Is the Hungarian Diaspora Council Orbán’s illegal lobby organization in North America?

On November 30, 2016 the Hungarian Diaspora Council will hold its annual meeting in Budapest at the Parliament building with over 100 invitees. The Council will meet with politicians, among them, leaders of Hungary’s neo-Nazi party, Jobbik. Canadian and US citizens of Hungarian origin may end up meeting with neo-Nazis, some of whom have been expelled from North America! (One example is Mr. László Toroczkai, Vice Chairman of Jobbik who was expelled from Canada in 2008.)

The high point of the gathering is a speech from Prime Minister Viktor Orbán when the carefully selected participants are asked to “defend Hungary from the attacks of the foreign media;” in other words it is expected that they will lobby on behalf of the Orbán government.

It is commendable that the Orbán government maintains contacts with Canadians and Americans of Hungarian origin. At the same time, it is suspected that the Council recruits suitable collaborators to use them as a “Fifth Column,” a possibly illegal lobbying tool in North America.

Canadian members of the Diaspora Council with Parliament Speaker, Mr. László Kövér (with mustache back in the middle), next to him Canadian Council co-chairs Ms. Anna Szenthe and Mr. Tibor Ábrahám.

Canadian members of the Diaspora Council with Parliament Speaker, Mr. László Kövér (with mustache back in the middle), next to him Canadian Council co-chairs Ms. Anna Szenthe and Mr. Tibor Ábrahám.

Consider Ms. Edith Lauer, Chair Emeritus of the Hungarian American Coalition. She is long-time member of the Council and staunch defender the Orbán government. (Read Ms. Lauer’s letter at The Plain Dealer.) This is the kind of loyalty expected from Council members.

Mr. Péter Kovalszki, the past leader of the Hungarian Communion of Friends (Itt-Ott), is also a member of the Council. One of the founders of his group is Mr. András Ludányi, who is on the advisory board of the Budapest-based Veritas Institute. This government-funded institution is working on distorting Hungary WWII history; even the US State Department criticised them in 2015. (read here)

 US members of the Diaspora Council, Mr. Péter Kovalszki (in the middle with red tie) with Ms. Edith Lauer (on his right in red blazer) and Ms. Andrea Lauer Rice (on his left).

US members of the Diaspora Council, Mr. Péter Kovalszki (in the middle with red tie) with Ms. Edith Lauer (on his right in red blazer) and Ms. Andrea Lauer Rice (on his left).

Mr. László Hámos of the New York-based Hungarian Human Rights Foundation is also a Council member. He lobbies on behalf of ethnic Hungarians in Romania. While the Hungarian community has justifiable grievances in Romania, Mr. Hámos’s organization does little to address them, focusing instead on murky real-estate deals. When some ethnic-Hungarian Romanian politicians were accused of real-estate fraud, Mr. Hámos blamed it on discrimination against the entire Hungarian minority of Romania. He went on to question the fairness of Romania’s anti-corruption agency, whose leader Laura Codruța Kövesi has been acknowledged by the US State Department. (read here). (More about Mr. Hámos’ lobbying activities…)

To be fair, several projects of the Hungarian American Coalition deserve praise. For example the Memory Project: the Hungarian American Visual History Archive documents the story of Hungarian immigrants to the US. It is a wonderful initiative yet politics are also present in these efforts. The interviews have ignored historian Charles Gáti who wrote the definitive work on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Mr. Gáti is a critic of the Orbán government.

These pro-Orbán US organizations receive Hungarian taxpayers’ money. The Budapest-based anti-corruption website, atlatszo.hu reported that the Hungarian American Coalition has received $900,000 from the Hungarian Initiatives Foundation which was financed by Budapest. The Hungarian Communion of Friends received funds to develop their website, and Mr. Hámos’s organizaton is the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars for various programs.

None of these organizations have ever disclosed their finances. Not only their finances but most of their activities have remained hidden from the public. As a first step these organizations should disclose their budgets and funding sources.

As far as the upcoming Budapest meeting is concerned, it would be advisable if Canadian and US members of the Hungarian Diaspora Council would skip it. By accepting Mr. Orbán’s invitation they reinforce the suspicion that they act as a paid lobby organization for the Hungarian government in North America.

György Lázár

7 Comments

  1. It is highly unlikely that any members of the Canadian or American Diaspora Council would skip the Budapest meeting, since the trip is a freebee, paid for by Hungarian government, and the Council is nothing more than a cheerleadership for Hungary’s autocratic government. Cheerleaders never miss a game when their team is playing. It’s like asking Steve Bannon to skip a meeting of Trump’s cabinet, where climate change will be officially dismissed as a figment of our imagination, and white supremacists will be declared as the guardian angels of American democracy.

    One has to come here, to find out who are the members of the Hungarian Diaspora’s basket of deplorables. This is where, one can find out who are Mr. Orbán’s irresponsible local enablers, the people who are perpetuating the affinity fraud upon unsuspecting Canadians and Americans. The group photo provided by Mr. Lázár is an excellent beginning. Thank you for shaming and naming these anti-democrats, Mr. Lázár.

  2. Sandor Kerekes says:

    There is no reason then to return that money, because they are, indeed the lobbyists for the Fidesz government. It was painful for me to learn that the Toronto Hungarian House, whereas constantly reminding everyone of their non-political status, spelled out in the bi-Laws, nevertheless have accepted a $600,000 cash infusion from the government. I heard this as a rumour, have not seen proof, but as much as I know the people involved, I would not be surprised if it were true. This particularly irritated me, because I new that the Hungarian House had enough capital and in addition sufficient revenues, not to rely on such dubious largess.

  3. The use, by the Hungarian PMO, of 600,000 dollars of Hungarian taxpayers’ money to generate political capital for Fidesz in Toronto is not a rumor, Mr. Kerekes, but a fact. It has been on the public record for a year.

    It is also a fact, that the Hungarian government used 100,000 dollars of Hungarian taxpayers’ money to buy political leverage for itself with the former Harper government, by supporting one of that government’s pet projects – the monument to the Victims of Communism, in Ottawa. Hungary’s was the single largest donation by any foreign government.

    It is not a rumor but a fact, that the Orbán regime is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to silence critics of its autocratic practices, and to secure favorable „endorsements” from establishment spokespersons, for its rule of law violations and civil rights abuses. The millions spent on the Diaspora Council is similar to the practices used ex-dictator Muammar Gaddafi of Ethiopia, who spent huge amounts on Canadian and Western opinion leaders to promote his „Green Revolution” while ordinary Ethiopians lived in abject misery and oppression.

    After Putin, Orbán is Central-Eastern Europe’s most corrupt autocrat. Those who endorse Orbán’s rule, who remain silent about his abuse of power, should be ashamed of themselves. Those Canadian Jewish business tycoons on Bay Street, who gleefully accept the decorations and awards Orbán heaps upon them, and who profit from Orbán’s favors, should look themselves in the mirror. Their benefactor is responsible for the sharpest rise in racial hatred in Hungary since the early 1920s. Their benefactor is the man, who just awarded one of the highest state awards to a writer, whose entire lifework consists of spreading hatred against the Jews. Instead of serving as his cheerleaders, these Orbán apologists, like Peter Munk, and members of the Diaspora Council ,should join the ranks of Elie Wiesel, Randolph L. Braham, and more than 100 Hungarian artists, businessmen and intellectuals, who all returned their awards to the fraud artist.

  4. A.Göllner
    Some corrections are due:
    – Gaddafi of Lybia
    – Orbán is the most corrupt politician in the whole of Europe (maybe Montenegro, Macedonia excepted) and even in the OECD.
    – Zs.Bayer is not “spreading hatred against the Jews” … only, he is pouring with it against anyone who doesn’t like him, the Jews just enjoy priority.

  5. Libya that is

  6. @ Observer

    You are absolutely right about the Colonel’s homeland. I happened to be listening to Bob Marley on my HI FI, when I wrote that comment. I trust everyone got the message. On the second point – which is the most corrupt regime in Europe – opinions are unevenly split. Orbán is among the top 3, by all accounts. As for Bayer – your effort to trivialize his racism doesn’t cut mustard. He of course is not alone – at least a third of Hungarians, according to the latest polls endorse his hatred of the Jews, and Hungary is the country, Orbán is the regime, under which, or where, anti-Jewish sentiments have accelerated most rapidly in Europe since 2010.

  7. It’s good to point out these connections between the orban gov (small “o” on purpose), but just a comment on the Memory Project:

    1) Does Mr Lazar know for a fact that the memory project interviews are finished?
    2) Does he know of Mr Gàti was approached to be interviewed and if so, is it possible that there has been a conflict of scheduling OR if he did not want to grant an interview?
    3) The discussion and study of 1956 is still pretty recent and is still ongoing as the archives have only been available to the public, among other things, so as much as I respect Mr Gàti, I would not dare say that any research of histry is “definitive”

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