Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
At his fundraising dinner on Nov. 10, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) acknowledged that his race for re-election in the West San Fernando Valley’s new 30th Congressional District is likely to be the most competitive challenge he’s faced in a while.
As a result of California’s citizen-led redistricting process that concluded over the summer, Berman is facing-off against another Jewish, Democratic incumbent congressman, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who is also pinning his hopes for re-election on the 30th District.
“To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here when I really need you,” the 29-year veteran congressman Berman told his supporters, who packed the Beverly Hilton ballroom and helped add an additional $1.6 million to Berman’s growing war chest.
This intra-party race isn’t the only one shaping up in California, but because it pits two long-serving Jewish lawmakers who have been reliable Israel supporters against one another in a district with many Jewish voters, a Berman-Sherman battle was something pro-Israel Democratic activists had hoped could be avoided.
But what looked like an undesirable possibility this summer, when the race was the subject of a cover story in The Jewish Journal, now appears to have become reality.
Many observers predict the two candidates could spend a combined $10 million, or even $12 million, on the campaign. Berman has been raising funds quickly in an effort to catch up to Sherman, whose campaign, as of the end of September, had $3.7 million cash on hand, as compared to the Berman campaign’s $2.3 million.
The two are also battling to win endorsements — or, failing that, to deny them to the opposition. Three days before Berman’s fundraiser, Sherman won an endorsement from the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley (DPSFV), an organization that politicos refer to by its unpronounceable acronym (just say DIP-siv).
Misleadingly named, DPSFV is not an official arm of the Democratic Party, but rather a coordinating body for 27 local Democratic clubs. Berman and Sherman both addressed the DPSFV members at the meeting on Nov. 7, as did three supporters of each candidate.
Sixty-two percent of the DPSFV voters chose to endorse Sherman in the 30th District.
Eric Bauman, the vice chairman of the California Democratic Party and chair of Los Angeles’ Democratic Party, said that while the DPSFV endorsement wasn’t an indication of what the actual Democratic Party would do at its convention in February 2012, it was, nevertheless, “definitely important,” because it indicates that “Brad’s work over the years with grass-roots Democratic activists has had an important payoff.”
At the Berman fundraiser, the room was full of politicians, local leaders and numerous prominent and powerful members of the Los Angeles Jewish community.
(Full disclosure: According to filings obtained from the Federal Elections Commission, at least two members of the TRIBE Media Corp. board have made significant donations to Berman’s campaign, as has former Jewish Journal publisher Irwin Field.)
Berman is getting support from two Independent Expenditure Committees, often referred to as Super PACs. These political action committees, which officially must not coordinate their actions with candidates or political parties, can raise unlimited sums of money from individuals and corporations, and can use those funds to independently support or oppose a particular candidate.
On Nov. 9, the Los Angeles Times reported that a new Super PAC, the Valley-Israel Alliance, had been created to support Berman’s candidacy, the first such committee organized in support of a single congressional candidate.
And in an interview with The Journal at the Berman fundraiser, California State Sen. Alex Padilla confirmed that he has made phone calls to Berman supporters in recent weeks asking for contributions to a separate Independent Expenditure Committee that is supporting Berman, called Rebuilding America. (According to papers filed by the committee with the Federal Elections Commission, Rebuilding America could support other candidates as well.)
“I’ll do whatever needs to be done to ensure his [Berman’s] re-election next year,” Padilla said, noting that Rebuilding America already had received some contributions and was “gearing up” to make its first independent expenditures to help Berman tell his story to new constituents.
Berman and Sherman will face off in an open primary, alongside at least two declared Republican candidates seeking election in the heavily Democratic 30th District, in June 2012. l
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November 11, 2011 | 4:41 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
At his fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton on Nov. 10, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) announced that his campaign had raised $1.6 million that evening.
The number, however, did not include additional money that has been flowing into at least two Independent Expenditure Committees established to help Berman win his battle against fellow Democratic incumbent congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks). Berman and Sherman are both hoping to be reelected in 2012, this time in the 30th Congressional district newly redrawn by California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission.
In an interview with The Journal at the Berman fundraiser, California State Senator Alex Padilla confirmed that he has made phone calls to Berman supporters in recent weeks asking for contributions to an Independent Expenditure Committee called Rebuilding America.
Independent Expenditure Committees, often referred to as Super PACs, first appeared as fundraising tools in the 2010 election, after the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling and subsequent applications of that ruling in lower courts radically reshaped campaign finance law. These political action committees, which officially must not be coordinate their actions with candidates or political parties, can raise unlimited sums of money from individuals or corporations, and use those funds to independently support or oppose a particular candidate.
“I’ll do whatever needs to be done to ensure his [Berman’s] reelection next year,” Padilla said, noting that Rebuilding America had already received some contributions and was “gearing up” to make its first independent expenditures to help Berman tell his story to new constituents.
According to Federal Election Commission filings obtained by The Journal, Padilla’s Super PAC was officially established in September. Ackley Padilla, brother of the state senator, is listed as the group’s treasurer.
Unlike the Valley-Israel Alliance, another Super PAC that the Los Angeles Times revealed is exclusively supporting Berman’s candidacy, Rebuilding America is officially registered as supporting or opposing more than one Federal candidate.
The Berman-Sherman contest was precipitated by the recent redistricting process, and the formation of Rebuilding America is best understood in that context. When the statewide redistricting commission re-worked the San Fernando Valley’s congressional districts, it created a new Latino-majority district in the East San Fernando Valley, now the 29th district, which is directly adjacent to the new 30th district being sought by Berman and Sherman.
Before it became clear that neither Berman nor Sherman would cede the 30th, which consists of parts of each of their two previously separate districts, the two were each hoping the other might move to vie for another district. For Berman, the hope was that Sherman would move his campaign westward into the 26th district, which includes large segments of Ventura County. Sherman, meanwhile, hoped that Berman would move his candidacy into the new 29th district in the East San Fernando Valley.
Neither one gave in, however, and, in September, Berman endorsed the candidacy of Latino Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas who is running in the 29th district. In what could be seen as political payback, Cardenas came to the Berman fundraiser on Thursday evening.
Alex Padilla, who has also endorsed Cardenas, acknowledged at the event that for Berman, the race in the new 30th district will entail “telling the Howard Berman story to new constituents of his, or to constituents of his that have been longtime constituents.” Berman will have to do this quickly—almost 60 percent of the new district has been represented for the last 10 years by Sherman. And that telling requires money.
Which is where the Rebuilding America Super PAC comes in.
“I think his [Berman’s] record speaks for itself, that he’s absolutely the most qualified congressman to represent that [30th] district,” Padilla said. “His campaign will do its job, but I want to make sure that we leave no stone unturned in terms of reaching out to anybody and everybody in the new congressional district, so that they know what Howard Berman has done and will continue to do. His effectiveness as a legislator, I think, is second to none.”
According to Richard L. Hasen, an expert in election law at the University of California, Irvine, law school, the introduction of a Super PAC specifically organized to support a single congressional candidate, like the Valley-Israel Alliance, is unprecedented. However, the work Padilla is doing on behalf of Berman’s campaign through Rebuilding America is “hardly unique,” Hasen said.
“The person who is running one of the main Rick Perry Super PACs is his most trusted ally,” Hasen said, referring to the Texas governor and Presidential hopeful. “It is a situation where the Super PACs are legal, in the sense that they are not running afoul of any rules of the Federal Elections Commission, but those rules as interpreted by the courts allow for everything short of the candidate coordinating the Super PAC’s message.”
Some observers have estimated that Berman and Sherman could wind up spending upwards of $12 million in this intra-party battle, which should make it the most expensive congressional race in history.
“Howard usually raises all of his money for his campaign at this dinner, and that’s usually what he needs,” Howard Welinsky said in an interview with The Journal on Nov. 10 before the fundraiser.
Welinsky is chairman of the Democrats for Israel and a longtime Berman supporter; according to Federal Elections Commission filings, both Welinsky and his wife, Karren Ganstwig, each made contributions of $5,000 to Berman’s campaign in September, the maximum amount an individual can contribute to a political campaign.
But with the advent of Super PACs, Welinsky and others who have maxed out their contributions directly to Berman’s campaign would be able to continue to pay toward the Congressman’s reelection effort by donating to the independent Super PACs.
Welinsky said he had recently received fundraising calls from both Alex Padilla and the organizers of the Valley-Israel Alliance, but would not say whether he had contributed to the groups.
He did express some concern about what the development of such groups might mean for the tenor of the race between Berman and Sherman.
“Independent expenditure committees as frequently go negative against the opponent as they go positive for the candidate they’re supporting,” Welinsky said.
November 10, 2011 | 2:59 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
At his fund-raising dinner on Nov. 10, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) acknowledged that his race for reelection in the newly redrawn 30th district, in which he is facing off against fellow Democratic incumbent Congressman Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), is likely to be the most competitive challenge he’s faced in awhile.
“To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here when I really need you,” the 29-year veteran congressman told the packed ballroom at the Beverly Hilton.
This year’s event, which has become a biennial staple of the Democratic political calendar in Los Angeles over the past few decades, was attended by members of Los Angeles’s Jewish community, a few leaders of labor unions, and elected officials.
“I’ve been watching politicians for a long time, and Howard’s really one of the few people that is not fluff, that is not manipulation,” said California Gov. Jerry Brown, who closed out the evening’s program, and is one of the honorary co-chairs of Berman’s campaign. “What you see is what you get.”
A number of longtime Berman stalwarts were in attendance, including Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), former congressman Mel Levine, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield.
City Councilman Tony Cardenas, who is running for election in the majority-Latino newly drawn 29th Congressional District, directly to the west of the contested 30th, was also in attendance—as was Sen. Alex Padilla, who has endorsed Cardenas’s congressional bid.
There was much talk of Berman’s staunch support for Israel as one-time chairman and now ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and many of the Jewish Berman supporters in attendance cited that as their main reason for supporting Berman.
“As Israeli-Americans we have one issue,” said Adam Milstein, a member of the Israeli Leadership Council’s board of directors, by way of explaining why he was supporting Berman. “That issue is Israel.”
In his speech, Berman announced that the dinner had raised $1.6 million, which should go some distance towards closing the fundraising gap between him and Sherman, who was $1.4 million ahead of Berman as of the last reporting period, which ended on September 30.
For all the money they’re raising from Hollywood types and others, Berman’s campaign look like something of a family affair. As in his past campaigns, Howard’s brother Michael Berman is running the campaign—but this being 2011, Berman’s eldest daughter, Brinley Turner, is advising them on the use of new technology. During the cocktail hour on Thursday evening, she was standing beside a MacBook Air, inviting Berman supporters to announce their support via social media.
Berman poked fun at his own technophobia in his remarks. “Sign up for emails, follow us on twitter, and like us on Facebook—whatever that means,” Berman said, holding up his new iPhone.
November 9, 2011 | 9:40 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
It’s been an eventful week in the Berman-Sherman race.
With a San Fernando Valley group of Democratic activists voting on Nov. 7 to endorse Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), and, two days later, the Los Angeles Times uncovering the existence of a new “super PAC” created to support the candidacy of the other Democratic incumbent in the race, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village), you’d barely know that the election for the 30th congressional district isn’t until November 2012.
The endorsement of Sherman by the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley (DPSFV) raises two questions: Who is this group, and how much does their endorsement mean?
Sherman’s campaign manager, Parke Skelton, said it was “the most substantial endorsement” in the race so far—and that’s coming from the campaign that had Bill Clinton’s picture topping their list of early endorsers in August.
At the DPSFV meeting on Monday night, about 50 people voted in the secret ballot election, representing 27 local Democratic clubs, including Democrats for Israel. Sixty-two percent of those voting chose to endorse Sherman.
Berman, later, downplayed the result. “I think this is of minimal significance in terms of the election,” he told a reporter from the Studio City Patch. “Brad has lived with the group for many years.”
According to Eric Bauman, the vice chairman of the California Democratic Party and chair of Los Angeles’s Democratic Party, the group, which politicos refer to by its barely pronounceable acronym (just say Dip-Suv), is not the same as the Democratic Party. It is a coordinating body for 27 local Democratic clubs, and DPSFV’s endorsement of Sherman doesn’t necessarily indicate what the Democratic party itself will do at its convention in February 2012, Bauman said. But the group’s endorsement is, he said, “definitely important,” particularly in light of the very real possibility that the Democrats may not officially endorse either candidate at the convention.
“The party endorsement, in competitive races, is often very difficult,” Bauman said. “I believe that will be especially so in the race between Sherman and Berman because they both have relationships with the delegates and the other elected officials that are very deep.
“But one thing the DPSFV endorsement shows is that Brad’s work over the years with grassroots Democratic activists has had an important payoff,” Bauman added, “and that will certainly have an effect on the party’s endorsement.”
California Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, who represents part of the San Fernando Valley, and who worked for Berman for years, spoke at the meeting on Monday on behalf of his former boss.
“From my perspective, it’s too bad,” Blumenfield said of the endorsement, but added that he wasn’t worried about Berman’s chances.
“There are tons of Democratic clubs that will be endorsing Congressman Berman,” Blumenfield said, noting that in his own experience, DPSFV’s having endorsed another Democrat in 2008 did not stop Blumenfield from winning that election.
“There’s a long history of [DPSFV] not endorsing the person who wins,” Blumenfield said.
Skelton, Sherman’s campaign manager, thought that Berman and his supporters were being disingenuous by downplaying the importance of DPSFV, and its choosing to endorse Sherman.
“If it’s of minimal significance,” Skelton said, “why is he [Berman] going down to beg for their endorsement?”
(More on the Berman-backing Super-PAC, the Valley-Israel Alliance, soon.)