Last week, a group of prominent think tank representatives circulated an open letter to the government of Hungary about legislative measures under consideration in the parliament to increase transparency of NGOs receiving international funding. I wrote a response on my blog last week pushing back, explaining that this is not a “crackdown” as they claim but about a move to increase transparency of groups active in Hungary’s domestic politics.
Now, one of the co-signers of the open letter has responded to my response. This is all getting a little silly, so I’ll be brief:
The government of Hungary drew a comparison to the U.S. law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (also known as FARA). That law basically says that if you’re acting on behalf of a foreign interest, then you’re required to declare that, identifying the foreign entity and the value of your contract. It requires transparency.
In this latest response from our expert critics, we’re told that FARA isn’t a good comparison and we’re treated to a mini-lecture about what FARA really means. FARA, you see, applies to organizations involved in “political or quasi-political” activities.
Bingo. That’s exactly what we’re talking about: organizations using foreign funding to engage in political or quasi-political activities in Hungary.
As I wrote in my post, we’ve had a number of examples, including foreign support for a political movement prior to the last elections. And we’re not the only ones who see George Soros funding meddling in domestic politics. POLITICO Europe described Soros as “pushing an anti-Orbán agenda”. Members of the US Senate have even asked Secretary of State Tillerson to investigate claims of political meddling overseas.
To the author of this latest response: If you think any government in the world, faced with these facts, would not call for greater transparency in civil society but instead simply stand by while foreign interests fund so-called civic groups to push an openly political agenda, then you’re spending too much time behind the walls of that think tank. Time to get out in the real world.