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Berman enlists help from Barney Frank to dispute Sherman claims

August 7, 2012 |  2:28 pm

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It seemed pretty remarkable: a prominent Democratic congressman excoriating a colleague of the same party in a conference call set up for reporters.  But this is, after all, California, which has produced an unusual, and increasingly nasty, race between Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley.

And so, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the pro-Berman former chairman and now ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, was on the phone Tuesday accusing Sherman of exaggerating his work on the committee. 

Frank, who is retiring this year and needn't worry about working with Sherman should he win the race, accused Berman's rival of indulging in "fantasies" and "headline hunting."  

"For years now, I’ve seen Mr. Sherman, when we’re having hearings, not show up at the hearing until he’s notified by his staff a few minutes before he’s to ask a question," Frank said. "He comes in, asks a question and disappears. It’s not the kind of collegial approach you need."

Frank acknowledged Sherman’s 2008 fight against the federal bailout of the financial industry. "Yes, he was one of the people who led the fight against the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program). But I think he did it, frankly, in ways that were demagogic and irresponsible."

Frank also disputed Sherman’s frequent assertion that he had "more to do with Dodd-Frank (the financial overhaul law) than anyone except Dodd and Frank. I took the bad stuff out."

"He did not have anything like the role he described," Frank said, adding that other House members played a larger part. "There were a number of members who had much more input into it than he did."

Sherman consultant Parke Skelton  said Frank "had been outraged" that Sherman had "led the opposition" to the original bailout legislation  and chalked up Tuesday's remarks to lingering resentment.

"The voters are with us on this one," Skelton said of Sherman's criticisms of the earlier version of the bailout.

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-- Richard Simon in Washington and Jean Merl in Los Angeles

Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman at a candidates' forum in January. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

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