Politicians tackle lobbyist controversy in government negotiations

One adviser has already stepped down, while others say there's no conflict of interest between their work for lobbyists, and during political negotiations.

File picture showing exterior of the House of the Estates in Helsinki / Credit: News Now Finland

The second week of government negotiations is underway, as political party representatives meet at the House of the Estates in Helsinki to hammer out policy positions for the future coalition government.

However there’s some controversy around the negotiations as it emerged over the weekend that a few members of the negotiation teams were also on the payroll of lobbying companies, leading to questions in the media and from opposition MPs about their impartiality, and the influence of lobbyists in formulating government policy.

The Greens Elina Moisio said she was stepping down from her role in the negotiations after it became clear she was still employed by Miltton, a Helsinki-based consulting company.

“I feel that my role in government negotiations and my professional position is not subject to a conflict of interest” said Moisio in a statement.

Although Moisio is not a member of parliament, she is a policy adviser on topics like family leave.

Two other political operators Marcus Rantala (SFP) and Matias Mäkynen (SDP) are both involved in the ongoing negotiations and work for another public affairs agency Rud Petersen.

Although these public affairs agencies have many clients, Miltton and Rud Petersen represent two different aerospace firms, both hoping to win multi-billion euro contracts to replace Finland’s fighter fleet.

File picture showing detail outside House of the Estates in Helsinki / Credit: News Now Finland

Reaction from party leaders

Swedish People’s Party chair Anna-Maja Henrikkson says that Marcus Rantala, who was previously an adviser to the Minister of Defence, might not even visit the House of the Estates during the negotiations. Rantala himself told journalists he sees no conflict of interest.

Social Democrat leader Antti Rinne, who is looking to become Finland’s next Prime Minister, says he doesn’t see any indications of influence from people who work for communications agencies.

In addition, there’s more than a dozen representatives involved in the negotiations who also hold positions on boards of foundations, with trade unions and private industry.

Green party leader Pekka Haavisto has long called for a register of interests at parliament which would encompass the activities of lobbyists.

Miltton’s recently-appointed Managing Director Stefan Wallin, himself a former Swedish People’s Party leader and defence minister, says he doesn’t see any obstacles to his staff taking part in the negotiations, but ultimately it’s a matter for the political parties themselves to decide.