Viktor Orbán’s lobbying efforts in Washington: The latest recruit is Jeff Duncan of the Tea Party

Yesterday I mentioned that the Orbán government’s answer to the State Department’s latest salvo was a renewed lobbying effort in Washington. Let me recap first.

Back in May I wrote about Connie Mack’s new job as a well-paid lobbyist for the Hungarian government. At that time the former politician turned lobbyist managed to convince Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, the chairman of one of the subcommittees of the House’s Foreign Relations Committee, to hold a full-fledged hearing on the Hungarian situation. Rohrabacher is perhaps the only member of the U.S. Congress who is an unabashed supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rohrabacher, whose knowledge of Hungary was pretty much what Connie Mack had told him, was helped along by the recently arrived Hungarian ambassador, Réka Szemerkényi, who naturally painted a rosy picture of the democratic paradise called Hungary. Those who were invited to report on the true state of affairs under Viktor Orbán’s governance were not given much credence by the aggressive Rohrabacher. The whole thing was a farce. The Democratic members of the subcommittee were poorly prepared and had no chance against the loud, antagonistic Rohrabacher.

This time Connie Mack couldn’t get a full-fledged hearing on how badly the United States is treating the Hungarian government. He had to settle for a brief encounter between Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Assistant Undersecretary Victoria Nuland, who happened to be a witness at a hearing on Syria. Their exchange of words became the following headline in Magyar Idők: “U.S. Congress: Nuland must take back statements on our homeland.” Of course, that sounds as if a congressional resolution was adopted to force Victoria Nuland to change U.S. policy toward Hungary.

duncan

Just to give you an idea of Nuland’s position in the State Department hierarchy, as assistant undersecretary of state for Europe and Eurasia she is responsible for thirty countries all told, from Albania to the United Kingdom, and therefore she is not directly involved in formulating U.S.-Hungarian policy on a day-to-day basis. Under her there are several deputy assistant undersecretaries who take care of smaller areas. So, when she was confronted by Jeff Duncan about Colleen Bell’s speech, it is not surprising that she was unfamiliar with the final text, although she was fully aware of the general thrust of the message that was delivered by the U.S. ambassador in Budapest. After all, the “non paper” that was presented to the Hungarian government a year ago was handed to Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjártó in Washington by Nuland herself. And, just as Ambassador Bell repeated several times, there was nothing in her speech that the Orbán government didn’t know before.

While discussing the Syrian civil war Duncan began talking about the European migration crisis, and from there it was just a small step to end up in Hungary. Duncan wanted to know: “Why did the ambassador of the United States decide to provoke an attack against Hungary which is a western democracy and a NATO ally?” Nuland, while stressing that she was not familiar with the details of the speech, assured Duncan that the speech “confirmed the support of the United States to a Hungary which will be increasingly democratic.” On the other hand, Washington has misgivings about the Hungarian government’s handling of corruption and its treatment of the media.

Duncan repeated the Orbán government’s argument on sovereignty and undue interference in Hungary’s domestic affairs. Given Duncan’s fiercely anti-immigrant position in this country, he was especially eager to learn whether Colleen Bell had said anything disapprovingly about Viktor Orbán’s fence. As we know, she didn’t. Nuland, however, wasn’t cowed and explained to Duncan that the U.S. government supports a common European policy concerning the migrant crisis and that it is not particularly happy about fences being built at the borders of individual nation states. As for American misgivings, Nuland told Duncan that the United States in the last fifty years has been a steadfast supporter of a democratic and stable Europe. When a country is turning away from democracy and does nothing against corruption, “we will continue to speak about our misgivings.” This was the extent of the exchange, which was jubilantly presented to the Hungarian public by the right-wing press as a victory for Hungary. One new government-sponsored internet site called Duncan’s words to Nuland “a punch in the stomach.”

Finally, a few words on Jeff Duncan. Before he was elected to Congress in 2010 he was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives between 2002 and 2010. According to his official biography, “during his tenure in the South Carolina House of Representatives, Jeff was known as one of the most conservative House Members, earning recognition as a ‘Taxpayer’s Hero.'” In Congress he serves on three different House committees, including the Foreign Affairs Committee. He was also appointed by former Speaker John Boehner to the Executive Committee of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. (Poor Tom Lantos! If he just knew who is serving on a human rights commission named after him.) In addition, he is a member of both the Republican Study Committee and the Tea Party Caucus, but lately over the budget issue he completely split from mainstream Republicans. He advocates an “all-of-the-above” strategy for border enforcement, including physical fencing, greater use of surveillance technology, and increased manpower. He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the country.

Duncan’s interpretation of the recent church shooting that killed nine people in Charleston is telling. In his opinion, the man who obviously attacked the church for racial reasons is only mentally ill. He thinks that “right-wing domestic terrorism is but the figment of the liberal imagination.” This is the kind of person Connie Mack manages to recruit to the cause of Viktor Orbán’s regime.

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Observer
Guest

Dear Eva,

Anything re how much are the lobists paid and from what budget/fund?
They must have some disclosure obligations.
I would like to raise the money issue in Hungary.
Any network, pressure group or like in the US we can join for sending letters, joining action, etc ? Democrats and honest people would probably join in such action.

webber
Guest

Between April and August Connie Mack’s co. got more than $425k from the Hungarian govt. If payments are similar for the whole year, the amount paid out will come to over $1m.

The Magyar Foundation, a separate organization set up for lobbying by A. Finkelstein got more than 600 m. forints, or roughly $2m.

There is also a Hun. govt. lobbying corp. in London called Danube Business Consulting Ltd.

Some details in the article below – though I’m skeptical about some of it because the author has repeatedly demonstrated a deep misunderstanding of conditions outside Hungary:

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/11/09/usa_colleen_bell_magyarorszag_washington_szazadveg_connie_mack_magyar_idok/

Istvan
Guest

The link relating to Rep Duncan was from the left wing of the Democrat Party and it just makes him look like a nut, which he may be, but none the less he is a powerful one. Duncan won re-election to a second term in Congress with 67% of the vote in his district. He was one of the leaders of the Republican faction in the US House that revolted against Speaker Boehner. His power in the Republican controlled House should not be underestimated and his views on immigration are not far from those of several leading Republican candidates for President of the United States.

webber
Guest

If the people in Duncan’s district in S. Carolina found out that he is working for a foreign government, I am quite sure they would vote against him next time around.

Guest

Re: ‘If the people in Duncan’s district in S. Carolina found out that he is working for a foreign government, I am quite sure they would vote against him next time’

If you ask me webber it’ll never happen. Nice state and people down there in SC but I think how can I say it they are far far far from being plugged in to international events and goings on. Very very conservative bunch.

And it’s not a place like Washington where if Putin sneezes somebody somewhere somehow is on to it like white on rice. And I think if you ask about ‘Hungarians’ on the street well they and their land isn’t exactly top’o’mind in the American consciousness.

Viktor doesn’t give a hoot about South Carolinians etc etc he just wants to make sure he’s got a lot of ‘Duncan’s on his political yo-yo around here. Much more ‘efficient’ to sandbag US concerns over the direction of that ‘unknown’ country.

And Mr. Duncan just a feeling on him. I think he’s afraid of Hungary running away into the arms of Vlad as the US challenges. On top of the stalemate in Ukraine he probably doesn’t want another headache.

petofi
Guest

I hope there are some elements in the country keeping track of all the misspent government monies and the principles responsible. There will come a time of accounting…

Zorgas
Guest

According to documents filed in accordance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, (http://www.fara.gov/docs/6259-Supplemental-Statement-20150618-1.pdf) the Hungarian government paid Connie Mack’s lobbying firm, SLI Group LLC, $179,548.57 for the six months ending on April 30, 2015.

webber
Guest

A document in the article by Panyi suggests the figure from April to August is more than $425,000. Article here:
http://index.hu/belfold/2015/11/09/usa_colleen_bell_magyarorszag_washington_szazadveg_connie_mack_magyar_idok/

petofi
Guest

Orban is not buying influence to further the country’s interests: he’s buying contacts for a time in the future when he’ll be on the run…

Member

Similis simili gaudet. No surprise Orban likes this racist teabagger. The way Orban is hiring these bozos is probably like the recruiting scene from the movie Blazing Saddles.

http://youtu.be/hshbq4_OySI

Guest
Orbán is clearly on a winning streak. He is not content to stir it up in the EU and recruit allies in his war against democracy, he is now going further afield and gaining influence amongst the nastiest elements in the USA too. Clever at ferreting out aggressive, violent and downright evil politicians worldwide, these are the only people he can play ball with. What does it say about a man whom decent, progressive leaders want nothing to do with? The EU membership of Hungary has not succeeded in educating or influencing Orbán, and it is most alarming to see that just the reverse is happening. Membership has instead simply given him a larger platform for neo-Nazi style retrograde behaviour and policies which are at variance with all democratic norms and principles. By allowing Hungary to remain in the EU, it is ultmately legitimising his thoroughly undemocratic regime. The conflict of interests between Hungary and the Western world must be a conundrum for the EU, which was not prepared for such a black sheep amongst its flock. That such a small man with such ugly ideas can gain any ground must surely be a cause for concern and must be… Read more »
webber
Guest

“winning streak”
Where?
Buying off “the nastiest elements” is hardly a winning streak. He’s throwing good money after bad, and sadly that money is much needed in Hungary.
According to articles I’ve just read, Orban didn’t even “win” the Croatian elections. The right, who came out ahead in those elections, campaigned on the current govt.’s lousy economic record and didn’t press the refugee issue because most Croats are proud that their government stood up to Orban.
If that analysis is right, Orban will continue to have trouble with Croatia. A r-wing coalition govt. will be no more friendly than the previous one has been.
If that analysis is correct, Orban now has no friends whatsoever in Croatia.
Poland is lost to him (his Russian friendship), and Slovakia… well, better not to go into that.
So, outside Moscow, where is Orban winning?

Guest

He is on a personal “winning streak” by making billions, personally, for his own pockets and for all his friends and family, from the EU. Surely it is clear in my comment that this is something to be condemned!

webber
Guest

Ah – yes, you’re right!

Observer
Guest

Orban “making billions”

The expression has a business connotation, while Orban’s mafia is committing a historical size rip off of the Hungarian state, thinly veiled in instant and ad hoc “laws” passed in contradiction of due process and Parliamentary procedure.
Add the immoral or illegal purposes of such laws.
At the end of the process comes the improper implementation or their wrongful/criminal acts in disregard of their own laws.

None of the above is in any way an exaggeration or turn of speech.

Guest

Yes Observer, I agree completely.

cohort
Guest

From what I gather from public info, Orban is preparing a huge, comprehensive energy deal with Slovakia.

On nol.hu there was a rather long article about Orban preparing a grand bargain with Slovakia (probably involving the Russians to some extent though not overtly).

Hungary would buy into the Slovakian nuclear power station and/or the local equivalent of MVM, Hungary would essentially waive its rights to Gabcikovo (which are due to Hungary as per the 1998 ICJ decision) I suspect also because given Paks 2 the damming of the Danube will be inevitable (and which represents another neverending construction project for cronies) and I guess there will be some other energy related niceties which are not yet public.

Orban is getting along with Fico just fine.

webber
Guest

You might be right. I read that the Bős-Nagymaros dam was on again, too, and that a former Fidesz man is protesting against it. We’ll see where that goes.
In my lifetime I have not seen a single ethnic Slovak politician say as much as one word during a campaign about good relations with Hungary.
I don’t expect the pattern to change much. So much of Slovak national identity seems to be comprised of opposition to Hungary that I cannot imagine a r-wing Slovak politician making friends, while a l-wing one would almost automatically be an enemy of Orban.

Guest

Thank you Webber, and my concern is that the EU, which I believe to be a very good thing despite its imperfections, loses credibility as a bulwark of democracy by allowing Hungary to remain a member.

webber
Guest

I fully agree with that, too! (I just get touchy of someone tells me Orban is a “winner” outside Hungary – sorry about that)

webber
Guest

Differences, differences:
The r-wing party now government Poland “PiS emphasises its desire to strengthen Poland’s special relationship with the United States.”
from the op. ed. piece “Poland need not go the way of Hungary”
http://www.b92.net/eng/insight/opinions.php?yyyy=2015&mm=10&dd=28&nav_id=95862

Guest

Thank you Webber- that is a really good link and I hope others read it.

Suhajda köz 3.
Guest

Orban will finance the campaigns of Republicans who will then support Orban or at least attack the State Department and the Democrats.

If Orban is being attacked by godless Democrats then he will attack back.

Some black dude and his jewish friends at State will never defeat a real winner, certainly not by diplomatic non-papers and suchlike.

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/11/09/usa_colleen_bell_magyarorszag_washington_szazadveg_connie_mack_magyar_idok/

webber
Guest

It’s pathetic if Orban thinks one or junior two Tea Party senators will make any difference at all. Senior Republicans, notably incl. McCain, see Orban as Putin’s mouthpiece.
Hungarian lobbying money is doing one thing effectively, and one thing only: financing Finkelstein.

Fogell
Guest

Funny tidbit.

In the new James Bond movie, SPECTRE there’s a character called Vogel, who speaks in German in the original English language version of the movie.

However, when SPECTRE was dubbed into German the character speaks in Hungarian.

http://www.origo.hu/filmklub/blog/hir/20151108-a-nemetek-magyart-csinaltak-a-nemet-bond-gonoszbol-spectre-brigitte-millar-krista-birkner.html

Istvan
Guest
Rep Jeff Duncan does not have a public persona of being soft on Russia as is evident by this essay written by him in July http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/07/14/duncan-obamas-lifeline-to-communist-cuba-gains-nothing-for-america-or-cubans/ I also did not use the most recent election data for Duncan, in 2014 he got 71.2% of the vote in South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. Orban is very popular on the Tea Party blogs as is evident by this one http://teapartyorg.ning.com/forum/topics/bare-naked-islam-6 So I think Rep Duncan’s pro-Orban talk might in fact be popular in his district for many of the same reasons PM Orban’s anti-Muslim stance is popular in Hungary. As best as I can understand how the Tea Party finds a resolution in its contradiction in relationship to Orban’s gravitation towards Putin and that movement’s hostility toward Putin is as follows: (1) Orban is being propelled into the Putin camp by liberal EU policies that are shared by the Obama administration; (2) the USA needs to embrace Orban’s basic Christian values and reject Merkel’s betrayal of Christian Europe; and (3) if the USA took an aggressive stance against Russian aggression in Ukraine and on a world scale the appeal of Putin as a strong leader for Orban would decline. I personally have… Read more »
webber
Guest

I maintain that the moment anyone points out that Rep. Duncan is taking money from a foreign state -, whose leader moreover backs Putin and who has nationalized industries and personal pension funds (“communized” them in pop. understanding) – at that very moment Duncan will either distance himself from Orban and Hungary, or Duncan’s supporters will back away from him.

Tea Party supporters are not great fans of socialism, or of foreign engagements. That goes double for people in the old South.

If I were advising Rep. Duncan’s opponent in the next election, I would advise that person to talk a lot about the support Duncan has gotten to lobby for Hungary. Without saying it, every voter will understand that Duncan is a “foreign agent.”

Istvan
Guest

I don’t see any direct contributions going to Rep Duncan from Connie Mack’s Freedom PAC, but he did give individual contributions during the last electoral cycle. But it would be impossible to claim Rep Duncan took money from the Hungarian government, there is a massive amount of public data on Rep Duncan’s electoral finances see https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00030752 I do not believe such a claim of direct funding by a foreign government can be proved in the case of Rep Ducan.

webber
Guest

Istvan,

I don’t believe Duncan woke up one Sunday morning to Archangel Gabriel announcing to him, personally, that Orban is the savior of the Western World.

I also don’t believe the Republican voters of S. Carolina spend much time thinking about how to help Orban. I’d bet most of them don’t even know who he is.

Since I rule out those possibilities, the third one, which I suggested already, seems most likely.

Try looking at donations made by Finkelstein’s corporations.

I bet a year ago Duncan couldn’t have pointed to Hungary on a map if the Archangel himself had asked him to.

webber
Guest

comment image

Istvan
Guest

Indirect contributions generally are very difficult to create ties to link to a foreign government. Since Duncan is a born again Baptist, the Duncan family are members of First Baptist Church of Clinton, South Carolina. I would suggest he just likes Orban’s claims of protecting Christandom from the Islamic hordes. He also has the ideological protection of being co-chairman of the Sovereignty Caucus along with Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn. The Caucus seeks to combat the influence of international organizations and multilateral agreements on United States policy.

Member

Trump should know about it. LOL he would whip him. As annoying as he is (Trump) he is no fan of the Russians.

bimbi
Guest

Maybe Mr. Orban would do better to spend his/our money on buying drugs from the same supplier as Mr. Putin’s compatriots on the athletic circuits. Might just help Magyarorszag notch up a few wins on the soccer pitches of Europe. Now that would really make an impression!

christ2015
Guest

I have heard enough of the crimes committed by the Orban regime.

Let us hear reports on the activities of the people who can save Hungary.

Member

OT: Last night about 10:00pm Eastern North America, 4:00am Hungary, the server (data connection) kept coming up and down for Hungarian Spectrum. There were no outages reported on the main server (I’ve contacted them). Did anyone else experience any issues yesterday or today (even once)? (Outages, redirects, data connection, etc.) Please reply on this thread asap if you did, and let me know in a few words what did you experience.

Warf
Guest

Most probably the servers were hacked by Hungarian and/or Russian KGB-type people.

Margot
Guest

Some1,
Error establishing a database connection. This was yesterday night at about 9.30, when I tried again at 10.00, connection was fine.

Member

Thanks!

RealityCheck
Guest

Eva said “I’m glad that Hungarian Spectrum comes up first when searching for Tea Party and Hungary.”

Since Tea Partiers (TP) will visit this post, perhaps we should start a list of all the ways the OV regime is counter to TPers values.

1) We could start with the centralization of control of school curriculums and systems.

2) The re-socialization of the energy industry.

3) Please continue to add to the list.

Observer
Guest

OMG, it’s a long lit. I will try to find some material in English, but it will be easier if you accept that the regime is a dictatorship light, as a political strcture closest to the Italian fascism, with some fig leaves, but corrupt, at government levels, as a banana republic of the 50s.

petofi
Guest

Viktor and the American agents.

There are few, if any, American supporters of Putin and the boiler-room-basement-brigade known as the KGB. Once the bosom-buddy connections between Viktor and Vladimir are detailed, I don’t think too many Americans will stomach their rep moonlighting for the likes of the great O. Mind you, if the local rep(s) get their gullet stuffed offshore…all the less he/they need steal at home. (But that might be optimism beyond the stretch of reality.)

Istvan
Guest

For those that read Hungarian or English we have this very interesting news http://hvg.hu/vilag/20151109_Soros_Gyorgy_Szoges_ellentetben_Orban_Vik or http://blogs.wsj.com/dispatch/2015/11/08/george-soros-calls-for-cooperation-in-europe-on-migrant-crisis/ Apparently George Soros was in Turkey over the weekend where among many things he is reported to have said “I am against mandatory quotas.” (“Ellenzem a kötelező kvótákat”) In the English discussion the Wall Street Journal reports his comment as follows:
How about agreeing on EU members to accept refugees under a burden-sharing plan?

Soros: “I’m opposed to compulsory quotas—they don’t work and they contravene the legal framework of the European Union and the international convention on refugees. There are many countries in European Union that are not willing to accept voluntarily.”

You can be a controversial figure, is Open Society’s involvement undermining your work on refugees?

Soros: “My own and the Foundation’s principles are not generally accepted, and we have many people opposed to us. But we stand by our principles. We are actively engaged with everyone, particularly in my native Hungary, where our approach is in direct opposition to the one advocated by the current prime minister, Viktor Orban, he is currently engaged in attacking my views.”
Well PM Orban and Soros agree on one thing they are opposed to mandatory quotas.

petofi
Guest

Yes, mandatory quotas are a bad joke.

(One can’t help but agree on certain aspects of EU policy with the great O; but then again, it seems that EU policy was originally written on bar napkins…)

Istvan
Guest

petofi you are in good company of those who feel the EU asylum rules were poorly thought out and never contemplated a mass situation Europe is faced with today.

spectator
Guest
“Well PM Orban and Soros agree on one thing they are opposed to mandatory quotas.” How nice! Perhaps they both like their martinis stirred too..! Nevertheless, I highly doubt that they oppose the quotas from the very same reason, based on the very same principles, I dare say. Otherwise since there isn’t any intention from Orbán’s side to receive any people on voluntary basis, there isn’t any other way, is there? They are just keep coming. What I don’t really understand, why isn’t some kind of joint ‘screening stations’ say, in Turkey, where the preliminary evaluations could be made, and the rightfully qualified ‘refugees’ could have travel legally, directly to the receiving countries – without the nightmarish journeys of the present? In my opinion it would have been much easier to everyone involved. Of course, it wouldn’t stop all from trying to pass through somehow, but as soon as there is a legal way it would certainly lessen the burden of managing unpredictable numbers in the thousands on daily basis. I don’t know of if something similar have been tried and proven useless, but if it isn’t, maybe it would be high time! But, of course it would only work… Read more »
petofi
Guest

re: sharing the burden

If I remember correctly, during the 1st Gulf War, Japan was expected to carry a considerable cost of the ally’s war on Sadam.

Now there’s an idea: if the Middle Eastern states like Dubai/Qatar/Saudi Arabia are not willing to accept migrants, then they should be leaned upon to carry the major share of the financial burden of re-locating migrants in Europe. And I mean something to the tune of 50-100 billion euros…

spectator
Guest

I have no objection, none!
However, here is the problem now, and it needs to be solved in real life, not only in our imagination.
Otherwise to me totally irrelevant where those people coming from and what do they have for ethnicity, religion or color, I stopped right after the “human being” part confirmed that indeed, those are all fellow humans.
(OK, I made some allowances: there was a cat and a dog too, according to some broadcast, but hey, we have to compensate for the souls lost to Viktor somehow..!)

petofi
Guest

Pin the above idea on the EU bulletin board and I’d wager that Viktor will discover a new-found love and potential in the woebegone migrants…

spectator
Guest

Honestly, darling, I don’t give a flying hm.. consideration, whether or not Viktor loves it, you better believe me 🙂

I am pretty sure that if people would have a real chance to the legal way, it would make the whole situation much more manageable.
For one, there would be a clear distinction who’s the ‘illegal’, the masses wandering around would be mostly eliminated, so the atrocities around the borders and so on.

The UN and/or Red Cross used to work this way – people who fled originally from Iraq managed to get outl from a Jordanian refugee camp by applying there for their special visas to travel. Nothing new here, that’s why it hard to believe that it has to be reinvented.

The whole situation remind me to when someone scared of something, or in a really bad situation, and all he/she does, close his/her eyes and wish that the whole thing just go away as nothing happened, and surprised when it isn’t.

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