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Undue influence Kazakh lobbyist denies lack of transparency

Lobbying is recognised as a legitimate effort to influence the legislative process


Under the scanner for allegedly trying to influence a Swiss parliamentarian to serve Kazakhstan interests, lobbyist Marie-Louise Baumann has denied withholding information about her client. 

In an interview published in the German language daily Südostschweiz on Saturday, Baumann claimed that she had informed centre-right Radical Party parliamentarian Christa Markwalder about her links with her Kazakh client. She also said that she had told Markwalder about all modifications made to the parliamentary questions, including the removal of the term “human rights”. 

In May, Markwalder apologized publicly in Bern for filing parliamentary questions in 2013 prepared by Baumann on behalf of her firm Burson-Marsteller’s client, Kazakhstan's Ak Zhol political party. While Ak Zhol describes itself as being part of the opposition, it is in fact reportedly close to the government. 

In her first ever interview since the scandal, Baumann also responded to Markwalder’s charge of being taken advantage of. 

"It’s been two years since the incident,” stated Baumann. “Maybe she [Markwalder] cannot recall all the details.” 

However, Baumann admitted she had made a mistake by sharing confidential information from a House of Representatives' commission with her Kazakh client. She also shared that she will no longer be involved in parliamentary lobbying activities after the October parliamentary elections. 

A position statement released by the Swiss Lobbyists’ Association (SSPA) on Friday reprimanded Baumann for not revealing her Kazakh connections during her first meeting with Markwalder but accepted that the omission was rectified later on. The SPAA also stated that Baumann should have looked into the proximity of the Ak Zhol political party to the Kazakh government and recognised the potential conflict of interest. 

The statement exonerated the lobbyist of deception or attempts at deception during the drafting of the parliamentary questions.

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