Washington — Former Vice President Mike Pence appeared in Hungary last month to speak at a conference on conservative social values hosted by the far-right government Prime Minister Victor Oban.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was also a recent visitor. Tucker Carlson hosted a week-long Fox News show from Hungary this summer. The American Conservative Union is planning a version of CPAC to be held in Budapest early next year.
These are more visible in the well-funded campaign by Mr. Orban of the United States, which dates back 10 years and now stands as a case study of how governments around the world are trying to shape policies and debates in Washington. This is one of the recent achievements. Raise concerns about inappropriate foreign influences on US politics.
The main impact of this effort, carried out by government agencies, lobbyists in Washington, the Hungarian diaspora group, educational institutions, and a network of government-funded foundations, has strengthened Oban’s image as a conservative leader on the world stage. Was to counter his reputation. As an authoritarian nationalist who is familiar with Russia and China.
It also includes some of Mr. Olburn’s withdrawal during the Trump administration of state ministry grants to foster independent news media in Hungary and the securing of the long-awaited Oval Office meeting for him. Recorded a concrete policy victory for. 2019 Oban with President Donald J. Trump.
Much of what the Hungarian network has done is legal and standard operating procedures in Washington. However, some of its activities are gray, such as the transparency requirements of those who act for the benefit of foreign countries, concerns arising from foreign efforts that shake the presidential campaign, and think-tank ethics that accept money from the government or its agents. Touching the area of.
Last year, two prominent foreign policy think tanks in Washington broke their relationship with the Hungarian Foundation, a group funded by the Hungarian government.
And Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s presidential campaign moved away from volunteer policy advisers after receiving reports of his relationship with Mr. Olburn. According to people familiar with the situation, the campaign referred the issue to the FBI.
Network efforts can be traced back to around 2011, the year after Mr. Olburn became prime minister for the second time. When he worked to raise global profile, he convened Hungarian-related people from around the world at the Diaspora Council, “a coordinated representative of Hungary’s position and interests to foreign media and decision makers. We will support development. ” Government documents.
Among the groups represented by the list of attendees at the council’s first meeting was a US organization that had played a role in the influence network.
Maximilian N, the leader of one group who participated in the council. Teleki has been active in democratic politics for years. He led an informal Hungarian-American for Biden’s efforts, donating $ 1,715 to the campaign and serving its volunteer foreign policy group in Europe.
However, in August 2020, Brian P. McKeon, who served as foreign policy adviser to the Biden campaign and is now Chief Executive Officer of the State Department, told Teleki that the campaign “received some reports and concerns.” I have notified you. According to an email received by the New York Times, Mr. Oban’s connection with the government and political party Fides. “
McKeon said the campaign was “not in a position to judge the authenticity of these reports,” but told the Foreign Policy Advisory Network “I think it’s best for you to leave for the benefit of the campaign. “He added. , Hundreds of volunteers were included.
The warning came when Mr. Biden’s campaign was taking precautions to avoid comparisons with 2016, which prevented Russia from trying to help Mr. Trump in the elections.
“I can clearly state that I haven’t had any substantial contact with the Hungarian government or any member of Fides since I started working,” Tereki said in an advisory group, away from Olburn.
According to people familiar with the situation, Mr. Teleki left the policy group and campaign officials reported their concerns to the FBI. It is not clear if there is active research.
This episode did not stop Mr. Teleki from occasionally engaging with the Biden team. This includes assisting in arranging a campaign policy briefing on zoom for people associated with Central and Eastern European countries.
Last month, Mr. Teleki participated in an off-record phone call hosted by the White House, during which he asked about the treatment of Ukrainian minorities. This is the problem that Mr. Oban used as a club against Ukraine.
Frank Cozolas Jr., another prominent figure in the Hungarian diaspora, said there was discussion under Mr. Biden about efforts to improve bilateral relations.
“People are interested in contacting Democrats as well as Republicans,” said Kozolas, who registered for lobbying at the Hungarian embassy in the 1990s and early 2000s.
He also chaired the United States Hungarian Federation until recently. The group has pressured Mr. Trump’s administration to reconsider a State Department subsidy aimed at promoting free coverage in Hungary. Mr Olburn’s allies have criticized the grant as an example of Washington’s interference with their problems.
To fund some of its efforts in the United States, Mr. Oban’s government approved the creation and funding of a non-profit group that will become known as the Hungarian Foundation in 2012.
By the end of last year, we had donated more than $ 5.2 million to think tanks, conservative groups, universities, and Hungarian-American organizations to fund conferences, fellowships, and culture. program.
In 2014 and 2015, some of the Foundation’s more prominent board members, including former New York Governor George E. Pataki and diplomat Kurt D. Volker, may need to be registered by the group as agents. I resigned the possibility that it is not. The Hungarian government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). The law requires disclosure of lobbying or public relations campaigns in the United States for the benefit of certain foreign countries.
In late 2015, the Justice Department may exempt the Foundation from registering with FARA as long as its activities are limited to “faithful religious, academic, academic, scientific pursuit or art.” I announced the advisory opinion. Do not engage in lobbying or public relations activities.
Volker and Pataki returned to the board in 2016, and the Foundation hired a new secretary-general, Anna Smith Lacy, a former parliamentary liaison for the Hungarian Embassy in Washington.
The Foundation and Ms. Smith Lacy were soon involved in US officials and policy debates in a way that seemed to test the language in the opinion of the Justice Department.
Smith Lacy, a Hungarian citizen and prominent government official whose father is a prominent government official, said Trump’s appointed representatives of a series of conferences on Central Europe at the State Department with representatives of a group focused on the region. I attended one. And she attended an exclusive rally with US officials overseeing Central Europe organized by Foundation grant recipients such as the Atlantic Council and the European Policy Analysis Center, each of which received more than $ 200,000 from the Hungarian Foundation. bottom.
In a panel hosted by the Atlantic Council in 2019, Smith Lacy opposed allegations that Hungary and democratic governance were being eroded.