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howardberman.jpgWhen Howard Berman lost the most expensive congressional race in the country last year - falling to fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman after the two were thrown together in the same district - it marked the end of a fabled Southern California political machine.

Berman and Rep. Henry Waxman, along with Berman's campaign/redistricting consultant brother, Michael, had been major factors in regional and statewide politics for decades, making or breaking countless political careers.

The rise and fall of the Berman-Waxman machine is chronicled in a lengthy article in the National Journal.

Shane Goldmacher, a former Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times Capitol reporter, charts how the organization got its start in campus politics before Waxman and Howard Berman moved to the Legislature and then to Congress, becoming major forces in domestic and foreign policy.

Along the way, with Michael Berman in the background, they pioneered many political techniques now commonplace in California and elsewhere, such as targeted direct mail, slate mailers and using contributions to fellow politicians to climb the internal ladders to congressional power.

But they also had stumbles, such as Howard Berman's failing bid to become Assembly speaker in 1980 after an epic, year-long battle to unseat fellow Democrat Leo McCarthy, and a disastrous U.S. Senate campaign by machine acolyte Mel Levine two decades ago, which the Goldmacher article doesn't mention.

The die was cast for Howard Berman's defeat by Sherman when the machine's control of redistricting, via Michael Berman, was lost. Voters created an independent redistricting commission in response to the Berman-engineered gerrymander after the 2000 census, and after the 2010 census the commission drew congressional maps that tossed Howard Berman into the same San Fernando Valley district as Sherman, an old machine foe.

PHOTO CREDIT: Congressman Howard Berman, right, hands his ballot to poll inspector Daniel Irace at the Shaarey Zedek Congregation Social Hall in Valley Village, California, Tuesday morning, November 6, 2012. Al Seib/ Los Angeles Times


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