Europe, Image makeovers, New in Lobbying

Hungary drops firm that connected right-wing government to Trump base

Hungary has ended ties with a Washington lobby firm that helped connect the country’s right-wing government with conservative US audiences.

Policy Impact Communications‘ contract with the central European nation’s US embassy ended on Dec. 15, according to a newly disclosed lobbying filing. The firm was hired in October 2018 as Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s government sought to end its years-long Washington blacklisting over its anti-immigrant policies and authoritarian tendencies.

The firm founded by former Ronald Reagan administration speechwriter Bill Nixon notably helped score an interview for Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Fox News personality Tucker Carlson‘s show in February 2019. During the segment Szijjarto defended his country’s decision to challenge the European Union on migration by framing the issue as a pro-family policy to help native Hungarian families afford to have more children.

Three months later, Orban finally scored a White House visit. He was the only European leader to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2016.

“I don’t think the importance of this meeting can be overstated,” Nixon told Politico at the time. “Coming after eight years of being largely ignored by the Obama administration, it is a welcome change.”

In the months before Orban’s visit, Nixon’s firm also disclosed work on a “possible congressional delegation to Hungary” and outreach to the Senate regarding “possible visa options for Hungarian citizens.” A more recent filing for the six months through October 2019 indicates Nixon’s firm also “provided logistical support for the Government of Hungary’s event on the family and a breakfast, both held in Washington, DC.”

The firm’s lobbying filings however don’t provide any more information about who it met with. Policy Impact Communications did not respond to a request for comment. In all it reported $265,000 in payments from the Hungarian government.

Three other firms are still registered as foreign agents for Hungary: Barnes & Thornburg, Interlink Capitol Strategies and Triconsultants. The latter was hired last year to counter accusations that Orban is an anti-Semite, according to the Daily Beast.