100 Days of Transparency
Forging a New Era for Independent Investigative Journalism through Crowdfunding and Public Participation
What is our objective?
We aim to hold elected officials to new and higher standards of accountability and transparency. We expose Israeli lawmakers’ public and private activities, meetings and expenses. We assess whether they are serving groups whose interests may be at odds with those of the public. We seek to get people more involved in politics, and exert pressure on lawmakers to legislate transparency bills (“sunshine laws”). Ultimately, we hope our project will lead to greater public demand to institutionalize transparency – the best known cure against corruption.
What have we done?
We have raised donations from thousands of supporters to hire private detectives and enlist volunteers to investigate members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, who oppose transparency.
With the money we have raised, we have formed a research team that documents the schedules of specific Knesset members, including meetings with lobbyists and participation in events like private parties of influential people.
Given our limited resources, we can't thoroughly research all 120 Knesset members. We focus only on those who have a history of opposing transparency. We investigation lawmakers no matter their political party or their background – Jewish or Arab, religious, or secular. All public knowledge we acquire is published in Hebrew.
Only legal means are used to gather information, and is no surveillance of lawmakers’ private lives. Our ultimate goal is not a witch-hunt or a reality TV show, but to make clear the public’s demand for transparency from our representatives in the Knesset whose salaries we are paying.
Together with our supporters, we also do other pretty cool projects. We have published photos of lawmakers’ houses (we had an exhibit!), pressured them on a weekly basis to publicize their votes in parliamentary committees, revealed their expenses and exposed their assets.
As of 2016:
- 14 lawmakers from across the political spectrum have revealed their schedules regularly (including the Ministry of Finance)
- Nearly 50% of parliament members said they are willing to publicize their stocks and assets
- 3 ministers began exposing the way they vote, each week, for the first time in history.
- We exposed 15 assets that lawmakers secretly own.
- We assisted 3 police investigations.
- We helped pass legislation to augment supervision on lobbyists (through Lobby 99).
- We published 63 articles, columns and investigative stories (and counting).
- We gave more than 100 interviews in the mainstream media. Here’s one: Interview in ‘Al Monitor’
- We produced 11 satirical video clips about transparency in the decision-making process, to make the topic more accessible
Why is 100 Days of Transparency important?
Knesset members and ministers are not ordinary people. They have access to the most valuable resource of all: policy. Every day, they shape our reality by making thousands of decisions.
But we do not ask almost anything in return, and allow them to make decisions in the dark. Greater transparency minimizes the extent to which narrow interest groups shape the decision-making process. It is the public’s right to know how its representatives’ time is spent and efforts are invested.
After recent elections, candidates promised to increase transparency measures. But soon after, it became clear this was lip service.
Some examples? Elected officials shelved legislation requiring the exposure of their stock portfolios, repeatedly thwarted the implementation of transparency bills (“sunshine laws”) for ministerial votes, and eliminated a proposal to make public their capital statements.
Minister Naftali Bennett and former minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer admitted to using private investigators — Bennett was even fined for it — yet they shelved laws supporting the expansion of lobbyist regulation and the exposure of position papers lobbyists provided them. In a particularly aggressive move, Knesset member David Rotem, the former head of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, killed a proposal for greater transparency in budgets for West Bank settlements.
In the United States, the public can see the full investment portfolio of a vast majority of elected officials, as well as the lists of all those who visit the president at the White House.
In Israel, it is only after information was leaked that we found out the Prime Minister had dinner at his residence with the Israeli business tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva – just days before the Knesset determined the amount of taxes his company owed.
Similarly, it was exposed that Israel’s minister of tourism paid nighttime visits to the home of a woman who received millions in public funds.
Our representatives conduct their business behind closed doors, and information leaked during major events (like the presidential race or a corruption trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert), shows that this is no coincidence. What we do see clearly, though, is where some lawmakers go after they finish their terms: to work for tycoons and lobbyists.
Why did we start this project?
Over the last 11 years as a journalist in Israel, Tomer Avital became frustrated with the increasing politicization of media sources, often funded or run by management devoted to specific interest groups. He wanted to ask people to take matters into their own hands.
We now leverage the power of crowdfunding to tell a different story – one that is not sanctioned by media outlets and the powers that run them. We demand true accountability from the persons and institutions that are meant to serve us.
We stopped accepting “no comment” from politicians. We act year-round. Democracy shouldn't end in the voting booth.
Why do we want to raise money?
The more we raise, the more we will be able to track a greater number of Knesset members for a greater number of days, and promote transparency bills that will render us useless.
Click here to make a donation. (So far we have raised $45,000 USD from 1,600 supporters)
Who are we?
Tomer Avital, founder of 100 Days of Transparency, is an investigative journalist who gave it all up to pursue transparency in the political system. He has also raised funds to support the first-ever public lobbyist (Lobby 99), authored a murder-mystery thriller set inside the Israeli Parliament (“Hamishkan,” published by Am Oved), and produces comedic video clips uncovering the political decision-making process.
Michal Porat, Head of Operations, was an editor at Israel Army Radio and a correspondent at "Live At Night" (“Hai BaLayla”) on Israeli Channel 2. She currently works as a music broadcaster at Eco99FM.
Contact: [email protected]