Hungarian nonprofit paid American lobbyists to promote Orbán government

December 14. 2023. – 04:13 PM



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The Hungarian government has paid millions of forints (tens of thousands of dollars) to three right-wing lobbyists in the US through the Lajos Batthyány Foundation (BLA) in exchange for painting a positive image of the Orbán government's policies in their articles, according to a US human rights group.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) mentions 13 contracts with conservative activist Christopher Rufo, right-wing writer Michael O'Shea and Jeremy Carl, a senior fellow at the conservative think tank Claremont Institute, requiring that they write positive articles in the US media about the Orbán government and its actions, presenting them as an example to the American right.

The SPLC obtained the contracts, which revealed, among other things, that Christopher Rufo received $35,000 (HUF 12.41 million) from the BLA during a three-week study trip to Hungary. As stated in the contracts, the work of the three US lobbyists is not limited to research, but also includes advocacy in domestic political circles in the US as well as networking.

According to the SPLC, under US law, the three lobbyists are expected to register as foreign agents.

The Hungarian investigative news portal Átlátszó also obtained the contracts, and found that the Danube Institute, which is funded by the Lajos Batthyány Foundation, also paid millions to the US public figures last year.

The Lajos Batthyány Foundation, which has been operating since 1991, was transformed by the Hungarian government into a public interest trust three years ago, at which time it also received a capital injection so it would meet the minimum capital requirement for trusts. This was the foundation that gave two billion forints (a bit over 5 million euros) to the Centre for Fundamental Rights.

Earlier this week, the Guardian had reported that Viktor Orbán's allies will be holding a closed-door meeting with Republicans in Washington to push for an end to US military aid to Ukraine. The paper notes that members of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs – before whom Orbán gave a speech just last week – and staff from the Hungarian embassy in Washington will be in attendance at the two-day event hosted by the conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation.

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