Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Wait, why was Brad Sherman’s mother photoshopped out of a picture sent to non-Jewish voters?
Get your combs ready, because the story about why Lane Sherman, mother of the eight-term Democrat from Sherman Oaks, appeared in a photo sent to Jewish voters in the 30th district but not in the other version of the photo sent to non-Jewish voters, is about to provoke some renewed head-scratching.
Last week, we (and many others) reported that the Sherman campaign had sent out two different mailers with slightly different pictures of the Congressman and his family. And when Sherman spokesman John Schwada told a blogger for The Hill on May 17 that Sherman’s mother was photoshopped out of the “wider mailer” because the photo was “awkwardly composed,” the explanation seemed plausible.
But Sherman, who is running for reelection in the 30th District against Rep. Howard Berman (D - Van Nuys), recently gave a different explanation: the whole thing was one big ploy to get the Sherman family portrait into the Jewish Journal.
The post continues after the jump.
Here’s what Sherman said, as best as I can make it out:
“We were almost desperate to try to get the press to publish pictures of my family. We sent them every kind of picture, they didn’t publish any. Then for a while we scraped around to buy an ad in the Jewish Journal, because if people see my family they’re gonna vote for me, no matter whether they see just my daughters, or my wife and my daughters, any version of that. And so we came up with a clever idea: We’ll publish the same picture in two different versions and so they’ll think they caught something and then they’ll publish, and the only way to cover the story is to publish the picture in both versions, and by God, we now have, without us paying for it, copies of pictures of myself and my family in the Jewish Journal and we hope in other publications as well. And we’ll be sending them to you so you can put them up on the air. “
For the record: I’ve talked a lot over the past 10 months with members of Sherman’s campaign staff and I’ve received countless emails from them. None included a photograph of the candidate’s family, though.
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. . .
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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.
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3.14.13 at 9:24 am | The veteran former congressman joins Covington &. . . (3)
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May 17, 2012 | 6:23 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
If you’re a Jewish voter in the West San Fernando Valley, Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks) apparently wants you to know just how much he loves his mother.
Two recent mailers sent by the Sherman for Congress campaign to voters in the new 30th district included what might seem, at first glance, to be identical portraits of the candidate’s family. But on closer inspection, one of the photos is missing someone: Sherman’s mother, Lane Sherman.
According to a source close to Rep. Howard Berman’s campaign (because every candidate monitors their opponents’ mailers and advertisements) the mailer with mom went out to Jewish voters.
Here’s how Politico described it:
The mailer on the right is a play for the Jewish vote. Aside from the photo of his mother on the front, there’s a photo of the California congressman with Benjamin Netanyahu on the back, accompanied by the claim that he is a powerful advocate for Israel and a call for tough sanctions on Iran.
The other mailer, the one without mom, that one was for the goyim in the district (who apparently don’t love their mothers as much as Jews do).
According to LAObserved, Grandma Sherman was photoshopped out of the original photo, not in. (Which means she at least got to spend time with the mishpocha in the park.)
May 14, 2012 | 12:04 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks) has a new ad that’s airing on cable TV (see the video here) in the Valley that attempts to draw a sharper distinction between himself and Rep. Howard Berman (D - Van Nuys) in the race to represent the newly redrawn 30th congressional district in the West San Fernando Valley.
A “simple comparison spot,” is how Sherman’s chief campaign consultant Parke Skelton described the 30-second advertisement, which features people praising Sherman and hammering Berman on a variety of subjects, including his holding frequent town halls. The ad is notable because it includes direct criticisms of Berman, including for his “163 foreign junkets,” and contrasts Sherman’s standing up to the “Wall Street Bankers” with Berman’s vote “to bail them out.”
The ad should be familiar territory for anyone who has been following the series of debates between these candidates that have been held over recent months, and it reinforces the impression that Sherman will be spending the next three weeks before the June 5 primary—and the months until November, when the two incumbents are likely to face off again—trying to paint Berman as a Washington insider, out of touch with his district.
Meanwhile Berman, who has been in congress since 1983—and was recently praised by President Barack Obama for his knowledge of foreign policy and his “extraordinary leadership on so many issues,” is making the argument that he has been more effective in passing legislation than Sherman has.
“In sixteen years in Congress, Sherman has only authored three bills that have become law and two of those were naming post offices,” Berman campaign manager Brandon Hall said in an emailed statement after viewing the Sherman campaign’s recent advertisement. “All he can do is go negative.”
Sherman’s ad actually doesn’t go quite as negative as the candidate has in some of the debates, though.
The ad, for example, includes a young woman standing beside her car, saying that she “heard Berman charged taxpayers $186,000 to lease a car.”
“Sherman didn’t,” she adds.
But when Sherman asked Berman at a March 14 forum sponsored by the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce about that government car, he posed the question in a much sharper way, coming very close to implying that Berman was breaking House rules by driving a car paid for by the government while conducting personal errands or going to political events.
The ad, which was paid for by Sherman’s own campaign committee and concludes with a clip of the candidate saying that he “approves this message,” also holds back any mention of another subject frequently raised by Sherman and his campaign: Berman’s stance on so-called Super PACs, the independent expenditure groups that have supported his candidacy.
From their very first debate, Sherman has been pushing Berman to sign a pledge that would reduce or eliminate the influence of Super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations to act on behalf of (or against) any candidate. At one point, there were three Super PACs that were supporting Berman’s candidacy; two of them have since ceased to operate.
Sherman’s campaign, which has been asking questions about the operations of those outside money groups for some time, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on May 7 asking the body charged with overseeing election financing to investigate the possibility that The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman, a pro-Berman Super PAC, illegally coordinated its activities with Berman’s campaign.
The Sherman campaign’s complaint centers on one campaign consultant, Jerry Seedborg, who was employed by Berman’s own campaign at some point earlier this year and is also the founder and head of a company that contracted with the pro-Berman Super PAC.
According to experts in election law, the possibility of the FEC’s acting on the Sherman campaign’s complaint is a distant one.
“What counts technically as illegal ‘coordination’ under FEC rules is much narrower than what a person speaking the English language would consider coordination,” Rick Hasen, a professor of law at University of California, Irvine, said.
Hasen, who writes the Election Law Blog, said it was entirely plausible that the FEC could dismiss the complaint outright, but if they did find evidence of coordination, the Berman campaign could face a fine. In any event, no resolution should be expected before the election in November, although Hasen said the Sherman campaign still might make mention of its complaint.
“Candidates like to file complaints and then point to the complaints as evidence of their opponents’ wrongdoing,” Hasen said.
Will matters involving somewhat arcane campaign finance law really sway voters in this race?
According to press secretary John Schwada, the Sherman campaign thinks so, even though they didn’t raise the subject in the new TV ad.
When Sherman’s pollster surveyed Valley voters in late March, Schwada said, she asked them about their opinions on Super PACs.
“I would say it’s pretty damn negative,” Schwada said, describing the poll results.
The Sherman campaign declined to release those results, but a poll released last week by Democracy Corps, an independent, non-profit polling organization founded by James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, found that a “significant majority (57 per-cent) [of voters nationwide] say that reducing the influence of money in politics and special interest lobbyists is one of the most important factors in deciding which candidate to vote for.”
May 10, 2012 | 8:43 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
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.
May 8, 2012 | 2:56 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
With California’s congressional primary election scheduled to take place on June 5, Rep. Howard Berman (D - Van Nuys) has won endorsements from the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News.
As a result of redistricting, Berman, who has represented parts of the San Fernando Valley in Congress since 1983, is running for reelection against another incumbent Jewish Democratic Congressman, Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks), who has been representing an adjacent valley district since 1997.
While the editorial boards of both papers acknowledged the service of both men to their constituents, each paper ultimately endorsed the more senior Berman, in part because his seniority brings with it increased clout in congress.
Berman has staked his candidacy on the argument that his legislative record demonstrates that he is the more effective lawmaker. Whether the message resonates with voters in the newly redrawn 30th district remains to be seen, but the pitch appears to have held sway with the papers’ editorial boards.
For good reason, say Berman’s backers (a group that now includes nonagenarian actress Betty White).
Former Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar recently weighed in on the argument over how much credit Sherman could take for the expansion of the 405 Freeway. Rejecting Sherman’s claim that without his efforts the 10 miles of HOV lanes would not have been built, Oberstar told BuzzFeed that Sherman is “right to say he supported it, and that’s fine, but the real driving force behind this project was Howard Berman.”
The Daily News endorsement, published on May 7, said that Berman “holds more power in Congress than Sherman,” even as it misidentified Berman as the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (he is the committee’s ranking Democrat) and neglected to mention that Sherman has declared his intent to bid for Berman’s post, should he win in November.
(If he does win, Sherman will have competition from multiple members of the committee. In April, JTA reported that Rep. Eliot Engel, Democrat of New York, would also make a play for the title of ranking member, and in an op-ed in The Hill, Eni Faleomavaega, the delegate from American Samoa on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who has served on the committee for longer than both Sherman and Engel, said that he will also bid for the top position if Berman loses, but that he will back Berman from now until November.)
In its endorsement of Berman on April 30, the Times noted the congressman’s “long record of bipartisan achievement,” and his endorsements from “the overwhelming majority of the California Democratic congressional delegation, including both of the state’s U.S. senators, as well as by Gov. Jerry Brown.”
“[T]here is reason to believe that Howard Berman will be more effective in the years to come at serving the voters of his district,” the Times’ endorsement concluded.
Although California’s new open primary system now allows all voters to vote for the candidate of their choice, regardless of party affiliation, Berman was not the only candidate to be endorsed by the Daily News. The paper’s editorial board pushed Republicans to back another Jewish candidate, Susan Shelley. A first-time candidate, Shelley is, the Daily News editorial board wrote, “moderate enough to get support from voters of all affiliations.”
The key word in that endorsement of Shelley—moderate—also appeared to have helped push the Daily News editorial board to back Berman. While Sherman has touted his opposition to free trade agreements and his fight to stop the passage of the Troubled Asset Recovery Program, positions certain to appeal to some in the 30th district’s electorate, Berman has presented himself as someone who can work across party lines. Accordingly, Berman has lined up the support of Los Angeles County’s two Republican supervisors, Don Knabe and Michael D. Antonovich, and got an endorsement of sorts from Rep. Darrell Issa (R - Vista) in April.
April 20, 2012 | 11:52 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Responding to a challenge issued by Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks), who released his federal tax return a few days ago, Rep. Howard Berman (D - Van Nuys) will also release his federal tax return.
“Howard will accept Sherman’s challenge to release his taxes,” Brandon Hall, senior adviser to the Berman campaign, wrote in an email this morning. “We are working on the exact timing.”
It should also be noted that while Sherman, a former CPA embroiled in what is arguably the most closely watched congressional race of the year, attracted a decent amount of attention when he released his tax return (pdfs of parts 1 and 2), he’s hardly the only person running for congress to do so.
Parke Skelton, Sherman’s campaign consultant, also hit my email inbox this morning with a list of six links to candidates running for congress who have released their tax returns and challenged their rivals to do the same.
It appears that the trend of congressional candidates releasing their tax returns is bipartisan. Take a look for yourself if you’re curious:
Democratic candidate Keith Fitzgerald is running against Rep. Vern Buchanan (R - FL), Republican candidate Karen Harrington is challenging Democratic National Committee chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D - FL), Democratic candidate Pat Miles, is challenging Rep. Justin Amash (R - MI), Republican Michael Williams is running in a crowded Texas district, and Republican candidate Jim Pendergraph is running in another packed race in North Carolina.
In Rhode Island, meanwhile, one reporter was curious enough to call up everybody.
Now, where’s my CPA?
April 19, 2012 | 3:50 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Here’s something to consider when you’re next stuck in traffic: Which incumbent Jewish Democratic congressman running for reelection in the 30th district should get credit for expanding the 405 freeway?
Rep. Howard Berman (D – Van Nuys) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D – Sherman Oaks), who are locked in a high-stakes and expensive battle for reelection in the West San Fernando Valley, are both claiming to have been instrumental to the expansion project, which is expected to cost just over $1 billion and will add a HOV lane on the 10 miles of freeway running between the 10 and the 101 freeways.
Those who see the 405 expansion as an accomplishment that is primarily Berman’s are bristling. The Berman campaign has accused Sherman of lying about his own record and inflating his involvement in the project.
“Howard Berman’s name has been associated with this project throughout this process,” Brandon Hall, senior adviser to the Berman campaign, said. “What you won’t find in any of the articles written while this was going on is Congressman Sherman’s name, and we think that speaks volumes about who actually was able to deliver on this project.”
In debates and public appearances over the course of this increasingly testy campaign, Sherman has said that the project would not have gone ahead without his effort. In a TV ad airing on cable in the San Fernando Valley, the Sherman campaign has included the additional lane on the 405 freeway on a list of Sherman’s accomplishments.
Despite the accusations from the Berman campaign, Sherman’s campaign consultant, Parke Skelton, stood firm, saying that Sherman played “a critical role in securing funding for the 405, particularly at the state level.”
“No one is saying that Brad Sherman did this by himself,” Skelton added. “The fact of the matter is a lot of people played important roles.”
As with many competing claims in political races, each side is marshalling a different set of facts to support its claims.
In a five-page document accompanying the press release, the Berman campaign outlined Berman’s actions over the course of many years to secure funding and advance the project, which is expected to be completed in 2013.
That document, citing news articles dating back to 2005, describes Berman’s efforts negotiating with congressional leaders to secure a $130 million appropriation in that year’s federal transportation bill and helping to apply public pressure on then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was reluctant to commit to the conditions associated with the federal funding.
“Every step of the way it’s been Howard Berman’s project,” said Bob Blumenfield, a California state assemblyman who worked as Berman’s district director during this time, and has endorsed Berman in his race against Sherman.
Blumenfield said that the fight between Berman and Schwarzenegger – in which the congressman pressured the governor to match the $130 million of federal funding he had secured with an equal amount of state funding – was only the most public of Berman’s efforts to keep the project going.
If Berman’s efforts to advance the 405 expansion project focused on the congressional funding process, Sherman’s contributions to the project, according to a three-page document obtained from the Sherman campaign, appear to have focused primarily, though not exclusively, on lobbying lawmakers and governmental bodies within California.
Starting in 2006 and continuing through 2007, Sherman wrote letters, appeared at press conferences and offered testimony at a hearing in Sacramento to support the project. Through these channels, the document from Sherman’s office argues, the congressman urged Schwarzenegger and the California Transportation Commission to allocate funding from voter-approved transportation bonds to the 405 project.
And while Sherman’s campaign focuses on the fact that the majority of the funds for the 405 expansion came from that bond issue, those supporting Berman say that the federal funding he secured for the 405 ensured that the project would be completed more quickly than it otherwise would have.
It may seem unusual, in a year when concerns about government deficits are running high, to see two incumbent lawmakers bragging about their roles in spending more than $1 billion on a highway construction project.
But the contest between Sherman and Berman – two Jewish, pro-Israel Democrats with relatively similar voting records running in a mostly Democratic district – is anything but ordinary. The two have had to draw distinctions between one another in curious ways.
Earlier this week, Sherman, for the first time in his 15-year congressional career, publicly released his federal income tax returns and challenged Berman to do the same.
“I think voters have a right to expect it,” Skelton said, “and at least Berman should answer the question whether he’s going to do it or not.”
Asked whether Berman would follow suit, a representative from the Berman campaign declined to comment.
Berman, meanwhile, has staked his candidacy on presenting himself as the more effective congressman, and in today’s release, the Berman campaign included quotes from a number of elected officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, giving Berman primary credit for making the 405 project a reality and for expediting its timing.
“Congressman Berman was the one who did the heavy lifting and delivered the $130 million we needed to make the project real. Everybody knows that,” said Richard Katz in today’s statement. Katz serves on the Board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Among those quoted in the Berman campaign’s release is Sherman himself, who acknowledged before a congressional committee in 2003 that Berman was the sponsor of the 405 freeway expansion. In that same testimony, Sherman called himself the lead sponsor of a different HOV lane project, the one along the I-5 freeway median between State Routes 134 and 170.”
April 17, 2012 | 1:57 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
According to data released this week by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Reps. Howard Berman (D - Van Nuys) and Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks) both raised significant amounts of money for their dueling campaigns for reelection in the 30th district.
With just seven weeks remaining before the two Jewish incumbent Democrats face off in a primary election, the Sherman campaign has just over $4 million in cash on hand. Berman’s campaign, although raising and spending money at a faster rate, has almost $2.5 million to spend.
The messages were optimistic from the campaigns of both congressmen.
Parke Skelton, Sherman’s campaign consultant, trumpeted the results in an email that included recent fundraising and Sherman’s internal polling data as well as data from August 2011. Sherman didn’t just lead Berman in money available, Skelton said. He had also netted more money over the months since the two reelection campaigns began in earnest.
“The numbers are pretty clear,” Skelton wrote. “The financial advantage enjoyed by Brad Sherman is widening, while, despite his massive spending, Berman has not closed the polling gap with Sherman at all.”
Brandon Hall, a senior adviser to the Berman campaign, saw his side’s spending as a positive attribute.
“We’ve already knocked on the door of every likely voter—regardless of party—introducing Congressman Berman to areas of the 30th district he hasn’t represented before,” Hall said in an emailed statement. “Given our proven ability to raise money at a rapid pace, we are confident our fundraising strength will continue once we successfully navigate the Primary Election.”
Berman has been raising funds at a rapid clip—Berman spoke at a star-studded fundraiser on Sunday night—but for the last decade, Sherman has represented about 60 percent of the new 30th district. Only 16 percent of the new district’s voters were in Berman’s old district, leaving Berman with the additional challenge of meeting and appealing to a district full of voters who are not familiar with him but are quite used to hearing about Sherman, who regularly hosts town halls in the district.
Under a new California law, the top-two vote getters in June, regardless of party, will advance to a run-off in November. Berman and Sherman are both expected to advance.
In addition to the funds Berman’s campaign has at its disposal, two independent expenditure committees supporting Berman’s campaign, known as Super PACs, released filings this week as well. One of the groups, the Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman, received $210,000 in contributions in the first three months of the year.
Most of those funds came from just two donors: Mapleton Investments, an investment firm headed by Marc Nathanson, and Peter Lowy, a Westfield Executive who is also the Chairman of the Board of Tribe Media Corp., the nonprofit publisher of the Jewish Journal, each donated $100,000 to the Berman-backing Super PAC.