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CartaCapital | «Scheme Paid Off Supreme»

Above: «Mendes appears on a list of slush fund recipients en 1998. The list includes Jorge Bornhausen, Agripino Maia, Walfrido de Mares Guia, the Cardoso reelection campaign, and many others.»

Brazil’s little newsweekly that could brings to light what it characterizes as, roughly translated, «slush fund» accounting documents reflecting payouts to current Supreme Court justice Gilmar Mendes by a Minas Gerais political machine, the same scheme that would later surface in a subsequent election finance scandal involving the PT political party and its allies.

The trial of defendants in the latter case is to commence next week.

CartaCapital is calling for Mendes to recuse himself.

The magazine has, it should be said, been a consistent thorn in the side of the justice, questioning, for example, his relationship with the disgraced senator Demóstenes Torres in another current scandal, the Charlie Waterfall numbers racketeering case.

Leandro Fortes has also dug deeply into the justice’s side business, a legal education foundation with a number of government contracts. Seem like a conflict of interests? This is not Kansas anymore, Toto, though one could make a case for viewing Mendes as a sort of tropical Antonin Scalia.

There is also Mendes’ political activism in his home state of Goiás, where his family allegedly practices old-school coronelismo.

The Jornal do Brasil echo-chambers the CC report as follows.

This Friday’s edition of Carta Capital magazine will stir further controversy over the upcoming «big monthly allowance» case in the Supreme Court. The magazine presents documents that reporterly indicate that Supreme Court justice Gilmar Mendes received R$ 185,000 in 1998, while serving as the federal attorney general. The funding scheme was coordinated by the publicist Marcos Valério.

The report, based on documents obtained by staff reporter Maurício Dias, is said to show an off the books slush fund inside the gubernatorial reelection campaign of current senator Eduardo Azeredo in 1998. The bound pages are signed by Valério, and some of the documents are notarized. In all, these accounting documents reflect transactions moving BRL 104.3 million, leaving a net balance of $69.53. Reporter Leandro Fortes also reported on the story, traveling to Minas Gerais.

These records also indicate fundraising tactics based on loans from the Banco Rural, the same mechanism later used by the «big monthly allowance of the PT». But Rural was not the only bank used for this purpose by the PSDB campaign. Also contributing were BEMGE, Credireal, Comig, Copasa and the state lottery of Minas Gerais.

The first ten pages of the document set forth campaign donors, while the last 16 reflect payouts. The name Gilmar Ferreira Mendes appears on page 17. The current Supreme Court justice Gilmar Mendes reportedly received R$ 185,000. Contacted by the Jornal do Brasil, the justice’s press office did not return the call.

A number of politicians from Minas Gerais were named on a list of recipients of the mensalão mineira but few if any were charged with wrongdoing — I forget why, perhaps as a matter of mens rea: they were not aware of the provenance.

Anticipating a media frenzy over the 2005 scandal, the ruling PT will no doubt try to raise awareness of the preexistence of this mechanism among important Toucans — PSDB politicians. Cynics will dust off that eternal commonplace, «thieves calling thieves thieves».

The repercussion of the CC report by the JB is an interesting development. «Progressives» — the so-called «dirty bloggers» — never stop complaining of monolithic, massaged and minimizing coverage of bad news for the Brazilian opposition. And with good reason.