseeing MFNA, and has been asking for its invoice summaries that reveal how the money is spent. Our requests were denied, thus we went to court.

Despite a binding court decision Atlatszo has received the invoice summaries only for the year 2016 so far. As soon as we receive all of them, we will publish our findings.

Government of Hungary refusing to tell how it spent $7 million in the U.S.

A foundation financed by the government of Hungary spent more than $7 million in the United States in the past three years. The Hungarian state support provided to the Magyar Foundation of North America (MFNA) is supposed to help the organization promote Hungarian culture, strengthen American-Hungarian relations and keep in touch with the Hungarian-American community.

2018 was the last year that former Florida Republican congressman Connie Mack worked for the government of Hungary. His four-year contract ended at the beginning of September.

According to the FARA database the Delaware-based company, BSI Public affairs and its subcontractor, Sanitas International were also working for the government of Hungary at the first half of 2018. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not replied to our FOI request about BSI’s 2018 contract yet, thus we include an estimate of the value of their contract in our summary. The estimate is based on BSI’s contracts in 2017.

Hungarian diplomats in the United States pay $45,000 a month for the advice of Trump’s men in Israel

The Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the second half of 2017 paid a minimum of $270,000 to a company co-chaired by Donald Trump’s Israeli campaign chief. The Delaware company called BSI Public Affairs signed contracts with the Embassy of Hungary in Washington and the consulates in Chicago and Los Angeles.

We also included the money paid to Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos in our summary: they each received $20,000 in May for 60-minute anti-migration speeches in Budapest. They were both paid by a foundation that is taxpayer-funded. Recently Bannon announced that he would help Viktor Orban in the run-up to the European Elections this spring.

The original, Hungarian-language stories that this article is based on can be found here and here.

Cover photo: Zach Rudisin/Wikipedia