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The Knesset 390 (R).(Photo by: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
Rivlin seeks to limit Knesset lobbyists
By LAHAV HARKOV
01/31/2012
Knesset Speaker works to accelerate bill that would stop all gifts to MKs and publicize information disseminated by lobbyists.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin announced on Tuesday that he would work to limit lobbyists’ actions in the Knesset.

Rivlin discussed with 11 out of 17 Knesset committee chairmen the need to establish clear regulations for lobbyists, so that information on how decisions are made in Knesset committees will be more transparent to the public.

The Knesset House Committee is currently working on an overhaul of all Knesset regulations, and changes to the chapter on ethics have been delayed due to disagreements between MKs. Rivlin suggested that regulations for lobbyists be removed from the ethics chapter, so they can be passed separately as soon as possible.

Should the new rules pass, lobbyists will be more limited in their activities. For example, they will not be allowed to ask MKs to commit to voting a certain way in a committee. They cannot give MKs any gifts at all, not even for personal events such as weddings or a child’s bar mitzva. In addition, an MK’s parliamentary assistant may not also work as a lobbyist.

Knesset members will be individually responsible if these rules are broken.

According to the Knesset Speaker, the public’s confidence in the Knesset is at a low, because MKs are accused of being overly connected to “big money.”

“We must distance ourselves as visibly as possible from any harm to the independence of MKs’ judgment,” Rivlin stated.

The committee chairmen and Rivlin also agreed to limit the number of lobbyists in the Knesset, which has gone up to 210 from 50 in 2006.

In addition, any documents given to MKs by lobbyists in relation to a bill in a committee will be publicized on the committee’s page in the Knesset website.

The chairmen at the meeting supported a suggestion by Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, to bolster the Knesset Information and Research Center, which gathers information for MKs.

Organizations and corporations that are wealthy enough to hire lobbyists tend to have an advantage in disseminating information, Orlev explained, whereas the Knesset Information and Research Center is neutral and independent.

At the end of the meeting, Rivlin announced that he intends to gather the committee chairmen again to further discuss the topic of lobbyists.
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