On politics in the Golden State

Category: Brad Sherman

Berman-Sherman debate turns physical

An increasingly bitter California congressional race between Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman turned physical Thursday when one aggressively seized the shoulder of the other during a debate, yanked him toward his chest and shouted, “You want to get into this?”

The confrontation came amid a nasty campaign for a Los Angeles-area seat.

The lunge by 57-year-old Sherman appeared to startle Berman, who is 71 and smaller in stature, while the audience hooted and shouted.

Moments earlier, during a dispute on an immigration-related bill, Berman stepped close to Sherman, who told his colleague loudly: “Get out of my face.”

Berman's campaign released a video of the confrontation, which took place at Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley.

The veteran lawmakers are running against each other because of California's new primary system, which sends the top two finishers to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

Sherman said in a statement that the debate “was not conducted at the highest level. I regret my part in allowing emotions distract from the exchange of views.”

-- Associated Press

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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Procter & Gamble stands aside as corporate tax battle heats up

Assembly speaker backs Proposition 39's corporate-tax revamp

-- Jean Merl

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

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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-- Jean Merl

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

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


Democrats Berman, Sherman step up fight over GOP supporters

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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-- Jean Merl

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

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."


Assembly speaker abandons push for tax deal

Opponents prime arguments for corporate tax campaign

Procter & Gamble stands aside as corporate tax battle heats up

-- Jean Merl

Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman at a candidates forum early this year. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/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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-- Jean Merl

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

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.


California watches windfall shrink as Facebook stock slides

California workers want legislative staff raises to be rescinded

Blumenfield is fourth assemblyman set to run for L.A. City Council

-- Jean Merl

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



Berman enlists help from Barney Frank to dispute Sherman claims

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.


California watches windfall shrink as Facebook stock slides

California workers want legislative staff raises to be rescinded

Blumenfield is fourth assemblyman set to run for L.A. City Council

-- 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

Berman's wife helps lead effort to woo female voters

Howard_janis-366x299Janis Berman has found a new way to stand by her man.  She's co-chairing  a "Women for Berman" campaign group and has sent emails to  supporters of her husband, Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, as he fights for his political life in the fall election.

"I'm proud of the work Howard has done over the years, but his continuous and unfaltering support of women's rights and equality stand out most to me," Janis Berman wrote in announcing the launch of the campaign group and a website, Women for Berman.   Among the 15 other co-chairs are actress Morgan Fairchild, former Burbank Mayor Mary Lou Howard and politically prominent attorney Lisa Specht.

Berman is competing with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for the same San Fernando Valley-based House seat. Last year's redistricting put their homes in the same district and neither was willing to run elsewhere; the result is one of the most watched and  expensive congressional races in the country this year.

Sherman finished 10 percentage points ahead of Berman in the June primary and Berman has been pulling out all the stops lately to battle back.


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California Democratic Party endorses Gov. Brown's tax measure

--Jean Merl

Photo: Howard and Janis Berman. Credit: Howard Berman campaign


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