Opposition politician received HUF 3 million for ghostwriting government propaganda
Even well-paid journalists from Central European Press and Media Foundation would also be happy with the invoices of Bálint Lukácsi, who worked as a journalist for an association that benefited from the “Samsung tax” without disclosing his name. The opposition member of the Dunakeszi Municipality secretly authored stories for the local internet newspaper published by the association called Dunakeszi Kistérségért Egyesület, which reinforces the narrative of the ruling party, Fidesz, for nearly 3 million HUF, while he was also an activist for the Hungarian Two Tailed Dog Party during last year’s parliamentary election campaign. The news website was funded by the Pest County Municipality’s “civil support fund”.
Bálint Lukácsi is a local government representative of Dunakeszi, who was re-elected as an independent on the joint list of the opposition parties DK-Jobbik-LMP-Momentum-MSZP-Párbeszéd-Mindenki Magyarországa Mozgalom in the 2019 elections, and also worked as a campaign manager of the joint opposition parties during the 2019 local government elections in the Pest County municipality.
After the 2022 parliamentary election campaign, Lukácsi was revealed to be the vice-president of an Association in Dunakeszi (Dunakeszi Kistérségért Egyesület) which was running an internet news site during the campaign. Lukácsi now claims that he is only the former vice-president. The other – according to Lukácsi, also former – vice-president of the association, which was founded in March 2021, is László Lőrincz, deputy mayor of Göd. The president of the NGO is Hedvig Somogyi Rózsavölgyiné, teacher at the Benedek Elek Primary School in Vácduka.
In 2021, the newly founded association successfully applied twice to the Pest County Municipality for a share of the money from the Samsung battery factory tax, which was collected from Göd, and for which NGOs could apply for support. As we reported last year, the main beneficiaries were Fidesz-friendly nonprofits.
The local business taxes from the Göd special economic zones (aka the Samsung battery factory in Göd) are managed by the county of Pest.
“Opposition” politicians hiding in local NGO
In May 2022, Péter Varga Zoltán, a member of the Dunakeszi local government from the right-wing Jobbik party, revealed on social media, that according to official documents, the vice-presidents of the Dunakeszi Kistérségért Egyesület were László Lőrincz and Bálint Lukácsi.
Bálint Lukácsi was the adviser to László Lőrincz, deputy mayor of Göd, until 30 April 2020, when Csaba Balogh, then mayor of Göd, dismissed him on the grounds that he did not have the necessary qualifications. László Lőrincz was a member of DK until 2021, when he left the party. In the 2019 municipal elections, Lőrincz was the joint candidate of DK-Jobbik-LMP-Mindenki Magyarországa-Momentum-Párbeszéd in Göd.
The aim of the Dunakeszi Association is “cultural, information and communication activities”. The association is registered at the address of the office of Dr. Ágnes Tóth, a lawyer in Dunakeszi: she is a member of the Pest Vármegye General Assembly, participates in the work of the Legal and Local Government Committee, and is listed as a DK representative on pestmegye.hu. In response to our inquiries, the Democratic Coalition has now announced that Dr. Ágnes Tóth has been suspended from the party, and is currently facing ethical proceedings.
33 million HUF from the Samsung tax
The Dunakeszi Kistérségért Egyesület received 14.9 million HUF rom the Pest County Municipality in the first application cycle and a total of 17.9 million forints in the second application cycle in the framework of the regional NGO tender. Of this, HUF 14.2 million was spent on the operation of the Térségi Tények online newspaper, which has only 92 followers and is therefore unlikely to have a major impact on local public life.
However, Bálint Lukácsi has worked for the news site for quite a lot of money. According to the invoices he has now made public, between 30 December 2021 and 28 March 2022 he invoiced the association for HUF 2 995 666 for independent journalistic work.
Lukácsi’s name was never mentioned as an author of the news site, nor is he listed in the imprint, his contribution was only revealed during the court research of Péter Varga Zoltán. The imprint of Térségi Tények is incomplete, the articles have no author, but the paper often berated the opposition candidate Dávid Dorosz before the parliamentary elections and presented the victory of Fidesz candidate Bence Tuzson in an interesting way: it was pushing government propaganda, in the name of local journalism.
Lukácsi now says that Térségi Tények is “an independent, niche media. During its operation, it has not received a single request for correction, despite the fact that it has drawn attention to various dubious issues on numerous occasions.”
In the run-up to the 2022 parliamentary elections, Bálint Lukácsi, in addition to his journalistic activities, also campaigned for the Hungarian Two Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) in Dunakeszi, supporting candidate Zoltán Bürger. Gergely Kovács, co-chairman of MKKP told Átlátszó that they did not know Lukácsi’s other roles and that they did not know that his nonprofit had received support from the Pest County Municipality.
We asked Lukácsi what he thought about the suggestion that his nonprofit had received funding to run the local news site in order to weaken the opposition during the election campaign. In his reply, the multi-talented politician claimed that the organization had never received support from any party, including Fidesz. “There are no party members in the organization, all are civilians. Térségi Tények is an independent media against which there has never been a request for correction. The Térségi Tények has no role in the sad decline of the opposition parties,” he wrote in response to our inquiry.
Translated by Zita Szopkó. The original, Hungarian version of this story was written by Zsuzsa Zimre and can be found here.