War among Fidesz lobbyists in Washington DC

An unusual war broke out among the Orbán-government supporters in Washington DC.

Frank Koszorus, President of the American Hungarian Federation told Heti Válasz, a Hungarian weekly, that the upcoming congressional hearing about Hungary is a terrible idea. Whoever organized it does not understand the real issues and called for postponement. He himself is on the witness list, but he’ll boycott the hearing, he won’t testify in person, he will submit his material in writing. (Heti Válasz interview in Hungarian.)

In October 2014 Mr. Koszorus received the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit from Hungarian official Mr. Zsolt Németh in recognition for his outstanding achievements in promoting Hungarian-American relations.

In October 2014 Mr. Koszorus received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit from Hungarian official Mr. Zsolt Németh in recognition for his outstanding achievements in promoting Hungarian-American relations.

The Congressional hearing was orchestrated by Connie Mack IV, a former Republican congressman from Florida, the new top lobbyist for the Orbán government. Mr. Mack was hired by Századvég, the pro-Fidesz Budapest based think tank, and according to registration documents Mr. Mack receives about $100,000 a month(!) for his help with “networking strategy” development and other services. His contract ends on April 30, 2017. (Details of Mr. Mack’s contract in English.)

Mr. Koszorus doesn’t like Mr. Mack’s hearing idea.

The hearing is scheduled on May 19, 2015 at 2:00pm to 5:00pm at 2200 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC. It was initiated by Mack’s Republican pal, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. (Official announcement of the hearing.)

The witnesses are:

· Mr. Andras Simonyi, Ph.D., Managing Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations School of Advanced International Studies Johns Hopkins University (Former Hungarian Ambassador to the United States)

· Mr. Frank Koszorus, Jr. National President American Hungarian Federation

· Mr. Tad Stahnke Vice President, Research & Analysis Human Rights First

· Mr. Maximilian Teleki President Hungarian American Coalition

Mr. Koszorus and Mr. Teleki are friends of the Orbán government, Mr. Simonyi and Mr. Stahnke are expected to represent a more critical tone. Mr. Koszorus’s organization is a non-partisan “charitable and educational 501(C)(3) organization representing the interests of its members and the Hungarian-American community.” Incidentally, Mr. Teleki’s Hungarian American Coalition is also a 501(c)(3) outfit “to identify and promote the aspirations, concerns, and interests of the Hungarian-American community.” Mr. Koszorus and Mr. Teleki don’t see eye-to-eye either.

It is worth mentioning, that there are dozens of 501(c)(3) organizations in the US claiming to represent the “interests of the Hungarian-American community.”  They are jockeying for pole position to lobby on behalf of the Orbán government; hoping for power and money.

Colleen Bell, US Ambassador to Hungary and Mr. Koszorus.

Colleen Bell, US Ambassador to Hungary and Mr. Koszorus.

Mr. Koszorus’s outburst is highly unusual, he is attacking his own camp before the congressional hearing. In January he met with Ambassador Colleen Bell and Hungarian Desk Officer Ivan Weinstein at the State Department to review “American/Hungarian bilateral relations” before Ms. Bell took up her post in Budapest. I suspect that he expected to have more say about Hungary’s lobbying strategy in Washington; he demanded more power and influence.

Now, with Mr. Mack in the driving seat, his wings are seriously clipped, and the feisty Mr. Koszorus is not willing to go down without a good fight. He is openly attacking Mr. Orbán’s high paid American lobbyist.

The vicious infighting behind the scenes indicates that Hungary’s Washington diplomacy is in chaos, we are in for more fireworks, Mr. Orbán’s US lobbyists are in an all-out war against each other.

*

Update on the Congressional hearing

As the result of the infighting among Orbán government’s lobbyists in Washington DC, several last minute changes were published on the US Congress website.

The hearing now has two panels with partially new witnesses:

Panel I

Mr. Hoyt Brian Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Panel II

Mr. András Simonyi, Ph.D. Managing Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, (Former Hungarian Ambassador to the United States)

Mr. Kurt Volker, Executive Director, McCain Institute for International Leadership

Mr. Tad Stahnke, Vice President, Research & Analysis, Human Rights First

Mr. Koszorus and Mr. Teleki were removed from the list and Mr. Kurt Volker was added. On a separate panel Mr. Hoyt Brian Yee Deputy Assistant Secretary will voice the Obama administration’s concerns.

Mr. Volker’s addition is very interesting. He knows Hungary, he speaks Hungarian and his boss Republican Senator McCain called Mr. Orbán a “neo-Fascist dictator.” (Read here about Senator McCain’s statement)

To make things more interesting, in 2014 the Hungarian Initiatives Foundation which was set up with generous contributions from the Hungarian government and run by Mr. Tamás Fellegi, a confidant of Mr. Orbán, gave a whopping $125,000 to the McCain Institute. Mr. Volker is running the Institute and he is also a board member of Mr. Fellegi’s foundation. Atlatszo.hu a Hungarian anti-corruption fighting group is investigating Mr. Fellegi’s activities and has raised concerns about his foundation’s finances and donation policies. (Read here atlatszo.hu article in Hungarian)

In 2011 Mr. Volker has received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit from Hungarian President Pál Schmitt and according to the laudation “Hungarian leaders could always count on his help and his benevolent advice.”

Needless to say, this will be a very interesting congressional hearing.

György Lázár

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8 Comments

  1. It is all about the money from the H. government while they discontinued providing free lunches for school kids during the Christmas vacation for “economic reasons”. A $ million monthly for Mack is OK………..

  2. How is it that Orban is funneling public funds for partisan political activities through a think tank? What other organizations is he using to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers money each month to shady people and groups in North America??

  3. Good one. Top 10. Thanks Mr. Lazar.

  4. Avatar Dr. Habil. Andras Fodor says:

    I have to share Mr. Lázár’s article, because this is the only source to learn about this. Mr. Lazar is happy expressing again here his perverse visceral anti-Hungarian feelings, but the facts are interesting.

    Needless to say, that every honest pro-Western Hungarian citizen like Zsolt Németh, Géza Jeszenszky or myself are in solidarity with Ferenc Koszorús Jr., the son of our national hero who used to save the life of thousands of co-patriot Hungarians of Israeli identity.

    Ferenc Koszorús Jr. is right, because this hearing is aiming at to sell the pro-Putyin foreign policy – represented by the Russian-puppet Szijjártó, – to the American public.

    This is a false message from the Hungarian nation and is also a very bad advisement of our government.

  5. Poor György, you must be really depressed after watching the hearing.. Looks like after the provoking reign of Goodfriend the Chargé of the US embassy in Hungary, Hungarian-American relations can normalize again. There is a huge misconception about Hungary in the US, luckily this hearing finally shed some light on the biased reporting which is promoted by opposition news sources not unlike this site. BTW the government has a direct contract with Connie Mack, but a think tank can also be a consultancy at the same time, take some examples from the US

    • You may want to be lied to but I do not! Why should the Hungarian diaspora in the US or Canada be fooled just for the sake of making the Hungarian government look good. I will take the word of my family living there that things are not better for the people even from Kadar times. The Hungarian taxpayer is being fleeced and now you think Hungarians in the US should be fooled? How is this a victory for you? Giving someone more than 2.4 million US dollars to make the Hungarian government look good to US politicians and special interest groups is an investment you think is worthwhile, all the time while cutting back on services in Hungary. Public workers are replacing teachers, nurses etc. for 48,000 HUF per month is appropriate for you? People are not working more yet are paying more and you think this is good as long as Fidesz looks good? The only biased reporting I have read is directly in the Fidesz controlled media.

  6. Pingback: War among Fidesz lobbyists in Washington DC | Washington Informer

  7. Avatar András Gollner says:

    Well said Liz Aucoin. A thorough study is needed of the manner and the magnitude of publicly financed FIDESZ propaganda in North America. This is not country promotion but Party promotion using tax-payers’ money. The objective of the campaign is to deceive the American and Canadian public, to deceive opinion-leaders and policy-makers. The real objective is to divert public attention away from the Orbán regime’s rule of law violations, and mafia-tactics. The more people speak up about this fraudulent practice, the more difficult it will be for Orbán’s spin-doctors to get a bang out of the buck.

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