Hungary’s quiet Democratic lobby
The Hungarian government — known for its links to the Trump administration and conservative supporters — quietly began working late last year with a powerhouse public affairs shop stacked with Democratic talent, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: A spokesperson for the lobbying and PR shop, Actum, told Axios on Friday that the agreement has been terminated. Though short-lived, the relationship shows Hungary is trying to build inroads with a U.S. political party wary of right-wing leader, Viktor Orban.
- The Actum spokesperson declined to discuss the reasons but said the agreement had been terminated at the end of 2021 and will not be renewed.
- That termination was not reflected in Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings as of Friday.
Details: Actum boasts executives from both parties but its roster leans heavily Democratic.
- Its ranks had included former Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as Mick Mulvaney, the former Republican congressman from South Carolina who served as a chief of staff to former President Donald Trump.
- But on Friday, Heitkamp abruptly announced her resignation citing "potential conflicats of interest with Actum and my continued advocacy and nonprofit work."
Behind the scenes: In November, the Hungarian embassy inked the deal with an obscure Delaware company called IGG, LLC. It came as Orban's government mounted a far more visible influence campaign aimed at U.S. conservatives.
- Buried in FARA paperwork is a line noting IGG, LLC, is wholly owned by Actum, which was formed late last year by executives who defected from a K Street mainstay, Mercury Public Affairs.
- Two Actum partners were working on the Hungary account: former British diplomat George Tucker and Duncan McFetridge, a former aide to California assemblyman Jack Scott and state treasurer Phil Angelides — both Democrats.
- Hungary agreed to pay IGG $9,500 per month for marketing and communications services, and $235,000 per month for "legal strategy consulting."
IGG is the brainchild of Actum partner Morris Reid, a former Clinton fundraiser and senior administration official, according to a spokesperson for the firm.
- "Morris has a very long history of interest, passion and work in international affairs," the Actum spokesperson said.
- It was not clear whether IGG has any additional clients. The spokesperson said the firm will register them where required.
The big picture: Hungary has successfully ingratiated itself with the American right.
- Trump officially endorsed Orban's re-election bid this month.
- Fox News primetime host Tucker Carlson has aired his show from Budapest and is planning a return trip.
- The American Conservative Union is hosting a satellite Conservative Political Action Conference in Hungary this year.
Orban's government has had a harder time winning over Democrats in Washington.
- When the White House organized a "Summit for Democracy" last year, it invited every European Union member but Hungary.
- During the 2020 presidential race, the Biden campaign distanced itself from Max Teleki, the head of an informal coalition of pro-Biden Hungarian Americans.
- According to the New York Times, the Biden camp cited reports of Teleki's ties to Orban and his political party.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the agreement has been terminated, according to an Actum spokesperson who earlier described the agreement as active.