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Berman snags newspaper endorsements, Sherman files complaint against Berman campaign

by Jonah Lowenfeld

May 9, 2012 | 11:26 am

From left: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), left, and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) testifying at a house subcommittee in 2003.

From left: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), left, and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) testifying at a house subcommittee in 2003.

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 re-election 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 newspapers’ editorial boards.

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 reportedly declared his intent to succeed Berman in that post, should he win in 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. In addition to backing Berman, 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.”

Sherman’s campaign, meanwhile, filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on May 7, alleging that the Berman campaign illegally coordinated with an outside group, a “Super PAC” formed to support Berman.

In a 22-page complaint, Scott Abrams, Sherman’s campaign manager, outlines what he calls “blatant coordination” between the Berman campaign and a Super PAC called The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman.

The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman raised $210,000 in the first three months of 2012, including $100,000 each from investor and media mogul Marc Nathanson and Peter Lowy, Co-Chief Executive Officer of the Westfield Group and the chairman of the board of TRIBE Media Corp., which publishes the Jewish Journal. Tech entrepreneur David Bohnett donated $10,000.

The Sherman campaign’s complaint centers on the actions of a consultant, Jerry Seedborg, who has worked with Berman’s brother, political consultant Michael Berman, on many campaigns in the past. Seedborg was paid $132,300 by Berman for Congress in the first three months of this year, a sum that was reportedly paid to sever his contract when a new manager was hired in March. During the same period, the pro-Berman Super PAC reported a $23,595 debt to Voter Guide Slate Cards, a company founded and headed by Seedborg.

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