Crowdfunded lobbying group working to break up monopolies

Lobby 99 gives members power to chose issues to address.

An empty Knesset Plenum  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An empty Knesset Plenum
The Lobby 99 nonprofit organization, which lobbies for public interest causes, says it is currently fighting import monopolies to lower the cost of living, as well as continuing its efforts to prevent the strengthening of the monopoly over natural gas.
Lobby 99 is a crowd-funded initiative that uses the contributions of its members to lobby in various ways to redress socioeconomic problems facing the country, as determined by its membership.
The organization has successfully lobbied to better regulate the activities of corporate lobbyists, for increased taxes levied on Israel Chemicals Ltd., which extracts minerals from the Dead Sea, and for reforms in the banking sector.
Members of Lobby 99 donate once a month however much they choose, and in return may vote on which socioeconomic issues the organization will tackle. Lobby 99 does not concern itself with political, diplomatic and religious matters.
Currently the nonprofit organization is challenging the domination of the import market by the Schestowitz Company and the Diplomat Group. The former, for example, has more than 50% control of the toothpaste import market, resultant from its status as an exclusive importer of Colgate-Palmolive products. This has greatly increased the price of toothpaste and other toiletry products, contributing to the extremely high cost of living.
Lobby 99 is lobbying for the antitrust commissioner to end Schestowitz’s near-control of the toiletries market, and allow other importers to import products.
It is also fighting a legal battle against the purchase of pipeline infrastructure by Delek Group, which would tighten its control over the natural gas market, where the Israel Electric Corporation already pays an extremely high price for the gas it uses compared to other global markets, thereby significantly increasing consumers’ electricity bills.
Lobby 99 currently has 6,200 members who contribute monthly. Its annual budget for 2020 will be NIS 3.5 million.
The nonprofit organization says it does not take any contributions from companies and corporate interests, and the maximum monthly donation is NIS 1,500.
Members get a chance twice a year to submit suggestions as to what they want Lobby 99 to tackle, and the organization then looks into the suggestions and comes up with a list of what is feasible to do and puts the list to a vote of the entire membership.
The next vote is scheduled for before Passover.
“The fact that for first time there is democratic organization, representing the general public, not dealing only with socioeconomic issues and not with political issues, gives members the power to chose issues to address,” said Lobby 99 CEO Linor Deutsch.
“There is a flaw in democracy because when you have interest groups they will always have greater influence than the unorganized general public, so someone lobbying MKs, ministers and government officials and passing them information has a higher chance for their interests to be addressed than those who do not lobby.
“We are improving democracy and giving a voice to the general public, twice a year, not just once every four years, and we have seen that money from the general public can overcome money from corporate interests in lobbying for the interests of the public.”