Legislation seeks to increase lobbyists' regulation

Yesh Atid MK Kol calls for anyone trying to convince MKs of something to be considered lobbyists, increase transparency.

Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Yesh Atid)
Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Yesh Atid)
A bill seeking to define any Knesset visitor with an agenda as a lobbyist is to be brought to a Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote on Sunday.
The proposal, submitted by MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) and cosigned by most of her faction, would increase transparency in lobbyists’ work and make anyone entering the Knesset in to convince MKs of something subject to the laws applying to lobbyists.
Such people include in-house lobbyists, employed by an organization or company as opposed to a lobbying agency; lawyers or accountants representing a company or group in committee meetings; and parties’ central committee members.
The bill expands the application of the Lobbyists’ Law beyond the Knesset, meaning that lobbyists would have to register and identify themselves in parliamentary committee meetings taking place outside the Knesset building.
The legislation is based on a January 2013 report by Israel Democracy Institute on lobbyists.
Kol’s bill would significantly limiting lobbyists’ access to the Knesset and its meetings by taking away their permanent entry identification and requiring them to register with security each time they enter.
Under the bill, lobbyists would be required to report their clients, the issues they deal with and whether they are a candidate for a position through a political party. All of these details would be added to the section on the Knesset website where lobbyists are listed.
Former ministers, MKs and directors-general of ministries would not be able to be lobbyists for at least 18 months after they left their positions. The current law applies only to MKs and ministers, and is only for one year.
Finally, under Kol’s bill, a committee composed of the Knesset Speaker and two of his deputies would be allowed to ban a lobbyist from the Knesset if he breaks the law.
The Lobbyists’ Forum wrote a letter to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni last week, explaining that it supports the bill. Without it, they wrote, “black-market lobbying,” by those who don’t identify themselves as lobbyists, will be allowed to grow in the Knesset.
The forum added that it preferred open, transparent lobbying.
The Progressive Democracy NGO that has tackled the lobbyist issue in recent years called on Saturday night for ministers to vote in favor of Kol’s proposal, even though it id not go far enough.
“In its current version, the ‘Lobbyists’ Bill’ is not a serious tool for fighting the connections between the government and the wealthy,” the NGO said. “In light of this, we are not surprised that the Lobbyists’ Forum supports the bill.”
Still, a Progressive Democracy spokesman expressed hope that the organization would successfully lobby MKs to make more far-reaching changes when the bill was brought to Knesset committees.
On Wednesday, during a Knesset Finance Committee meeting, MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) asked all lobbyists present to identify themselves and their clients. They refused, and left the room.
Shaffir wrote on Facebook that she planned to ask the Knesset House Committee to require all lobbyists to present themselves and who they represent at the start of every committee meeting.