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Polish foundation tied to ruling party ends US PR contract amid backlash over lavish spending

A Polish foundation tied to the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party has ended ties with Ronald Reagan speechwriter Clark Judge‘s PR firm after its lavish spending on the account came under fire.

Judge’s White House Writers Group officially terminated its contract with the Polish National Foundation on April 28, according to the group’s lobbying disclosure for the six months through April. The filing however says the firm did not engage in “any actions or activities on behalf of the” foundation after Dec. 31 but that “due to delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, activities for an orderly and comprehensive conclusion were not completed until April.”

Reached for comment, Judge declined to say why the contract ended or who initiated the termination.

“It is our longstanding policy to leave all public discussion of our relationships with our clients to our clients,” Judge told Foreign Lobby Report. “We continue to have tremendous admiration for our Polish clients. On that, nothing has changed.”

The filing says the group was paid a total of $180,000 in November and December and sought to secure the participation of US Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich at a conference. The filing does not indicate the effort was successful.

The winding up of the Writers Group’s activities came soon after online news portal Onet dug through US lobbying filings and reported that Judge’s firm had received $5.5 million from the Polish National Foundation since 2017 – about the same as the Polish Embassy’s annual budget – for what Politico Europe described as a lackluster social media campaign to boost Poland’s image. The foundation is funded by the country’s leading state-run companies.

The Onet revelations have caused a stir in Poland, with opposition groups accusing the foundation of misusing public funds.

“I was very concerned about Poland, a major NATO ally, being isolated,” Judge told Politico Europe at the time to explain why his company had taken the job. The European Union and other observers have accused the nationalist leadership of President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, both members of the Law and Justice Party, of undermining the rule of law in the country.

The White House Writers Group had no fewer than 10 people registered as foreign agents on the account, its sole foreign client. These include Judge and Anna Chodakiewicz, the sister of Marek Chodakiewicz, whom Politico Europe described as a right-wing Polish-American scholar close to the Polish National Foundation to whom much of the payments to the Writers Group reportedly flowed.

Update: This post was updated at 11:35 a.m. on June 2, 2020 with comment from Clark Judge