Jewish Journal

What’s a Congressman to do: Vote in D.C.? Or ride with the President to George Clooney’s House?

by Jonah Lowenfeld

May 10, 2012 | 8:43 pm

2009 Cadillac Presidential Limousine. Photo by Wikipedia/US Secret Service

For most Angelenos, President Barack Obama’s visit to Los Angeles for a fundraiser on May 10 at George Clooney’s house was a reason to stay as far away from the Hollywood Hills as possible.

For Rep. Howard Berman (D - Van Nuys), who was invited by the President to join him for the ride to the fundraiser, the chance to get 15 minutes alone with Obama to talk about the various items on his legislative agenda was reason enough to fly back from Washington while Congress was in session.

“The Congressman will use this rare and important opportunity to speak with the President further about Iranian nuclear threats, the need for more police officers on Valley streets, and the importance of protecting entertainment industry jobs in the Valley,” said Berman’s campaign manager Brandon Hall in a statement.

Thursday was a regular day of work in the House, and Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks), who is facing Berman in a hotly contested battle for reelection, was in Washington, D.C., casting votes on a number of bills.

His campaign said Berman was “play[ing] hooky.”

“For Berman, it was more important that he be able to hobnob with donors who had paid $40,000 per person to attend this event, than to be at work voting on hotly contested bills to fund critical domestic programs, help close the revolving door between serving in Congress and lobbying Congress, and to protect women and children from violence,” Sherman campaign manager Parke Skelton, said in a press release.

Skelton, who said he learned that Berman would be at Clooney’s fundraiser from a post on Berman’s wife’s Facebook page, didn’t appear to know about Berman’s being invited to accompany Obama on the ride over.

The Berman campaign’s Hall said that Berman’s “access to leaders like President Obama is why he has an unmatched record of accomplishments for the Valley and the world.”

“It’s no wonder that Sherman doesn’t understand this,” Hall said in a statement, calling the criticism from the Sherman campaign a “gimmick.”

Earlier on Thursday afternoon, both Berman and Sherman were no-shows at a debate for candidates running for congress in the 29th and 30th districts held at Los Angeles Mission College, a community college in Sylmar. The Sherman campaign was represented by a staffer at the event; Berman’s campaign didn’t sent a representative.

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas, who is running for congress in the 29th district, also did not participate.

The debate was organized in just the last few weeks and it was sparsely attended. The five other candidates running in the 30th district did speak, and all noted the incumbents’ absence. 

“There are two things missing here today: Jobs and politicians who currently represent you,” said Susan Shelley, one of three Republican candidates running in the 30th district. “And I would suggest there is a connection. They are taking you for granted. They are not listening to your concerns.”

Over at LAObserved, Kevin Roderick called Obama’s offer of a ride “the next best thing” to an endorsement by Obama of Berman.

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As a result of California’s 2011 redistricting, two Jewish Democratic incumbent congressmen, Howard Berman (D - Valley Village) and Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks), have both...

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