PolitiCal

On politics in the Golden State

Category: 30th Congressional District

Berman enlists former diplomats to refute Sherman's criticism of trips

Rep. Howard Berman announced backing from former secretaries of State George P. Shultz and Madeleine Albright. Berman's rival for a San Fernando Valley congressional district seat, fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, has been critical of Berman's frequent overseas travel
Hoping to counter his rival's criticisms of his overseas travels, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) reached back into history Thursday and announced endorsements from former secretaries of State George P. Shultz and Madeleine Albright.

Shultz and Albright also released a letter stating that Berman's taxpayer-financed travels were done "in service to our nation's security and best interests."  International travel, they added, "is required" for lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (on which Berman is the senior Democrat) in order to "keep America strong and the American people safe."

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who is battling Berman for the same San Fernando Valley congressional district seat this fall, has repeatedly criticized Berman for taking many overseas trips. 

On Thursday, Sherman's campaign consultant, Parke Skelton, said the "large majority of [Berman's] trips are just luxury junkets that serve no important government function; 136 of his 176 trips have been funded by corporations or other private interests." And about 90% of the trips were made before Berman became a prominent member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Skelton said.

Shultz was secretary of state in the Ronald Reagan administration and Albright filled the post for Bill Clinton. Clinton has endorsed Sherman.

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Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman.  Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

 

 

 

 

Berman, Sherman mix it up -- again -- in congressional race forum

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In what has been dubbed by a journalism organizaton as one of the "10 nastiest House races" of the election season, rival Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman faced off at yet another candidates forum Wednesday.

While some of the more personal attacks they have lobbed at each other, regarding Berman's use of a government car and Sherman's earnings on loans he made to his campaign, were absent from Wednesday's 90-minute forum, the congressmen each managed to land some zingers.

Berman called his rival for a newly drawn San Fernando Valley congressional district seat a "me too congressman," alleging he's known for jumping on popular bills as a co-sponsor but has passed only three he wrote -- two of them to rename post offices.

Sherman retorted that improving someone else's bills and stopping "bad" legislation was just as important as introducing legislation. 

Then he dinged Berman for voting to go to war with Iraq (so did Sherman, but he insisted it was only after  he felt boxed into a choice between giving then-President George W. Bush "no power or too much power."   Both said their votes were a mistake, based on erroneous intelligence reports that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction.

The forum, held at ONEgeneration in Reseda and sponsored by the League of Women Voters and four other organizations, was the latest in at least half a dozen such head-to-head squareoffs between the two congressmen since the first of the year.

The session broke little new ground but gave about 200 audience members a chance to size up the competitors in person. 

The two men again demostrated that they agree on many issues, among them the need to protect women's rights, to avoid the "fiscal cliff" that awaits the nation in January if House Democrats and Republicans can't agree on a budget and deep spending cuts kick in, and the importance of not yielding to calls to allow oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.

Both supported the Affordable Health Care Act and said Wednesday that it had already provided access to healthcare for thousands of uninsured people and was a good first step.  And each said he wanted "comprehensive" immigration reform, including securing borders, providing a path to legal residency for  otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants and sanctions against employers who hire workers without proper documentation.

And there was the political equivalent of party favors for those who stopped by the candidates' tables in the lobby. Volunteers offered their candidate's trademark "Congressman Brad Sherman" combs in four colors.  Their counterparts handed out bags of "I'm with Howard" cheese corn.


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Photo: Reps. Brad Sherman, left, and Howard Berman at a candidates forum earlier this year. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times

 

Berman attacks Sherman over (legal) loans practice

Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman. Berman is now attacking Sherman over (legal) loans practice.
Rep. Howard Berman, trying to come from behind in his fight with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for a San Fernando Valley congressional district seat, Monday slammed Sherman for having earned interest on loans he made to his campaigns over the years he has been in office.

The practice is legal  and not uncommon; but Berman strategist Brandon Hall said he has found that the matter resonates with voters, and the campaign will begin using the issue in TV ads and political mailings.

In a telephone news conference with reporters, Hall said he believes voters think it “inappropriate for a member of Congress to view their campaign accounts as investment vehicles.”

He said Sherman earned nearly $461,000 in interest on loans he made to his campaigns over more than 20 years in elected office. The Berman campaign launched a website, www.Sherman-Scam.com, to  help make its case to voters.

The accusations are “false at worst and highly misleading at best,” the Sherman campaign responded, adding that Berman was “trying to distract voters from his own astonishing recording of abusing public office to enrich himself and members of his family.” Sherman consultant Parke Skelton rattled off a list of “abuses” on Berman’s part, including taking 176 free trips abroad and upgrading to first class flights at taxpayer expense, among others.

Monday’s volley signaled that an already contentious election is about to get even nastier.  

Skelton said Sherman lent his campaign money beginning early in his career and earned less — averaging under 2% a year — than he would have had he invested the money elsewhere. Hall noted that Sherman appears to have stopped the practice recently and suggested he did so because he realized it could “create a perception problem with voters."

Other members of Congress have collected interest from loans they made to their campaigns. Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk), for example, lent her campaign $150,000 in 1998 and had collected more than $158,000 in interest by early 2009.

But Berman supporters say they have found no other House member who has earned as much  from self-lending or who kept  the loans on the books for long periods.

Hall took care to point out that he was not accusing Sherman of doing anything illegal and said it would be “up to voters” to decide about the ethics of the practice, which Hall called a “scheme of personal enrichment.”

Berman finished second, 10 points behind Sherman, in the seven-candidate June primary. A recent poll taken for KABC-TV showed Sherman with a 13-point lead.

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Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman during a candidates forum early this year. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

 

Brad Sherman leading Howard Berman in race, independent poll shows

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Rep. Brad Sherman had a 13-point lead over fellow Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, according to a poll taken for KABC Channel 7.

Conducted by SurveyUSA, the poll is the first independent sampling of voters released since the June primary, in which Sherman finished 10 percentage points ahead of Berman for the San Fernando Valley congressional district seat.

According to the poll, Sherman led Berman 45%-32% among likely voters. But 23% of respondents said they had not yet made up their minds.

The survey of 800 registered voters, 628 of whom were deemed likely to cast ballots, was conducted Sept.18 and 19. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points in either direction.

The poll found voters liked both men but higher numbers said Sherman was a more effective legislator and was more focused on the needs of area residents.

Sherman is better known in the new district because he has represented a considerably larger portion of it in the past.

Berman campaign strategist Brandon Hall downplayed the poll, saying he believes the race is actually "very close."

The two veteran lawmakers have been battling for the same San Fernando Valley congressional district seat in a costly, widely watched race. New political maps put their homes in the same strongly Democratic district and California's recently implemented election changes allow candidates of the same party to advance to the general election if they are the first- and second-place primary finishers.

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Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman at a candidates forum early this year. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

 

 

 

Democrats Berman, Sherman step up fight over GOP supporters

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If the spectacle of two career Democrats going at it over bragging rights to Republican support seems odd to you, blame it on California’s new elections system, which sent some candidates from the same party to  duke it out in the fall. 

Those candidates, needing to reach beyond their traditional bases, are scrambling for voters outside their own party. And the competition for opposite-party support has reached ferocious proportions in the high-spending, nationally watched clash between seasoned Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman. 

The onetime allies have been battling over the same San Fernando Valley congressional seat since new political maps put their homes into the same district.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district 48% to 26%, with  21% of voters unaffiliated with any party. Both candidates have stepped up their wooing of voters not traditionally prone to supporting   Democrats when they had an alternative.

Earlier this week, Berman, who finished 10 points behind top vote-getter Sherman in the seven-candidate primary, trotted out endorsements from nationally prominent Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The senators said they liked Berman because he could garner bipartisan support to get things done.

 Sherman said it was because Berman had gone along with the their hawkish stance on Iraq. And on Wednesday Sherman unveiled a list of area Republican officeholders who are backing him because of what he has done to help Valley constituents. He cited Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita and L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander, among others.

Alleging in a written statement that the senators had applauded Berman’s “early efforts” to give President Bush “the full authority to invade Iraq,” Sherman said he was “proud to have the endorsement of every Republican elected official who lives in or near the San Fernando Valley.”

Not three hours later, the Berman campaign released its own -- longer -- list of area GOP officeholder supporters, including Reps. Ed Royce of Fullerton and Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. The Berman campaign also pointed out that Sherman too had voted to go to war with Iraq.

“Democrats and Republicans are supporting Howard because he is the Valley’s workhorse,” Berman campaign strategist Brandon Hall said in a statement released with the GOP supporters list. He called Berman “a leader who always delivers for his community and country.”

And just so unaffiliated voters won't feel left out, each candidate also produced an "independent" elected official -- Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman for Berman and L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine for Sherman.

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Photo: Reps. Brad Sherman, left, and Howard Berman at a candidates forum earlier this year. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times

 

 

 

 

 

Democrat Sherman gets backing from local Republican lawmakers

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Rep. Brad Sherman, hoping to counter his fellow Democrat rival's backing from nationally prominent Republicans, on Wednesday touted endorsements from local GOP lawmakers.

Claiming to be endorsed "by every Republican official who lives in or near the San Fernando Valley,"  Sherman engaged in some oneupmanship with Rep. Howard Berman, who is competing with him this fall for the same San Fernando Valley congressional district seat.

Sherman backers include Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, and his predecessor, Greig Smith, plus Burbank City Councilman Gary Bric and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita. That's a short list because much of the L.A. area, like the 30th Congressional District that Sherman and Berman are battling over, is strongly Democratic.

But Berman and Sherman have been courting GOP and non-affiliated voters since redrawn political maps put their homes in the same district and the state's new elections system allowed members of the same party to advance to the general election.

Earlier this week, Berman won backing from Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. 

Berman also got the endorsement of Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a former Democrat who turned independent. Sherman had a counter for that one too--L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine, who is registered as declining to state a party affiliation.

The Sherman campaign dismissed Berman's endorsers as stemming from his "early efforts to give George W. Bush the full authority to invade Iraq" and said local support is more important.

"These officials--unlike Berman's GOP supporters--are not focused on foreign policy," Sherman said in a statement announcing his endorsements. "Instead, they back me because of my record of delivering for the Valley and fighting for fiscal responsibility."

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Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman at a candidates forum early this year. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berman draws on D.C. insiders to boost self, slam rival Sherman

Rep. Howard Berman has found some help among Washington insider organizations in his election battle with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman
It's always nice when you can get others to make your points for you, and Rep. Howard Berman has found some help among Washington insider organizations in his election battle with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman.

Foreign Policy magazine's website has listed Berman among the 50 most influential Democrats in international affairs.  At No. 23, Berman ranked below Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) but ahead of MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow and California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein.

Berman, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is competing with Sherman for the same San Fernando Valley congressional district seat this year, thanks to the state's redrawing of political maps and its new "top two" primary elections system, which allows members of the same party to advance to the general election.

Camp Berman also cited two other knocks on Sherman: Washingtonian magazine put Berman's rival on its list of "meanest" House members, and the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation said Sherman had one of the worst staff retention rates in Congress.

Sherman spokesman John Schwada pooh-poohed the designations, saying Berman's seniority on the Foreign Affairs Committee put him on the list "by default."  And he noted that the Washingtonian's "silly rankings derby" in 2008 listed President Obama as a "show horse" and labeled Clinton a "falling star."

And, if "meanest means toughest, Brad's proud to wear that stripe," Schwada said.  He said Sherman doesn't allow his staffers to take foreign policy trips paid for by interest groups. "By insider Washington standards, that may be mean," Schwada said, "but by the standards of taxpayers outside the Beltway, that makes a lot of sense."

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Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman at a candidates forum early this year. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Berman, Sherman taking campaigns to TV

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Rep. Howard Berman has begun running two cable TV campaign ads, the first since the primary election, in his bruising battle with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman.

Unlike the increasing vitriol spilled on both sides as the two House veterans compete for the same San Fernando Valley congressional seat this fall, the tone of the Berman ads is purely positive.

One touts his achievements for Valley constituents and others. The other outlines the help he gave a grieving father in interviewing his son's combat unit in Iraq, where the son was killed. The father, identified as Darrell Griffin Sr., wanted to finish a book he had begun with his son.

Brandon Hall, who oversees Berman's campaign, said that the buy was "substantial" and that he expects the two ads to air on Valley cable stations for at least two weeks.

The Sherman campaign said it plans to begin airing its cable TV ads next week. Campaign spokesman John Schwada did not disclose the contents but said "they will be positive ads about Brad's record."

Stay tuned?

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Photo: Reps. Brad Sherman, left, and Howard Berman at a candidates forum earlier this year.  Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 

Sherman files FEC complaint targeting brother of election rival Berman

Brad Sherman is accusing Howard Berman of improperly overpaying his brother, Michael Berman, for campaign services in years when Howard Berman faced little or no reelection opposition. The Sherman campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and asked for an investigation
It's the latest twist in an increasingly vitriolic campaign for Congress: Rep. Brad Sherman is going after the brother of fellow Democratic Rep. Howard Berman.

In a complaint filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, the Sherman campaign is alleging that Berman vastly, and illegally, overpaid Michael Berman or his political consulting firm for campaign services during two decades in which the congressman from the San Fernando Valley faced only token reelection challenges and spent relatively little to reach voters.

The complaint comes as Sherman and Howard Berman are engaged in a costly, nationally watched battle for the same San Fernando Valley congressional seat. Last year's redrawing of political boundaries placed their homes in the same district, and the state's new "top two" primary system allows members of the same party to advance to the November general election. The two former allies increasingly have attacked each others' records, styles and character.

It is not illegal to hire family members for campaign work, and some other members of Congress do it. But federal campaign finance laws require that the services provided be legitimate and in line with the usual cost, or fair market value, of the job performed.

The Sherman campaign combed through years of Berman finance reports filed with the FEC to try to determine how much money had been spent on so-called voter contact, such as mailers and TV and radio ads, and how much had gone to Michael Berman or his firm, Berman & D'Agostino Campaigns.

From the 1992 election cycle through 2010, the Sherman campaign said it found about $493,000 appeared to have been spent on voter contact, but that Michael Berman, whose specialty is direct mail and other outreach, had been paid $741,500 during the same period.

Parke Skelton, Sherman's strategist, said the usual commission paid to a voter-contact consultant in congressional or legislative races is 10% to 15% of the cost of the mail or ad, a figure confirmed by several other veteran consultants from both sides of the political aisle.

Sherman campaign manager Scott Abrams wrote in the FEC complaint that there was "an overwhelming amount of evidence to show that Howard Berman has used campaign funds to enrich his brother ... for services that were not actually rendered, or has paid campaign funds to Michael Berman well in excess of market value for 'services' in non-competitive races." 

"Additionally, the date that such payments were made bear no relationship to when any of these supposed services could have been provided," the complaint continued.

The Berman campaign called the complaint "ridiculous" and said it was meant to distract voters from Sherman's "sparse" record. 

"Michael is one of the most well respected and utilized political consultants in California," said Berman chief strategist Brandon Hall. "Countless candidates and initiatives, including Congressman Brad Sherman, have paid Michael for his professional services. Michael has been instrumental in advising Howard over the last 30 years and has been paid for his services."

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Photo: Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman during their first debate in January. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Valley Republican club won't give nod to either Berman or Sherman

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GOP voters in a district featuring a fierce election battle between two Democratic congressmen this fall shouldn't count on guidance from the San Fernando Valley Republican Club.

The organization decided this week it won't endorse either Howard Berman of Valley Village or Brad Sherman of Sherman Oaks as they compete in one of the most watched and costliest House races in the nation this year.

A combination of redrawn political maps and a new elections system that sends the top two primary finishers, regardless of party affiliation, to the fall runoff has left Republicans in the strongly Democratic 30th Congressional District without a candidate from their own party.

Sherman, who finished first among seven candidates in June, and Berman, who came in second, both have been courting Republicans and other non-Democratic voters.

In a written statement issued Wednesday, club President Gary Aminoff said the organization "commends both Cong. Berman and Cong. Sherman on their strong support for Israel."

But they're just too darn liberal:

"It would not be possible for Republicans who believe in conservative principles to be able to support either candidate in good conscience," Arminoff said.

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Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman at a candidates forum early this year. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

 

 

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