By Tiago Cordeiro
Sewing relationships between businessmen, politicians, and judges. This is how one could define the role of João Doria’s Business Leaders Group (LIDE), which has returned to the limelight in recent weeks by financing a trip to New York for ministers of the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF).
However, the group’s relationship with the Brazilian Supreme Court did not begin in this episode that violated laws of the judiciary and servers in the assessment of jurists heard by the Braziian Gazeta do Povo outlet.
In 2017, LIDE held a luncheon with the presence of Alexandre de Moraes, recently chosen for the STF, who gave a lecture to a selected group of businessmen, members of the organization, who pay monthly fees of around R$ 10 thousand (about US$2,300)and buy sponsorship quotas at the events.
In the same year, the then-mayor of São Paulo, João Doria, was the protagonist of controversies with LIDE trips and events, in which it was difficult to separate public and private.
In 2019, LIDE’s founder and then-governor of São Paulo once again mixed public and private functions when he honored a lunch debate with the then-president of the STF, Dias Toffoli.
And more recently, on Nov. 8, another Justice, André Mendonça, attended an event of LIDE’s regional office in Rio de Janeiro.
LIDE was founded in 2003 and quickly established itself as one of the main lobbying groups in Brazil, although this word is never used in the entity’s communications.
On its official website, the Doria Group prefers to define itself as “specialized in boosting the capacity to do business quickly and effectively, whether through the production and dissemination of content, relationship promotion, or brand experience.
North Americans would it simply all Lobbying.
The “relationship promotion”, by the way, is clearly important for LIDE’s activities.
In an interview with VEJA magazine back in 2007, a few years after the group’s launch, Doria explained how he managed to gather so many influential people at his events.
“It’s a win-win. Whoever goes wins friends, clients, information, content, and business. The proof is that there was never anyone who didn’t want to come back,” he said.
He also provided some tips, including sending gifts (which he preferred to call “niceties”) the day before.
And letting one competitor know that the other had confirmed attendance at the event. Another suggestion: never invite people below the level of company vice president.
This is an exclusive club.
To participate in LIDE, one must be in a high-level political position. Or, in the case of businessmen, to confirm a minimum turnover of R$200 million a year.
In 2006, the organizers of the group’s events informed Agência Estado that Lide aggregated 40% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Present in five continents, LIDE maintains state-level groups in Brazil and exclusively female subdivisions.
Abroad, there are units in countries like Germany, Argentina, Australia, China, the United States, England, Italy, and Switzerland.
The headquarters is on Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima, in São Paulo, one of the main financial centers in the country and South America.
In Brazil, lobbying is not regulated by law but is protected by the Federal Constitution.
“The lobbying activity in itself is not a crime. But, in the absence of clear outlines, it is not uncommon for lobbying to be confused with the crimes of corruption, administrative advocacy, and influence peddling,” explains Afonso Celso de Oliveira, a civil law attorney.
According to him, even so, there is the risk that the still unregulated limits may cross the barrier from legality to illegality.
“If the existence of economic or political advantage is proven to the actors involved in the public sphere (judges, ministers, public servants in general), the activity ceases to be lobbying and becomes a criminal activity, which includes the criminal types of passive/active corruption, criminal association, etc.”, details the jurist.
Even in situations where the barrier of illegality is not transposed, Oliveira adds that a more guarded posture is always positive for those who assume certain public functions, such as judges.
“I prefer to conceive the idea of judges who keep the discretion and the liturgy that their position imposes on them, avoiding manifesting themselves on polemic issues outside the case records.”
In that way, judicial activism is not configured, which is when the judge’s activity is confused with that of the legislator or the executive power, mixing their functions and exceeding their prerogatives.”
“Thus bringing legal insecurity, due to decisions that the best legal technique should guide and, however, were guided by the ideological and political vision of the judge,” he adds.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE
Even while he was mayor and governor, Doria did not get out of his routine with LIDE, especially at times when he sought to promote his candidacy for the presidency.
On different occasions, he took advantage of trips to attend events as a public figure and also as a businessman – it was common for the group to organize lunches or dinners in the same place where the governor would be.
In August 2017, when he was still mayor of the city of São Paulo, Doria “traveled to five cities to attend events that had Lide among their organizers,” according to a report published by Valor Econômico, entitled “Doria uses Lide’s network to travel around the country.”
The text reports that in a few days, “Doria went to Fortaleza for an event of which LIDE Ceará was one of the three organizers.
Then he flew to Recife for a seminar promoted by Lide Pernambuco, whose president, Drayton Nejaim, hung up the phone when asked by the reporter about the initiative.”
“In his public agenda, Doria does not explain when the events have Lide in the organization,” the report said, citing other events he attended at the time, in Curitiba (PR), Brasília (DF), Salvador (BA) and Natal (RN) – where “he received the title of citizen of Natal not in the Chamber, but at the Riachuelo Theater, owned by Flávio Rocha, owner of Riachuelo.
“At the time, it was suggested that the two form a joint slate for the Planalto.”
At the same time, João Doria sought support from former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), who agreed to give a lecture for LIDE. The fee was not confirmed, although at that time the former president usually charged R$ 200,000 for participation in events.
In early 2017, Lide had already been highlighted in Folha de S. Paulo for soliciting funds from businessmen to pay for a lecture by Doria himself, then mayor of the city of São Paulo.
The publication had access to an email the group sent to companies, “asking for money to finance the ‘lunch-debate’ with business leaders on March 6, at the Grand Hyatt hotel in São Paulo, with a presentation by the newly-elected mayor. On that occasion, a sponsorship quota of R$50 thousand would give the right to sit at the main table with Doria.
Both LiIDE and the city government denied conflicts of interest at the time.
EVENT AT THE BANDEIRANTES PALACE
In fact, Rodrigo Garcia, Doria’s vice president and governor of São Paulo until the end of this year, is a constant presence in the conferences organized by the group, including the LIDE Business Trip China in 2019 and the recent trip to New York.
Formally, control of LIDE is in the hands of the former governor’s son, João Doria Neto – his father passed the baton when he decided to run for mayor of São Paulo in 2016 and is now vice-chairman of the group’s Advisory Board.
After the controversial meeting in New York, the group will also present the award Leaders of Brazil 2022, on December 7, at the Palácio dos Bandeirantes, the headquarters of the state government of São Paulo.
The event shows that LIDE is still committed to connecting businessmen to congressmen and, especially, to leaders in the judiciary.
Gazeta do Povo contacted Grupo LIDE for an interview but had not heard back by the time this report closed.
With information from Gazeta do Povo