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.
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1.4.13 at 2:55 pm | Colleagues paid tribute in in the House chamber. . .
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11.12.12 at 11:22 pm | And this blogger scratches his head.
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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.)
October 12, 2011 | 6:31 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In the time since this blog first launched, media outlets have continued beating the bushes for news on the developing race between Rep. Howard Berman (D - Valley Village) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks). As a result of this year’s citizen-led redistricting process, the two Jewish Democratic incumbent Congressmen have been thrown into a head-to-head competition for a district in the West San Fernando Valley.
But amidst all the chatter about oversized fundraising and political endorsements, there has still been little if any discussion of the accomplishments of and policy positions held by these two experienced politicians.
Voters won’t weigh in until the June 2012 primary, but “insider baseball” is fun in the meantime, right?
The Los Angeles Times, in an article that served as a good primer on the still-early days of this race, spoke with Political consultant Michael Berman, who is running his brother Howard’s campaign. Michael told the reporters that even though Sherman’s campaign had more than twice as much cash at the last reporting period, Howard, “will not be outraised.”
Just how much money is going into this race? Los Angeles Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman told Politico the total spending on the House race might be somewhere between $10 and $12 million, which appears to be the range most reporters have settled on. The L.A. Times said the warring camps could spend upwards of $10 million on the June “jungle primary” alone, and Bill Boyarsky, writing in the Jewish Journal, put the total spending by all candidates in the primary and the general election somewhere between $12 and $13 million.
Do these numbers include the spending by the two less well-known Republican candidates in the race, novelist Susan Shelley and actor, rancher and businessman Mark Reed? Hard to know, but suffice it to say, there’ll be a lot of coin going into this battle. Berman told Politico he expects about 20 percent of his war chest to come from Hollywood bigwigs like Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
And Democratic Party leaders can’t seem to persuade either Berman or Sherman to run somewhere else. Berman went “all in” when he endorsed Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas in the adjacent 29th Congressional District. That’s the newly redrawn Latino-majority district that Sherman would’ve liked the 70-year-old ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee to run in, but, as illustrated by Gene Maddaus in the LA Weekly, in the game of political chicken that is the Berman-Sherman race, “Berman’s endorsement [...] of Cardenas is the equivalent of tying his own hands so he can’t swerve out of the way. Your move, Brad Sherman.”
All this in just a month? What might the next eight months bring?
September 15, 2011 | 6:49 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Is the race between Jewish incumbent democratic congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman splitting the Jewish community in two?
That was the question posed to me by a correspondent from CNN earlier this week. And while the short answer is no (or at least not yet), a longer answer is worthwhile—and serves as a good introduction to this new blog, which will follow this unique race as it develops.
The cable news channel’s documentary unit came to the Jewish Journal’s offices on Tuesday as part of a nationwide look at the once-a-decade redistricting process. The hour-long special, set to air in November, will take a particularly in-depth look at California, where for the first time, the lines dividing the state into political districts were drawn not by elected officials but by an appointed Citizens Redistricting Commission.
And like many media outlets, CNN is watching the developing race between Reps. Berman and Sherman in the newly drawn 30th congressional district, located in the West San Fernando Valley.
The two Jewish incumbent Democrats have been representing adjacent districts in the San Fernando Valley for years, and when the new district lines were finalized in August, it didn’t take long for Sherman—and only a short time later, Berman—to go into reelection campaign mode.
Sherman and Berman have both released high-profile endorsements, and Sherman has circulated poll numbers that show him winning either a two-way or three-way race—results that Berman, in a recent article in the Forward, appeared to agree with.
But the primary election—an open primary in which all voters can cast ballots—won’t take place until June of 2012, and the top two finishers from that election wouldn’t run against one another until the following November. Both dates are a long way off.
Numerous journalists are covering this story—of Jew v. Jew, of Dem v. Dem. But aside from the people who have already endorsed each candidate, nobody has publicly encouraged either Berman or Sherman to move from the 30th district and run for reelection somewhere else—least of all Jewish community leaders.
Politically savvy Jews and well-informed Israel supporters are paying attention to the race—but publicly at least, they’re all simply hoping that a way will be found to keep both congressmen in office.
As for the voters, it doesn’t appear to be the primary item on their agenda—that is, if they’re aware of the looming head-to-head matchup at all. At Sherman’s town hall meeting in August, aside from the questions asked by three journalists in attendance, the prospect of a Berman v. Sherman race came up only once.
Sherman sidestepped that question saying that the focus of the town hall meeting was policy, not politics—but his constituents were leaning in that direction anyway. People asked about job creation. They asked about the American involvement in Libya. One person asked about Israel; another young man, an Iraq War veteran, asked about a military decoration he felt he was owed.
Those were Sherman’s most involved constituents—and in August, they had other things on their minds. But in the months between now and June 2012, the Berman-Sherman conundrum will become increasingly unavoidable.
Or it could go away. Somehow.
September 15, 2011 | 5:16 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
For those who want to catch up on the Jewish Journal’s coverage of the race between Reps. Howard Berman (D - Valley Village) and Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks) in California’s newly drawn 30th congressional district, here’s a roundup of the articles and entries we’ve published over the last couple of months.
June 10, 2011, “Berman and Sherman may face off in newly drawn districts”
Even the first draft of lines released by the Citizens Redistricting Commission hinted at the possibility of a Berman-Sherman face-off.
July 19, 2011 - “Berman vs. Sherman?”
This in-depth cover story, published just before the Citizens Redistricting Coalition released its final draft of the state’s political boundaries, reported what Jewish leaders were (and were not) willing to say about the race—and it was the first reporting of Rep. Henry Waxman’s official endorsement of Berman, his longtime friend and colleague.
August 2, 2011 - “Jewish Journal writer talks Calif. redistricting on KCRW”
KCRW’s Warren Olney invited a number of people to talk about redistricting—including Jewish Journal staff writer Jonah Lowenfeld.
August 5, 2011 - “Bill Clinton, state and local officials endorse Sherman in contested West Valley district”
Almost immediately after the CRC final lines were released, Sherman released a list of endorsements—topped by a quote from Bill Clinton.
August 17, 2011 - “2 Jewish congressmen, 1 Valley district: Sherman lists endorsements, Berman waits”
A closer look at Sherman’s initial endorsements, along with a response from Berman.
August 23, 2011 - “Sherman releases poll showing early lead; ‘Dewey beats Truman,’ counters Berman”
August 24, 2011 - “Opinion: Prep for costly fight as Berman, Sherman keep gloves on”
Opinion writer Bill Boyarsky looks at the Berman and Sherman race, wonders about how expensive it could get—and then realizes that neither candidate is going to back off.
August 30, 2011 - “Sherman, Berman reveal differences early in race”
Following Sherman to a town hall and scanning Berman’s schedule of meetings in an effort to find differences—in substance and style—between them.
August 31, 2011 - “Howard Berman Announces Five Endorsements”
Berman announced endorsements from Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Diane Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Rep. Henry Waxman.
September 7, 2011 - Letters
A letter from Rabbi John Rosove outlining the different reactions that he and other supporters of the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobbying group J Street have gotten from Berman and Sherman.
September 8, 2011 - “Berman and Sherman react differently to Obama’s speech”