ENG: Howard Lawrence Berman (born April 15, 1941) is a former U.S. Representative, last serving California's 28th congressional district, serving in Congress from 1983 to 2013. The district, numbered as the 26th District from 1983 to 2003, included about half of the San Fernando Valley. Berman is a Democrat.
Early life, education, and legal career
Berman was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Eleanor (née Schapiro) and Joseph Berman. His maternal grandparents immigrated from Russia. Berman grew up in modest circumstances.
He graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School (Los Angeles) (1959), and earned his B.A. (1962, International Relations) and LL.B. (1965) at University of California, Los Angeles. Blanche Bettington, his high school civics teacher, inspired him to enter politics and government. He was a VISTA volunteer (1966–1967) in Baltimore and San Francisco, and was an associate at a Los Angeles law firm (1967–72) specializing in labor relations.
Berman was active in the Bruin Democrats at UCLA.
He began his friendship with Henry Waxman there in 1960, when both were still undergraduates. Waxman was head of the YD liberal caucus, and through it ran the YDs. Both of them supported Adlai E. Stevenson's pursuit of the presidential nomination up to the eve of the 1960 convention. Berman was President of the California Young Democrats 1967–1969. He and Waxman co-founded the Los Angeles County Young Democrats, which grew to become one of the largest young professional clubs in Southern California.
Berman was a convention delegate to the 1968 (Chicago), 1976, and 1984 Democratic National Conventions.
California Assembly - Elections
Berman won election to the Assembly in 1972 from a district in the Hollywood Hills, unseating the incumbent Republican Speaker pro-tempore. His brother Michael, campaign manager in Henry Waxman's 1968 Assembly race, again ran a targeted mail operation.
In 1974 Berman and Waxman both opposed Willie Brown's unsuccessful revolt against Speaker of the California State Assembly Leo McCarthy, who rewarded Berman's loyalty by appointing him the youngest majority leader in the Assembly's history. McCarthy fired Berman when he tried to replace him in 1980.
Although McCarthy failed to retain the Speakership, Berman failed to win it; and Brown became Speaker. Other members remarked on what a tough politician he was; the Bermans helped arrange a primary defeat for at least one colleague (Jack R. Fenton) who had opposed his bid.
U.S. House of Representatives - Elections - 1982
After redistricting made the 26th District significantly more Democratic, incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman John Harbin Rousselot decided to run in California's 30th congressional district in 1982. Berman won the Democratic primary for the open seat with 83%. He won the general election with 60% of the vote.
1984 through 2010
Berman was reelected 14 times, never dropping below 61% of the vote, from 1984 through 2010.
The 2000 census allocated California one new House seat, 53 in all. Berman, "dad of the delegation" on redistricting, made a deal with Republicans Tom Davis and David Dreier to keep 34 safe seats for Democrats, add one new Republican district, and protect 19 incumbent Republicans.
Many California Democrats in the House and California State Senate hired Michael Berman, Howard Berman's brother, as a redistricting consultant, for a fee of $20,000 each. When the August 2001 plan was unveiled, Congressman Brad Sherman, a fellow Democrat from California, complained that it undermined the safety of his seat with too many Hispanic voters, saying "Howard Berman stabbed me in the back." Berman agreed to redraw the boundary between their districts, giving himself 55.6% and Sherman 36.5% Latino population. The redistricting plan survived a court challenge from the MALDEF, which argued that the redistricting diluted Hispanic representation. The Republicans suffered some slippage; they had only 19 members in the delegation to the 110th Congress.
From 2001 to 2006, Berman paid his brother Michael Berman's consulting firm Berman & D'Agostino $195,000 from campaign funds. In the 2002 campaign, Berman & D'Agostino was paid $75,000 in political consulting fees. In 2005, $50,000 in consulting fees were paid to the company, and Michael Berman himself was paid a further $80,500 in campaign management and consulting fees. In 2006, $70,000 was paid in consulting fees.
Following redistricting, Berman decided to run in the newly redrawn California's 30th congressional district. Sherman had the advantage because he previously represented over half of the district. About 60% of voters of the new 30th district resided in Sherman's former district, while just 20% of voters resided in Berman's.
The race, unprecedented in pitting two very similar candidates of the same party against each other in the general election, was called a "slugfest". Berman received the endorsements from about two-thirds of California’s Democratic congressional delegation. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has not endorsed either candidate in the election. Sherman received the endorsements from Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, State Controller John Chiang, former President Bill Clinton, and U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).
On June 5, 2012, Sherman ranked first in the seven-candidate open primary with 42% of the vote. Berman ranked second with 26% of the vote. Due to a new election system in California, which puts the two primary candidates with the highest votes into general election, Berman faced fellow Democrat Brad Sherman in November. In the November general election, Sherman defeated Berman 60%-40%.
Berman has been described as "one of the most creative members of the House and one of the most clear-sighted operators in American politics." He has been an active legislator on several issues, but has also been described as "not one who gets much publicity."
Berman was the House sponsor of the 1986 False Claims Act that authorized civil litigation by whistleblowers. It led to recoveries for the United States Government exceeding one billion dollars.
Berman has championed protecting American film industry jobs from outsourcing ("runaway production"). He has also voted against amending the constitution to require a balanced budget, banning the desecration of the American flag, the Defense of Marriage Act, and restrictions on abortion.
However, Berman concurs with many on the right on a number of issues — particularly foreign affairs and trade. Berman voted in support of the invasion of Iraq in both 1991 and 2003, as well as for the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, positions that have hurt his standing among many liberals in his district. While he generally supports free trade—for instance voting in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and various trade agreements with specific countries—he voted against the more recent Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). He opposes withdrawing U.S. support for the World Trade Organization. In that same year, he also voted to phase out many farm subsidy programs put into place by the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of the New Deal.
In Congress, Berman led the investigation into the conduct of house members in the Mark Foley Page scandal.
In May 2012, Berman co-sponsored a bill with Republican David Drier to reinstate tax credits given to films produced mainly in the United States. The credits were active from 2008 until 2011, and were aimed at keeping films in Hollywood. Berman stressed that we "must make every effort to keep American productions here in the United States."
Berman married Janis Gail Schwarz in 1979; they have two daughters, Brinley and Lindsey.
February 11, 2013