Rep. Brad Sherman's reelection campaign is asking federal authorities to investigate what it says is improper coordination between his main rival, fellow Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, and a "super PAC" formed to support Berman in the nationally watched contest.
In a complaint planned for delivery to the Federal Election Commission on Monday, Sherman campaign manager Scott Abrams alleges that a Berman operative did not wait the required 120 days between working for the Berman campaign and contracting with the super PAC.
Such fundraising groups, which emerged as a controversial factor in the presidential primary contest, can collect unlimited amounts of money to use in support of, or opposition to, specific candidates. But they are forbidden to coordinate with a candidate or a candidate's campaign.
The complaint notes that the Berman campaign reported paying political consultant Jerry Seedborg $132,000 in the first three months of the year. During the same period, the super PAC reported paying Seedborg's company, Voter Guide Slate Cards, $23,595 for mail advertisements touting Berman's candidacy.
The super PAC, called the Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman, has also been running pro-Berman ads on cable TV stations in the San Fernando Valley. The congressman is vying with Sherman for a seat in a new district there that overlaps each of their former territories.
Seedborg, whose Long Beach firm specializes in selling candidates space on mailed political ads known as slates, has a long association with Berman's brother and campaign overseer, Michael, and Carl D'Agostino, Michael Berman's business partner.
Parke Skelton, Sherman's lead consultant, said Seedborg would have had inside knowledge of the Berman campaign workings that he could use to help the super PAC make strategic decisions.
"We are witnessing a blatant attempt to turn one of these sleazy super PACs into an illegal appendage of the Berman campaign," Skelton said.
Seedborg could not be reached for comment. An attorney for the super PAC called Skelton's allegation "ridiculous."
The attorney, Fredric D. Woocher, said Seedborg was an independent vendor in his work for the PAC and "doesn't know a thing about what the campaign plans are, other than that we bought his slate."
"We've been very careful to not have any coordination with the Berman campaign," said Woocher, an elections law specialist.
Asked April 20 about the Seedborg connection, Berman advisor Brandon Hall said the campaign had parted company with Seedborg "almost two months ago."
Times staff writer Richard Simon in Washington contributed to this report.