Tamás Fellegi, Hungary’s former minister of national development and IMF negotiator, has become the chief lobbyist in the United States for the administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán despite simultaneously heading a US foundation which claims its leadership is independent of the Hungarian government, Politics.hu has learned.
According to this document filed with the US Justice Department, EuroAtlantic Solutions, a firm that Fellegi heads, last month became lead partner in a consortium with DC public relations firm Prime Policy Group to lobby on behalf of the office of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
The filing says that the Hungarian government is paying the consortium to build and develop contacts in “Congress, the Executive Branch, think tanks, investment community, the Jewish community, and the Hungarian-American community.” The consortium will also aim to “inform US opinion leaders of events and policies related to Hungary.”
At the same time, Fellegi serves as president and CEO of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation (HIF), a US non-profit recently set up with millions of dollars of funding from the Hungarian government.
On its website, the HIF claims that it “does not participate in any ways in political activities” and that the members of its board of trustees are “are personally and financially independent of the Hungarian Government.”
In addition to his role as president and CEO of the HIF, Fellegi is a member of its board of trustees, which is chaired by former US ambassador to Hungary April H. Foley and includes a “bi-partisan” mix of luminaries, including former Republican New York State Governor George Pataki and Katrina Lantos Swett, the daughter of the late Tom Lantos, a prominent Democratic Congressman.
While EuroAtlantic Solutions has only now registered as the official lobby arm of the Hungarian government, Fellegi has been actively promoting the current Hungarian government in Washington for some time. According to this document uploaded to the official government portal kormany.hu, in November 2012 the Hungarian government sent Fellegi to Washington to observe the US Presidential elections and represent Hungarian interests. This past February, Fellegi was invited to testify personally before a Congressional subcommittee regarding anti-Semitism in Hungary; he made news in the US press when Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey decided to issue a statement defending the Fidesz government in March, and one of the Representative’s senior staffers immediately forwarded the statement to Fellegi himself by email.
When he left government service, Fellegi was originally designated as the head of Friends of Hungary, a non-profit organization whose aim would have been to promote Hungary’s image abroad. Although the Fidesz government allocated nearly $20 million for the foundation of Friends of Hungary, the organization never materialized. Instead, the government created the HIF. (In response to a question from a Socialist member of parliament in July, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén wrote that the Hungarian government will be providing the HIF with initial financing of $15 million.)
Government records also show that Fellegi was personally paid at least 18.6 million forints (about $85,000) since the beginning of 2013 for setting up the Foundation. Public data filed regarding his H1B Visa application suggest that his annual salary at the new organization is $155,085.
The lobbying registration documents list Fellegi and another EuroAtlantic partner, Gábor Róna, as the legal representatives of the consortium. According to the EuroAtlantic website, Róna is a political scientist and longtime corporate communications specialist who was once secretary of the Council of Europe’s program against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Another of the firm’s four partners is Péter Heltai, a Hungarian born in Romania who in 2011 was reported to be a one-time informer for the Securitate, Romania’s communist-era security services.
Prime Policy Group bills itself as “Washington’s premier global public policy and government affairs firm.” Its president and CEO, who is listed as the authorized representative on the official filing, is R. Scott Pastrick. While Pastrick is closely affiliated with the US Democratic party, the company’s chairman, Charles R. “Charlie” Black, is one of the Republican party’s best-known political strategists, having served as an advisor to and spokesman for the last three Republican presidents.
Foreign governments wishing to fund organizations in the US must generally register these bodies as “foreign agents” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA). Once registered, firms providing lobbying services to foreign governments must submit regular reports regarding political meetings and other activities conducted on behalf of the foreign entity. Recently, some governments have discovered a loophole in the law and now set up domestic foundations in the US which require less disclosure.
Fellegi’s lobbying activities through EuroAtlantic Solutions and partner firm Prime Policy Group are now registered under FARA. The Hungary Initiatives Foundation, however, despite its foreign government funding and Fellegi’s dual role, apparently continues to seek approval as a tax-exempt non-profit and thus is not subject to the same oversight as organizations formally representing the Hungarian government in the US.
Neither Fellegi nor Foley responded to emails sent early Tuesday requesting comment for this story.