Lobbyist transparency bill passes into law

Attendees at Knesset meetings who fail to report the companies they are representing could face sanctions

Knesset House Committee Chairman David Bitan speaks at a committee meeting October 26, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Knesset House Committee Chairman David Bitan speaks at a committee meeting October 26, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Knesset on Tuesday night passed into law legislation that requires lobbyists to come clean about the companies they are representing in committee meetings, even those held outside the parliament.

The law, proposed by Likud’s David Bitan, was approved in its second and third readings with 10 lawmakers in favor, and none opposed.

The law also imposes a six-month waiting period on former parliamentary aides in the Knesset before they can be hired as lobbyists. It also mandates lobbyists to register as such in the committee minutes. Representatives who fail to acknowledge the companies who hired them could face sanctions.

“Whenever a lobbyist will turn to a MK, Knesset employee, or parliamentary adviser, he must say who he is representing, so that the interests are clear,” Bitan said. “There are many parliamentary aids who switch to work as lobbyists and we thought it appropriate that there would be a waiting period.”

The bill came as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was working to advance controversial legislation that would require non-governmental organizations to report their funding from foreign governments.

Shaked’s bill would require NGOs that receive a majority of their support from “foreign political entities” to declare that funding and detail it every time they put out a report or speak with a public official. An earlier draft of the law would have required representatives of such groups to wear badges identifying themselves as lobbyists of foreign governments.

The bill would have NGO representatives wear a tag similar to those worn by lobbyists — or face a NIS 29,000 ($7,500) fine.

The NGOs affected by the bill have decried the measure as an attempt to silence opponents in Israel of the government’s policies. They say by singling out foreign government funding, which goes mostly to left-wing groups, the bill ignores foreign funding of right-wing groups by private donors.

JTA contributed to this report.

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