Activists Turn to Crowdfunding to Fund Knesset Lobbyist

Lobby 99 wants lobbyist to ‘fight only for the public interest,’ has raised more than half of $18,600 target in three days.

Oded Yaron
Oded Yaron
The Lobby 99 page on the Headstart website.
The Lobby 99 page on the Headstart website.Credit: Screengrab
Oded Yaron
Oded Yaron

A new project is using crowdfunding to take on giant corporations and power brokers at their own game. Lobby 99, which was launched earlier this week on the Israeli Headstart website, is seeking funds so it can hire a Knesset lobbyist who will fight only for the public interest.

As of Thursday morning, the project had raised 56 percent of its target 70,000 shekels ($18,600), with more than 260 backers. The minimum contribution is 50 shekels.

The project was launched by a group of 30 or so activists, who are trying to counterbalance the dozens of lobbyists currently operating in the Knesset. The project is led by Yair Fink, formerly head of MK Shelly Yacimovich’s primaries campaign and an activist in several social campaigns. He has received the support of journalists like Orly Vilnai, Haaretz Deputy Publisher Guy Rolnik and Tomer Avital, who labels himself “a journalist for the public.”

Fink said his stint with Yacimovich (formerly head of the Labor Party, now Zionist Union) provided the impetus for the new initiative. “I got to know the power that capital and lobbyists have on elected officials,” he said.

“I call it a kind of connecting line that links capital and government, and I wanted to set up a connecting line between the public and the government,” he explained. “It’s true that once every two or four years they want us all, but then in the Knesset Finance Committee’s debate on Monday morning, the public interest doesn’t really engage all the MKs.”

Fink noted that some MKs are very active, but cited the silence of 70-80 MKs on the gas issue, in which the government is currently trying to reach an agreement with the two companies operating the offshore natural gas monopoly.

“Maybe they’re hoarse, or maybe there are lobbyists who worked to keep them quiet,” he said. The first goal is to recruit a “lobbyist with a knife between his teeth to work for us,” Fink added.

But the long-term plan is much more ambitious. “If the pilot works, we want to set up a company for the public benefit to continue the enterprise and employ lobbyists in a broader way,” said Fink. “Obviously, it won’t be easy to deal with dozens and hundreds of lobbyists in the Knesset who are influencing ministers and decision makers,” he added.

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