'Lobbying reform law will be passed in next Knesset'

Knesset Speaker Rivlin accepts the Israel Democracy Institute’s position paper regarding regulating lobbyists in Knesset.

Likud MK Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Likud MK Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin committed to regulating the activities of lobbyists in the Knesset, accepting the Israel Democracy Institute’s position paper on the issue on Thursday.
Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer presented Rivlin with the IDI’s recommendations including amending the Lobbyist Law so that breaking it is a criminal offense, regulating lobbyists’ connections with the Knesset and its committees and requiring lobbyists to submit yearly reports of their activities.
“The Knesset is not trying to wipe out the profession of lobbying, but regulate its work with decision makers,” Rivlin explained. “Balanced, organized lobbying is legitimate and even welcome in a parliamentary democracy.”
However, the Knesset speaker said, any hint that MKs’ independent judgment could be harmed must be removed, to avoid accusations of connections between wealth and government, which lead the public not to trust the Knesset and MKs.
Rivlin said that the IDI report will be brought to a vote as a bill in the next Knesset.
“The Knesset sees lobbying as a positive thing when it exposes MKs to information they cannot access easily and clarifies the different effects of laws and improves discussion,” Rivlin said.
“But the Knesset will fight lobbying that tries to threaten MKs, puts an emphasis on relations with the rich, and ‘black’ lobbying, which is not legitimate, but unfortunately, not illegal.”
Other recommendations include forbidding MKs to speak to lobbyists during committee meetings and votes and requiring lobbyists to sign an ethical agreement before being allowed into the Knesset, as well as requiring other people who enter the Knesset to commit that they will not lobby MKs.
Rivlin called the lobbyists’ ethical code a positive step, adding that each lobbyist will be personally responsible to follow it.
The Forum for Government Connections, which consists of most Israeli lobbying firms, released the ethical code in May after a series of meetings in which lobbyists discussed the proper way to work with elected officials and government bureaucrats.
The code is based on those of the Association of Accredited Lobbyists to the European Union and the American League of Lobbyists, two of the strictest lobbying groups in the world, according to the Forum.
Lobbyists have faced increased scrutiny and criticism since February, when Channel 2 investigative program Uvda broadcast a report which used hidden cameras to expose employees of Gilad Lobbying bragging about manipulating MKs and the Knesset Center for Research and Information to increase their clients’ revenues.
Gilad Lobbying was not included in the process of writing the ethical code.