João Pedro Accioly
The Brazilian natural response to controversial issues is the prohibition and denial of its existence. This immature approach ultimately encourages unavoidable and even positive activities to be carried out in the shades, without the knowledge of society, the supervision of control authorities and the necessary legal safety. The created darkness also tends to invite organized criminality.
Lobby is a dramatic example of this problem. For almost 30 years the Congress has tried and failed to regulate the matter. During this time, lobbying has acquired in Brazil a negative connotation, which is comprehensible, once the activity has been mixed with several corruption scandals in the country.
Brazilian Government now tries to change the game. Last month the Ministry of Labor has recognized lobby as a valid professional occupation. According to the current Speaker of the House, an amended version of bill # 1.202/2007, which is subject to an expedite regime since last December, may be voted in the next months to finally regulate the subject.
This project establishes that lobbyists may have to accredit themselves before the Legislative or the Executive branch; that meetings with authorities need to be requested by written and that lobbyists will have to disclosure to any authorities they contact who has contracted their services. Furthermore, the bill proposes sanctions for gifts exchange that could influence public officers, excludes some convicted people of lobbying activities and lays down rules to avoid conflicts of interest.
Brazil is finally understanding that government affairs actions are essential to democracy and economic development. But more than that: lobby can be done in an ethical, professional and transparent manner, improving public deliberations.
In the complex medical field, lobby is not just welcomed, but necessary. Without the articulated intervention of companies and experts, the public debate on health matters rests mighty impoverished and it often results in misguided decisions.
Abuses and distortions should be tackled with wisdom and simplicity. Technology and social organizations may give a great contribution to this challenge, as it has been for decades in the United States and, more recently, in Chile.
Publicity, more than everything, is the keyword. As Justice Louis Brandeis pointed out, more than 100 years ago, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman”.
João Pedro Accioly is an attorney at Licks Attorneys, LL.B and MSc from the Rio de Janeiro State University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org