Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Former Congressman Howard Berman, who was defeated by fellow Democratic representative Brad Sherman (D – Sherman Oaks) in a heated and closely watched election last year, has scored a new job with the law firm Covington & Burling. Berman will join the firm’s policy and government affairs practice, and be based out of its Washington, D.C., office.
“I talked to many people who know this world very well, and this firm is held in the highest regard, and is known for being a good place to work,” Berman said in an interview on March 14. “They take a very collaborative, team-like approach to the work they do.”
Berman, who spent 30 years on the Foreign Affairs Committee, including a handful of years as its chair and ranking Democrat, expects to focus his attention on international issues. He joined the firm one week after 25-year veteran Republican Senator Jon Kyl came on board.
He joins a team that includes a number of familiar faces, including former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
“Many of the people, I worked with them when I was in government,” Berman said. “Sometimes slightly adversarily, but usually quite cooperatively on issues.”
In accordance with House rules, Berman won’t be allowed to lobby his former colleagues until 2014. And while he may not be in Congress, Berman will continue his bi-coastal ways: He will be based in the firm’s D.C. office, but will also spend a significant amount of his time working from Los Angeles.
3.14.13 at 9:24 am | The veteran former congressman joins Covington &. . .
1.4.13 at 3:55 pm | Colleagues paid tribute in in the House chamber. . .
12.19.12 at 4:06 pm | In political campaigns, how and when a strategist. . .
12.12.12 at 1:22 pm | Sherman and Berman spent $40 for each registered. . .
11.13.12 at 12:22 am | And this blogger scratches his head.
11.7.12 at 3:46 pm | The National Jewish Democratic Council sent this. . .
6.13.12 at 2:56 pm | This November, Allan Hoffman is going to have a. . . (5)
11.13.12 at 12:22 am | And this blogger scratches his head. (3)
3.15.12 at 1:04 pm | One incumbent Jewish Dem endorses another. . . (2)
January 4, 2013 | 3:55 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
After 30 years in office, Rep. Howard Berman’s (D – Calif.) last day in Congress was Jan. 2. Unlike some other veteran lawmakers who left office this year – including Rep. Gary Ackerman (D – N.Y.), who penned a retrospective op-ed in The New York Times on his last day, and former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I – Conn.) who told his own story during a 20-minute speech to a mostly empty Senate chamber in December – Berman appears to have made no such public pronouncements.
Requests for an exit interview submitted to members of Berman’s staff met with no response, and, according to the Congressional Record, Berman’s speeches on the House floor remained focused on business as usual right up until the end. On Dec. 31, the former ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee spoke on the House floor to condemn North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile last month. Berman didn’t mention it would likely be his last opportunity to do so.
His Congressional colleagues did mark the occasion, however. Along with Berman, Reps. Pete Stark, Lynn Woolsey, Bob Filner, Joe Baca and Laura Richardson all left Congress last year; members of the California delegation paid homage to Berman and the others who had represented the Golden State on Dec. 12 in a special hour-long tribute on the House floor.
“This House will miss you because you brought honor to it in everything that you have done,” Rep. Anna Eshoo said in an emotional speech about Berman. “So it is bittersweet. No, it’s just bitter. There isn’t any sweetness to it.”
During the celebration of their colleagues’ careers and accomplishments, a number of Representatives praised Berman for his well-known achievements – “Mr. Berman will be remembered as a strong friend of Israel,” said Rep. George Miller – as well as for lesser-known ones.
Rep. Mike Honda spoke admiringly of Berman’s support for a 2007 bill, H. Res. 121, which called on Japan “to apologize and to acknowledge the tragedy endured at the hands of its Imperial Army during World War II by over 200,000 women in Asia who were forced into sexual slavery.”
While Stark and Woolsey both made remarks on Dec. 12, the Congressional Record doesn’t include any statements from Berman during that hour in the House chamber.
Berman’s silent departure stands in marked contrast to the speech he delivered at the start of his Congressional career. On April 12, 1983, in concluding his tribute to another accomplished California legislator -- Rep. Phil Burton, who had died two days earlier of a brain aneurysm at age 56 -- Berman noted that the speech was his first as a Congressman.
“I just find it ironic and sad,” Berman said, “that in the excitement of being elected to this wonderful institution, that the first chance I have to address the body on any subject is on the passing of a man who I had hoped to spend years working with and learning from.”
December 12, 2012 | 1:22 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
As the L.A. Times reported, the total spending by Brad Sherman and Howard Berman in their race to represent the new 30th congressional district in the San Fernando Valley broke the record for spending by candidates on a congressional race in California.
Combined, the two candidates spent $11.7 million; Sherman spent $6 million while Berman spent $5.7 million. Add in the $4.5 million in spending by the political parties and outside groups on behalf of the two Democratic incumbents, and the total spending on the race goes up to $16.3 million.
Sherman, who was reelected by a 20-point margin in November, led in the polls throughout, thanks in large part to his having represented the majority of the new district’s voters for the past decade.
Berman, befitting a candidate who was better known for his fundraising prowess than he was known by the voters in the 30th district, outspent Sherman by $1.3 million in advance of the June primary election.
Sherman won that open primary by 10 points. Then, in the months leading up to the head-to-head contest in November, he outspent Berman by $1.6 million.
The numbers are staggering. The L.A. Times offered the context of the race in 2000 that used to hold the record as the one in which California Congressional candidates spent the most:
Spending on the Berman-Sherman race surpassed the $11.5-million record for a California House race, set in 2000 when Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) ousted Republican incumbent James E. Rogan. But there was more outside spending -– an estimated $7.5 million -- by the political parties and interest groups in the 2000 race. The race between Berman and Sherman, both Democrats, drew $4.5 million in outside spending.
And consider the spending in the 30th district on a per-voter basis: For each of the district’s roughly 400,000 registered voters, the campaigns and their allies spent about $40.80 apiece.
Only 62 percent of registered voters cast ballots in November, so for each of those 248,000 votes, the Berman or Sherman campaigns spent $24 in the five months prior to the election. The cost-per-vote could be said to have been even higher for the primary, when only 19 percent of the electorate turned out to cast ballots. (Campaigns, like most enterprises, have higher start-up costs, so the sum spent by the campaigns in advance of the primary -- $79 per vote cast in June -- is not actually all that helpful.)
Where did all that money go? How much of it was spent on campaign literature in mailboxes, ads on cable TV and at least a few billboards? How much went to consultants of various types? On credit card fees to process donations? On air travel?
That’s a topic for another post.
November 13, 2012 | 12:22 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Rep. Brad Sherman has been named to the Forward 50, the newspaper’s annual list of “American Jews who made the most significant impact on the news in the past year.”
By that measure – impact on the news – there’s no question that Sherman deserves to make the list, though I’d wonder if an equally strong case couldn’t be made for the man he bested in last week’s election, Rep. Howard Berman. Did Sherman somehow bear primary responsibility for ensuring that every national news outlet worth a damn checked in on this race at least once? With one notable exception (Pierce College, where it was Sherman’s outburst made the news), it’s hard to say.
But that’s not how people read these lists, of course. It’s less “Sherman’s a newsmaker!” and more, “Here’s his name, right alongside Eric Cantor, Jack Lew, Dan Senor and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Brad Sherman must be a power broker among Jews!”
That latter statement might still turn out to be true, of course -- particularly if Sherman manages to win another contest against yet another bald, bespectacled Jewish incumbent Democrat. Sherman and Rep. Eliot Engel (D – NY) are both vying for Berman’s former position as ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
But does the way he beat Berman alone qualify Sherman for giant-killer status, as the Forward would have its readers believe? I’m not sure. Sherman always had a lead in the race and was always better known in the district. He also started off the race with far more cash on hand than Berman had.
Of course, no reader could discern any of those facts from the profile of Sherman in the Forward. Instead, Sherman was “left for dead” when the race began, until, somehow, he “defied a fundraising deficit and an embarrassing viral video to pull off a convincing victory.”
Chanukah is coming, so I guess some Maccabee-style myth-creation isn’t an awful activity to engage in. But this hagiographic profile is chock full of unsubstantiated claims.
“Sherman shouldn’t have had to fight for his spot in Congress,” the Forward opines, as if the months of speculation and posturing that preceded this race (Brad, move to Ventura! No, Howard, you go!) never took place, as if California’s new independent redistricting commission hadn’t been specifically instructed to ignore incumbency when drawing the district where Sherman ultimately won.
(Which isn’t to suggest that Berman shouldn’t have bowed out before the race: There are more than 11 million good reasons why doing so might have been a good idea.)
“The tone of the campaigns grew increasingly bitter in early fall,” the Forward’s bio continues, neglecting to mention that from the campaign’s earliest moments, Sherman was on the attack, with Berman looking flat-footed at best.
But the kicker doesn’t come until the penultimate paragraph:
“Sherman also suffered from a decision by pro-Israel donors to side with his opponent,” the Forward writes. “Experts said this was because of a perception that the older congressman had more D.C. clout.”
From the way he ran his campaign, you'd be hard-pressed to imagine Sherman himself making the argument that he had as much "D.C. clout" as Berman. Sure, Sherman tried to raise questions about how much credit Berman could claim for some of his achievements (the Dream Act) and take partial credit for others (the 405 expansion). But the overall message of Sherman’s own campaign was not that he was more powerful or influential than his more senior colleauge. Sherman presented himself as the Congressman constituents in the district knew and successfully painted Berman as a stereotypical D.C. insider, busy flying around the world on the taxpayers’ dime to meet the leaders of nations and their emissaries. That's how he won.
But the more basic problem with that sentence is this: In politics, the perception that a lawmaker has “D.C. clout” is almost identical to his having that clout.
Now: In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Forward staff is working under remarkable duress, so we probably should cut them some slack, maybe even shoot them a donation. This blogger has no quibble with the rest of the folks on the list – the other politicos on are all undisputedly in possession of some serious “D.C. Clout.”
But that one question nags: Who are the Forward’s “experts?” I don’t know, but one thing’s for sure; they’re probably just as happy with this year’s list of 50 as they are with the result in California’s 30th Congressional District.
October 29, 2012 | 10:15 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
On Monday, the same day Howard Berman’s campaign accused fellow Democrat-turned opponent Brad Sherman of dodging debate invitations (L.A. Times) and BuzzFeed ran a piece about an anti-Berman mailer, the two Congressmen mixed it up in what may turn out to be their last debate on Which Way, L.A.? on KCRW.
Warren Olney moderated the encounter expertly, managing to keep both Congressmen to their allotted times while weaving in questions about their accomplishments, their reputations and how each one has run in this very expensive (between the two campaigns and outside groups, it tops $13 million) and very contentious campaign.
After listening, here are the three thoughts:
1. Getting up in arms over mailers is mostly a waste of time. The Buzzfeed story today is an interesting read, looking closely at one pro-Sherman Super-PAC mailer that appears to touch “the hot buttons of race and sexual orientation, as well as intra-party politics” by linking Berman to Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. Barbara Boxer, and Rep. Barney Frank.
I’m not sure if the mailer is as much of a dog-whistle as the unnamed “Democratic operatives” who talked to Buzzfeed seem to think it is, but it would be pretty remarkable for a Democratic incumbent (Sherman) to suggest that the other (Berman) is too closely linked to the other members of their party.
Unfortunately for the Berman campaign, which called it “offensive,” the mailer isn’t a Sherman mailer. It’s a Super PAC mailer that attempts to sway Republican voters into backing one of two Democrats in this race. Of course, Sherman pled ignorance – as any politician would. Welcome to the brave new world of uncoordinated campaigns.
2. Sherman has always been, and continues to be, far more comfortable on the attack than Berman is. If you still need evidence of this, listen to Olney’s question to Sherman about whether it’s legitimate to critique Berman, the former chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, for travelling abroad on the taxpayer dime or on trips paid for by special interests.
Berman’s practice sounds like it might be defensible, and he cited two former Secretaries of State supporting his claim that such trips are a necessary part of being a leading member of the foreign affairs committee.
But when Olney turned to Sherman, the Congressman was more than ready with his answer. Many of Berman’s trips, Sherman said, were taken before Berman became chairman of the committee, and that some of what Berman did (like traveling to accept honoraria from business interests) has since been prohibited.
And that – unlike the mailer mentioned above – is an argument that the Sherman campaign itself has been making for months. The mailers they send feature hand-drawn illustrations of Berman traveling to countries around the world; one recent TV ad has a soundtrack of plunky banjo music.
Contrast that to Berman’s attempts to attack Sherman. One way to read the fight at Pierce College was that it came out of the fact that Berman couldn’t simply say that Sherman was lying when he claimed that Berman hadn’t authored the DREAM Act. Instead he suggested that Sherman might be “delusional,” a criticism that few in the audience heard or understood.
On the KCRW debate, Berman did get the message across more clearly -- “The fact is he's not delusional; he was lying” -- but that was two weeks after the debate at Pierce ended.
Berman's allies quickly came to his defense after Pierce, but what if the Berman campaign had come out after the Pierce College debacle and simply called Sherman a bully and a liar? Those are labels that Berman and his campaign still haven’t really tried to attach to Sherman (although one pro-Berman Super PAC did try to label Sherman a “pufferfish”). But even if they had, that would have left the Berman camp with less than a month to try to catch the candidate who has been ahead (or way ahead) in every poll released since this race first began.
If Berman wins next week, it might be thanks to the fallout from Pierce College (although the Sherman camp says that their internal polling after the incident shows them actually pulling further ahead) or thanks to Republican voters or thanks to something I can’t predict today.
But if not, one possible lesson to learn might be this: If you want to go negative, brand your opponent as something more ominous than “ineffective.” And do it early in the race.
3. Even today, more than a year after it started, Berman v. Sherman is still a head-scratcher. For most 30th district voters, it’s a confusion-inducing choice. Listen to the recordings of the voters canvased by KCRW, and you’ll hear dismay, disgust and confusion as to what they should do with Berman-Sherman. That’s certainly what I found talking to people in the district – although I also found a good number of people who didn’t have a clue who these men were.
For spectators, Berman v. Sherman is a curiosity. Seriously, talk to anyone who knows about the race but doesn’t live in the district and doesn’t have a dog in the fight, and they’ll likely end up with a bemused look on their face as they shake their heads and wonder if the race matters at all.
For reporters, meanwhile, the race presents a conundrum that even a political science professor couldn’t answer. Berman v. Sherman isn’t about who took which taxpayer-funded trips or who lost control at a candidates’ debate. It’s a question about what kind of member of Congress the voters in the 30th District want.
For this reporter who doesn’t live in the district, it’s been educational and challenging and at times fun to follow. But I’m not convinced that the average voter – who might be trying to balance a job, family responsibilities and possibly even the task of parsing the 11 different statewide measures on the ballot this November – has the interest, let alone the time to decide what makes a better Congressman.
Which is probably why the polls are still saying what they’ve been saying all along, which is: The Congressman who represented more than half the district, who gives out promotional combs at his (almost monthly) town hall meetings, is winning. The other one, the Congressman who’s been endorsed by every significant newspaper and practically every national politician who’s taken a side in the race, isn’t.
October 17, 2012 | 2:57 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
As far as policy matters go, Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman agree far more often than they differ. Over the course of their yearlong heated contest for re-election in the newly drawn district in the West San Fernando Valley, the few points of disagreement between these two congressmen have been investigated in more than a dozen public debates.
Now, in the wake of a blowup during a debate on Oct. 11 at Pierce College, which drew national attention when Sherman forcefully grabbed Berman around his shoulders and yelled, “You want to get into this?” one more disagreement between these veteran congressmen has come to light: Whether that altercation will alter the outcome of the election, now just weeks away.
Sherman, who for the past 10 years has represented a majority of the new district and beat Berman by 10 points in the June primary, was leading by double digits in a poll taken in September. But an independent poll conducted by Kimball Political Consulting on the Friday and Saturday after the incident suggested that while Sherman now leads Berman by about 6 percent among likely voters (32 to 26 percent), the remaining 42 percent remain undecided.
About one-third of likely voters had heard about the scuffle at Pierce College, and 29 percent of those voters were likely to vote for Berman as a result, as compared to 17 percent who were likely to go for Sherman. Twenty-four percent said the fight made them less likely to vote, and 30 percent said it had no effect.
Representatives from both the Berman campaign and from an allied super PAC supporting his candidacy declined to say how or whether they will use the altercation in campaign advertisements, but the Berman campaign’s senior adviser sounded a confident note after the release of the latest poll.
“We expect [Sherman’s] standing in this race to continue to decline as more voters become aware of his bizarre outburst,” Brandon Hall said in a statement on Oct. 16.
Sherman, meanwhile, has been downplaying the effect that the incident might have. “This may cost me the votes of 300 people,” Sherman told the Los Angeles Daily News on Oct. 12, “if [Berman’s campaign] can exploit the video.”
What impact — if any — the altercation will have on voters seeking to differentiate between, in the words of an NPR reporter, “two balding, bespectacled Jewish liberals with very similar voting records and rhyming names,” will depend on how those voters interpret what took place at Pierce College.
As is clear from video clips that have been shown on local and national news and had, as of Oct. 16, been seen by more than 235,000 people on YouTube, the scuffle between Sherman, 57, and the smaller Berman, 71, came in the midst of a heated disagreement.
Less clear is how two members of the same party could have such divergent views of what would seem to be a straightforward matter that they were arguing over — whether Berman wrote the immigration legislation that has become known as the DREAM Act.
The House of Representatives debated and passed the DREAM Act, which would have allowed some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as young children to gain permanent residency provided that they met certain criteria, during the lame-duck session of Congress at the end of 2010.
That version of the legislation — which was then halted in the Senate by a filibuster — was sponsored by Berman. (President Barack Obama earlier this year used an executive order to implement a number of the act’s provisions.) Berman also introduced an earlier version of the bill, in 2007, and was an original co-sponsor of it in 2006, 2003, and 2001.
Sherman, meanwhile, signed on as co-sponsor in November 2010, just weeks before the debate over the bill took place.
But if Berman and Sherman were on the same side in 2010, at Pierce College, Sherman aggressively and repeatedly argued that Berman had not authored the earliest version of that legislation, then known as the Student Adjustment Act.
“Howard, Luis Gutierrez introduced that bill!” Sherman yelled into his microphone, just before the physical fracas occurred, referring to the Democratic congressman from Illinois. “You didn’t, and the official records of Congress will prove you wrong.”
On Oct. 12, the day after the debate, Gutierrez, who had already spent time in California supporting Berman earlier in the campaign, tweeted, “It is a matter of public record that Howard Berman wrote the DREAM Act and I am a co-sponsor.”
That same day, leaders in the movement for comprehensive immigration reform, immigrant rights advocates and a few of the young immigrants who were the target group for the legislation all confirmed that Berman was the original author of the legislation, and urged voters in the San Fernando Valley to support Berman over Sherman.
“This man [Berman] has represented the community of the San Fernando Valley, the immigrant community, the Latino community with an incredible level of integrity,” Angelica Salas, board chair of CHIRLAction Fund, said during a conference call with reporters on Oct. 12. “Sherman has not voted the wrong way, but he also rarely engages directly with the Latino and immigrant community in order to speak up on their issues.”
Nevertheless, Sherman has not backed away from the technical argument he made so forcefully at Pierce College.
“Howard deserves a lot of credit for his work on this for a lot of years,” Sherman said during a subsequent debate with Berman, aired on KPCC on Oct. 15, but argued that in the same way Berman has frequently slammed him for his legislative achievements — in 15 years, Sherman has sponsored three bills that have been passed by Congress, two of which named post offices — Sherman could legitimately apply Berman’s own standard to the DREAM Act and reasonably conclude that Berman hadn’t been its author, as former Rep. Chris Cannon, then a Republican from Utah, introduced the first version of Berman’s bill in 2001. In the official Congressional record, Berman’s name appears second.
Berman rejected Sherman’s argument.
“Luis Gutierrez says Howard Berman is the author of the DREAM Act; Chris Cannon says Howard Berman is the author of the DREAM Act, ‘The Dreamers’ say Howard Berman is an author of the DREAM Act,” Berman told talk-show host Larry Mantle of KPCC. “And Brad Sherman, nine years after we introduced it and just before it was coming up for a vote, finally added his name as a co-sponsor to this legislation.”
If the Berman campaign or its allies are seeking to use video of the altercation for their political benefit, they may have an uphill battle.
In interviews with 10 people on Oct. 15 who said they were registered to vote in the new 30th District, only two of them knew about the scuffle at Pierce College. Indeed, even after the two campaigns have spent more than $9 million combined to advance their candidates, those two voters were also the only ones who could name both Berman and Sherman, and neither seemed likely to change his mind because of what took place on Oct. 11.
Standing in the central square at Valley College, Bill Shaffer, a student, said he would be voting for Sherman because he has lived in Sherman Oaks for 20 years and has met the congressman. He saw the scuffle between Berman and Sherman on a cable news network and didn’t draw any conclusions.
“I just saw a couple of frustrated people in a room with a bunch of maniacs screaming,” Shaffer said.
At a coffee shop in Encino, Bill Steinberg said he’s thinking about supporting Berman, in part because Berman has the support of his congressional colleagues. But his wife and son, Steinberg said, are leaning in Sherman’s direction, and nobody in his household has changed his or her mind after the Pierce College incident.
“They’re both intense guys,” he said. “What is there to make of it?”
October 11, 2012 | 10:08 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Rep. Brad Sherman didn’t throw any punches at Rep. Howard Berman during their debate Thursday at Pierce College, but at one point, he certainly looked angry enough to.
In an exceptionally heated moment near the end of a debate, Sherman placed his right arm around Berman’s shoulder and shouted at his senior colleague, “Howard, you want to get into this?”
Berman and Sherman have met for numerous debates in their lengthy, expensive, and closely watched member-on-member race for reelection in California’s 30th congressional race. While the tenor of those meetings has grown more contentious as the campaign has progressed, the altercation at Pierce College took it to a new level.
“At a debate in front of local college students Congressman Brad Sherman loses his mind and acts like a bully,” Brandon Hall, senior advisor to the Berman campaign said in the release. “This speaks directly to his temperament that is totally unsuitable for anyone, especially for a member of Congress. The Valley deserved better.”
The inciting incident came after Berman, for the second time in the debate, took credit for authoring the DREAM Act.
[FACT CHECK: Did Howard Berman Really Help Create The DREAM ACT]
That bill would allow some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as young children to gain permanent residency provided that they met certain criteria.
Story continues after the jump.
Sherman forcefully disputed Berman’s first assertion, saying that Berman had not been an author of the bill. Later in the debate, Berman again asserted his authorship of the legislation, explaining that he had introduced a bill called The Student Adjustment Act in the House of Representatives and that its companion bill in the Senate had the better-known title.
Sherman stood up to deliver his response.
“Howard, Luis Gutierrez introduced the bill!” Sherman yelled into his microphone, referring to the Democratic Congressman from Illinois.
The 200-strong crowd, most of them students, began to cheer, egged on by the Sherman and Berman staffers and supporters standing near the back of the Great Hall.
“You didn’t, and the official records of Congress will prove you wrong,” Sherman said, gesticulating.
“Don’t you dare stand up here in the West San Fernando Valley--” Sherman said, and, as Berman took a few steps in his direction, added, “--and get in my face!”
Berman, who had been repeating the words, “You are wrong,” throughout Sherman’s outburst, was standing next to Sherman.
“Stay away from me!” Sherman yelled, appearing to step away from Berman, but then abruptly changed direction, approaching Berman and throwing his arm around his opponent. “Howard, you want to get into this?” Sherman yelled.
“Whoa, whoa,” Berman said, retreating.
Sherman’s strategist, Parke Skelton, attempted to shift some of the blame for the outburst onto Berman.
“Berman left his table and came over to Brad’s,” Skelton, who had not attended the debate, said. “He was standing there, calling Brad a liar and saying he was delusional. They got upset, they were both upset, and then they calmed down.”
A complete video of the debate, posted online a Livestream Web site, shows one perspective of the entire altercation.
In it, Berman, in the course of claiming credit for authoring the DREAM Act, saying that he believed Sherman knew Berman was the author. In explaining why Sherman was still contesting Berman’s claim of authorship, Berman said, “He is either delusional--,” but was prevented from continuing by the debate’s organizer and moderator, Denise Munro Robb, an assistant professor of political science at Pierce College.
Berman protested, which is when Sherman stood up and began yelling.
“I didn’t know they hated each other so much,” Robb said after the debate.
Los Angeles County Sherriff William Dunkin who ascended the stage to break up the two lawmakers during the altercation, placed his hand on Sherman’s back to calm him down.
“He was the one who was kinda talking loud,” Dunkin said, afterward.
October 2, 2012 | 1:17 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Note (10/3/12, 11:41 pm): This post has been updated to reflect the more accurate mathematical calculations described in a subsequent post.
The race in the 30th district has come a long way since Rep. Howard Berman was touting his effectiveness and Rep. Brad Sherman was hammering his opponent on all sorts of somewhat arcane yet nefarious-sounding practices in debates and ads.
Today, with Sherman still leading in the polls, the roles have been reversed.
Yesterday, the Berman campaign debuted for reporters its new attack line on Sherman – that for 17 years, Sherman used his campaign funds as an investment vehicle, a legal practice that campaign manager Brandon Hall said is very convincing to voters.
What a difference a few months makes. Back in May, it was Sherman hitting Berman, in a 30-second spot, accusing Berman of “charg[ing] taxpayers $186,000 to lease a car.”
Now consider Berman’s new attack on Sherman. The campaign accuses Sherman of “making a personal profit of nearly $500,000” on monies loaned to his campaign committees.
When Sherman attacked Berman with this line of attack in a debate, Berman responded that the practice is legit -- House rules allow members to lease a car at the government’s expense.
Like Berman’s reaction to the car assertion, the first response by the Sherman campaign about the practice of charging interest on personal loans is perfectly legal.
And in the case of the $186,000 car, people close to Berman’s campaign pointed out that the number is deceptive, because it’s actually the total sum spent by Berman on car leasing for his three decades of service in Congress
But now it’s the Berman campaign that’s using its own deceptive numbers.
In its data dump to reporters, Hall focused on the big numbers – that Sherman collected as much as $461,000 in personal profit from interest on loans made to his campaign funds. The document referred to the sum as a “19 percent return on investment.”
Of course, the Sherman campaign responded that Sherman charged his campaign less in interest than he could have made had he put that money in the bank. And if you actually break the numbers down, the Berman attack seems less convincing.
Take the loan of $237,399 made by Sherman on December 29, 1989 to his California State Campaign Account. By the end of 2000, when the account appears to have been closed, that loan had accrued $111,148.97 in interest – a profit of nearly 47 percent on the original investment, Berman’s campaign manager said yesterday.
But that’s the total return, though, not the rate of return. I’m no investment guru, but a simple financial calculator app online helped me determine that Sherman appears to have made that particular loan to his campaign at a rate of about – drumroll please --
3.5 5.4 percent interest per year.
And if you consider what Sherman could have made had he invested that money elsewhere, the Berman campaign’s basic assertion -- that Sherman used his campaign accounts as a “vehicle for self- enrichment” – looks even more dubious.
Say that instead of loaning his campaign that money, Sherman bought $237,399 worth of shares in a fund that tracks the S&P 500 companies at the end of 1989. On the day he made the loan, the S&P closed at 353.40. Eleven years later, when the last of the interest was paid out to Sherman, the S&P closed at 1334.22, a gain of 277.5 percent over those years.
By the end of 2000, when the fund was closed, those shares would have been worth $658,782 -- 277.5 percent more than at the beginning of the investment period. The return on that hypothetical investment -- $421,383 – far exceeds the $111,148.97 in interest Sherman actually accrued on the loan he made to his campaign fund.
Now, I’m not saying that Sherman’s practice of loaning money to his campaign and collecting interest and compound interest on those loans is a good practice – watchdog groups clearly find it to be problematic.
What’s notable is that this campaign has gotten to the point that Berman’s campaign has taken up the tactics that the Sherman camp has been using against it.
Nevertheless, as the Berman campaign’s Hall said yesterday, this “nearly $500,000” attack on Sherman appears to have sway with voters. And that’s why the brought him in to run the campaign in the first place.
Over his 30 years in Congress, Berman has been charging taxpayers about $500 a month to lease a car. Sherman, meanwhile, regularly loaned his campaign funds money, in one case at a rate of about
3.5 5.4 percent interest.
Both campaigns hope these facts -- presented in the worst possible light, of course -- inspire voter outrage.
Five weeks to go.