More and more private companies are paying people to represent their interests in the Knesset.
A report published by the nonprofit Association for Progressive Democracy found that the number of companies and other clients who employ lobbyists rose by 435% between 2008 and 2012.
In July 2008, lobbyists were on the payroll of some 200 firms; as of last month that number had grown to 867 firms, according to the report.
Not only has the number of clients risen in recent years, there are also a lot more lobbyists out there. Whereas there were 46 registered lobbyists in 2006, there were 236 in 2012, a 500% increase. Since 2008, lobbyists have been legally required to register in order to operate in the Knesset.
In total, 27 lobbying firms operate in the Knesset; the five largest ones represent over half the country's clients. They are: Boris Krasny's Policy, Goren-Amir Consultants, Impact, Nir Kleiner and Gilad Government Relations & Lobbying.
There are 85 salaried lobbyists in the Knesset who are employed full time by these and other companies. They represent 584 customers, two-thirds of the total clients.
Another 31 work for themselves, and 122 are "temporary" lobbyists, a group that includes lawyers and others not employed full time as lobbyists. They work for a total of 112 clients.
The Association for Progressive Democracy is dedicated to removing lobbyists from the Knesset, because, according to director general Shabi Gatenio, lobbyists "are intended to professionally advance the narrow interests of their clients 24 hours a day. Allowing their constant activities in the Knesset continually discriminates against the interests of every citizen who does not have the means to hire their services."
In order to fight the existence of lobbyists, the organization runs a project to reveal their activities to the public. As part of that effort, they publish "A Guide to the Lobbyists' Galaxy," a report that lists the lobbyists who work in the Knesset, the names of their clients and information on the laws and regulations relating to lobbying."
Gatenio said there has been a "dramatic change" in the industry since 2008, when the three biggest firms at the time - Gilad, Policy and Goren-Amir - represented some 85% of the 200 lobbying clients. Although the number of clients they represent grew since then, their share dropped to only 30% of the total clients in 2012.
"In 2008 the rest of the lobbying firms and private lobbyists made due with representing only 29 clients, some 15% of all those represented in the Knesset. In 2012 the rest of the lobbying firms and private lobbyists represented 611 clients. This is a 2,100% increase in four years," he said.
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