Kurt Volker’s McCain Institute received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Orbán Government

As the Hungarian Free Press reported earlier Ambassador Kurt Volker, US State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, abruptly resigned after the release of the declassified version of the whistleblower complaint. It is suspected that Volker worked with Rudy Giuliani and met with Ukrainian leaders to help “navigate” Trump’s demands for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. As it turns out, his boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also involved. (Read HFP article about Volker’s resignation here.)

Trump pressured the President of Ukraine to investigate former US Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Volker testified before the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees of the US House on October 3.

Kurt Volker is a former CIA agent turned diplomat who served in Budapest between 1994 and 1997. He learned Hungarian and developed close relations with then opposition Viktor Orbán and his circle. Returning to the US he maintained close relations with pro-Orbán émigré organizations and acted as a “soft lobbyist” for the Orbán regime. Volker attempted to tone down increasing US criticisms of Orbán’s authoritarian, racist and anti-Semitic policies.

Volker (right) greets his friend Viktor Orbán and Hungary’s Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi (left)

Volker’s promising diplomatic career was cut short after President Obama removed him as the United States ambassador to NATO. He was close to the late Senator McCain and now serves as executive director of the McCain Institute. Under his tenure the think tank received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Budapest. We estimate that the institute receives $150-200,000 annually, mostly from The Hungarian Initiatives Foundation, a Washington DC-based organization created and funded by the Orbán government.

Official documents indicate the money flow to the McCain Institute

Official documents indicate the money flow to the McCain Institute

Kurt Volker also serves on the board of The Hungarian Initiatives Foundation. This raises the suspicion of conflict of interest since it puts him in the position of approving funds channeled to his own Institute. We don’t know his compensation as a Board Member.

He also received the highest state award from the President of Hungary for his services. In the US, Volker is close with a pro-Orbán organization, the Hungarian American Coalition run by a mother-daughter team, Edith Lauer and Andrea Lauer Rice. Edith Lauer is a fellow board member of The Hungarian Initiatives Foundation.

Kurt Volker frequently attended Hungarian events in the US, here with Eva Voisin, Honorary Consul in San Francisco (left) and Max Teleki of the Hungarian American American Coalition (right)

On May 19, 2015 Volker testified in Hungary’s behalf before the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. The hearing was called by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, an admirer of Orbán, to investigate deteriorating Hungarian democracy, press and religious freedoms. Volker painted a rosy picture.

Here is an excerpt from his testimony:

“I have known the Prime Minister, members of cabinet for 20 years. I have known the opposition leaders, current and former. I have got lots of friends there. Some who are very opposed to the government, some who are very supportive of the government. It is a place full of great people, smart people, people with strong opinions who disagree. People say if you put two Hungarians in a room you get three opinions at least. And that is the nature of Hungary. That makes it a robust democracy with a lot of disagreement. Now, I look at many of the policies that the Prime Minister has undertaken in the course of his time as Prime Minister. I disagree with some of them, as anyone would. I have variously in private conversations described them as arrogant, capricious, self-centered or bone headed. But that doesn’t mean he is tearing up democracy. It means he is a politician, and he is doing what he believes is right, and he has the votes in the country to sustain that. He is a very effective politician, very aggressive—I view him much more like a Chicago politician with a country instead of a city than a dictator or someone who is imposing something on the whole society. Now, that being said, there are important issues in Hungary, and I think that they all deserve discussion and debate.”

Volker was also a senior member of the lobbying firm BRG Group, the firm had contracts is the past to develop strategies to communicate a positive image of the Orbán-regime in the US. (Read Politico’s analysis here.)

György Lázár


  1. Avatar György Lázár says:

    According to media reports Kurt Volker also resigned from his position as executive director of the McCain Institute amid scrutiny over his role in President Trump’s ongoing controversy of his dealings with Ukraine’s government. He is still one of the trustees of The Hungarian Initiatives Foundation. https://www.hungaryfoundation.org/about-us/board-of-trustees/

  2. Avatar Gabriel Farkas says:

    The quoted excerpt from Volker’s testimony does not seem at all rosy to me.

  3. Volker is part of the same crooked yankee carpetbagging brigade as Paul Manafort, George Birnbaum, Arthur J. Finkelstein, Rudy Giuliani, who try to enrich themselves by promoting tolerance in the West towards the crooked authoritarian fraud artists that are popping up everywhere on the former territories of the Soviet Empire like mushrooms on a forrest floor after it has been burnt to the ground.

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