Berman's Super PAC gets national attention

Thumbnail image for Berman+Sherman+Town+Hall+JJ.jpgBoth the Washington Post and the New York Times have taken note this week of the committee funded by Marc Nathanson that is spending big bucks on behalf of Rep. Howard Berman in the Democratic Party's congressional district showdown in the Valley. From the Post:

The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman has one particular congressman in mind: Howard L. Berman, a 15-term California Democrat who is struggling to hold on to his redistricted San Fernando Valley seat.

The political fundraising committee is essentially the creation of one man trying to keep a close friend and political ally in office

“Howard and I have been friends for 30 years,” said Marc Nathanson, a cable TV magnate and investor who founded the super PAC and has given it $100,000. “It’s a friendship beyond what I call political friendships — it’s a personal relationship. When it was clear he needed help, I figured out a way to do that.”

Amid the hundreds of super PACs created to help favored candidates and causes, Nathanson’s group is part of an even more specific class — highly customized, highly personalized political action committees, often created overnight when a relative or friend writes a check.

The phenomenon began in the Republican presidential primary, when a handful of millionaires lined up to support their candidates through specially targeted super PACs, including one funded by Jon Huntsman Jr.’s billionaire father.

Now Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor of the NYT, yesterday on his blog.

Perhaps the most worrisome development in the post-Citizens United world of campaign finance is the political buddy system, whereby one really well-heeled person joins up with one politician and funds his bid almost entirely out of his own pocket, through a supposedly independent super PAC.

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate, is the best known buy-a-candidate giver. He and his family contributed more than $16 million to Winning the Future, a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC. Without Mr. Adelson, Mr. Gingrich could not have lasted as long he did in the Republican presidential primary.

But The Washington Post reported yesterday that the buddy system goes beyond the presidential race.

In California, Marc Nathanson has spent $100,000 so far to create The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman super PAC. Not just any Effective Valley Congressman: just one, Howard Berman, a 15-year veteran of the House whose San Fernando Valley district got redistricted and now has to fight to keep his seat.

Mr. Nathanson will expect absolutely nothing in return if Mr. Berman, his friend of 30 years, retains his seat. The “appearance” of access will not lead to the “appearance of corruption,” let alone actual corruption. After all, the Supreme Court said it wouldn’t.

The Berman race is not even the worst example of the customized super PAC.

Berman's opponent, Rep., Brad Sherman, of course has been trying to make hay about the Super PAC during the race.

Previously on LA Observed:
Boyarsky on the Berman Super PAC

Photo: Jewish Journal

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Recent Berman-Sherman stories on LA Observed:
Howard Berman lands with DC lobbying firm
Cost of Berman-Sherman campaign: $16.3 million
Big bucks for Berman super PAC
Video: Sherman and Berman get in each other's face
NPR drops in on the Berman-Sherman race
A new Berman attack
Berman gets the Times endorsement too
And the Daily News endorsement goes to... ... ... Berman