Israeli Justice Minister Sponsored Bill Benefiting Lobbyist and Campaign Donor

Ayelet Shaked’s office says politicians are allowed to receive contributions from businessmen for their primary campaigns, so they can certainly accept them from lobbyists representing the businessmen.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Olivier Fitoussi

In 2014, Ayelet Shaked submitted a bill that serves the interests of a professional organization for engineers and architects. A few months later the group’s lobbyist, former Knesset member Avraham Poraz, contributed 10,000 shekels ($2,500) to the primary campaign of the MK for Habayit Hayehudi, who after the 2015 election became justice minister.

Poraz said on Wednesday that he made the donation because of his friendship with Shaked’s father, and that it had nothing to do with the bill.

Poraz is the counsel and registered lobbyist for the Israel Organization of Consulting Engineers and Architects. Founded 30 years ago, the group says it represents over 2,000 firms that employ some 30,000 engineers, architects, practical engineers and administrative staff.

Shaked’s bill, co-sponsored by Yariv Levin (Likud), was submitted in July 2014, during Operation Protective Edge. It would give the organization a seat on the Engineering and Architecture Council, the regulatory body for the field.

The council, which was founded in 1958 law, has included only representatives from an older, rival group, the Association of Engineers, Architects and Graduates of Technological Sciences in Israel, which has nine seats on the council.

The preamble to Shaked’s bill says the newer organization should be represented on the council because independent engineers and architects “have unique positions and interests.”

In October 2014, a different version of the bill was submitted by MK Gila Gamliel (Likud). It would give the newer organization two representatives on the council. The bill was not coordinated with Poraz. Shortly after the bill was submitted, the Knesset was dissolved and new elections were called.

Five months after Shaked submitted her bill, Poraz gave her campaign 10,000 shekels, 1,300 shekels below the maximum allowed contribution for a primary. When asked about it at the time, Poraz said he was “an old family friend,” but made no mention of her help promoting his organization.

Knesset rules prohibit MKs from accepting gifts from lobbyists. The Knesset Ethics Committee has never discussed the issue of donations by lobbyists to primary campaigns, and the practice is not banned.

Shaked, Gamliel and Levin are all cabinet members now, but the bill has not been “orphaned.” MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) resubmitted it, on Poraz’s request. It was passed in the Knesset in a preliminary reading before the summer recess.

In a statement, Shaked’s office said that MKs are allowed to receive contributions from businessmen for their primary campaigns, so they can certainly accept them from lobbyists representing the businessmen.

“More to the point, Mr. Poraz is a personal friend of the minister’s parents, and therefore sought to contribute to her last primary race for Habayit Hayehudi. The minister checked the matter with the Knesset legal adviser, and indeed this was never forbidden by the Knesset Ethics Committee,” the statement said.