Israel Government Rejects Bill Banning Funding by Lobbyists for Lawmakers

Bill initiated in wake of Haaretz report that Justice Minister Shaked accepted contribution from lobbyist and later advanced his client’s interests.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Emil Salman

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation yesterday unanimously refused to back a bill that would forbid MKs from accepting donations from lobbyists to fund their primary election campaigns.

The committee is headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. In September Haaretz reported that Shaked had helped a lobbyist who later contributed to her primary campaign.

After the vote, the bill’s sponsor, Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union), lashed out at Shaked.

Zionist Union MK Miki Rosenthal, in 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

“Today, during a debate on my bill that lasted 90 seconds, Shaked claimed that ‘there’s no logic to this law,’” Rosenthal wrote on his Facebook page, and referred to the earlier Haaretz report. “During the short time devoted to the debate she didn’t manage to tell the ministers that she herself accepted a contribution from a lobbyist and took steps to advance his client’s interests,” Rosenthal wrote.

The Knesset Ethics Committee prohibits MKs from accepting any gifts from lobbyists, including those intended for family celebrations. “The very fact that a gift is given to an MK by a party with a vested interest (for example, a lobbyist) could possibly convey an expectation of receiving some future benefit,” the committee ruled. But contributing to primary campaigns was never debated by the ethics committee and thus was never forbidden.

“No lobbyist gives out money just like that,” noted Rosenthal. “Even if nothing is explicitly said, it’s natural that the contribution will make it easier for him to ask a favor from that politician in the future.”

Rosenthal submitted his bill after Haaretz reported that Shaked, in 2014, had advanced a bill that served the interests of the Israel Organization of Consulting Engineers and Architects, whose lobbyist, Avraham Poraz, later contributed 10,000 shekels ($2,600) to Shaked’s 2015 primary campaign. Both insisted there was no connection between the bill and the donation.

Poraz, a good friend of Shaked’s father, insisted that that’s why he made the donation to her campaign. “There’s no connection between the donation and the bill,” he said at the time. “She advanced the bill before there were any primaries.”

Shaked’s office said at the time, “Minister Shaked advanced the amendment in question because she was persuaded that it was a good amendment. Poraz is a personal friend of Minister Shaked’s parents, and as such he sought to contribute when she contended in the primaries. The minister checked the matter with the Knesset legal adviser and the ethics committee had never forbidden taking a benefit from a lobbyist in connection with a primary race.”

Before the debate on Rosenthal’s bill, her office said, “Under current law one can get a contribution during an election campaign from anyone of a specified amount, when the donor and the amount of the contribution is transparent to the public.”