The complaint, dated Thursday and released to the media today, alleges improper coordination between the Berman campaign and a pro-Berman super PAC, Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman.
It specifically argues that consultant Jerry Seedborg was paid more than $130,000 in the first quarter by the Berman campaign while Seedborg's firm Voter Guide Slate Cards is owed nearly $24,000 for work performed for the super PAC in the same three-month period.
“What we’ve got here is a consultant wearing the Berman for Congress hat one day, the super PAC hat the next day,” Sherman consultant Parke Skelton said in a statement.
An FEC spokeswoman said it would take a few days just to process the complaint and confirm its receipt, so it is unlikely any decision on the merits of the complaint will come swiftly. Meanwhile, it's unclear whether this is actually against the rules.
In reference to the new ground the case could cover in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, Sherman campaign manager Scott Abrams wrote in the complaint that this is "the most clearly documented case ever put before the FEC regarding coordination among a candidate, an authorized campaign committee and a super PAC."
Berman senior adviser Brandon Hall called the complaint, which was released the same day the L.A. Daily News announced its endorsement of Berman, "another frivolous gimmick from Brad Sherman's campaign."
"Jerry Seedborg and our campaign formally parted ways months ago," Hall said in a statement. "This allegation is focused on Seedborg’s actions after our campaign severed ties with him. We have absolutely no coordination with any independent committee. Furthermore, we have confidence in the FEC and trust they will arrive at the same conclusion."
The complaint is the latest point of contention between the campaigns of the two longtime colleagues from the San Fernando Valley who were drawn into the same district during California's new independent redistricting process.
The Sherman campaign has also attempted to strike an agreement to ban outside money, and it criticized Berman for not releasing his tax returns (Berman released them on Friday). The Berman campaign has argued that Sherman has vastly overstated his role in the widening of Interstate 405, which Sherman has taken credit for during debates and in a TV ad. Berman lists the I-405 widening among his own accomplishments, and fomer Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), the former chairman of the Transportation Committee, told Buzzfeed the credit should go to Berman.
The state's governor, both Senators and the majority of the Democratic House delegation are backing Berman. So are the Los Angeles Times and, as of today, the Daily News.
The campaign is already getting pricey — Berman has spent more than $1 million on cable TV ads ahead of the primary, Sherman has spent about $420,000, and the pro-Berman super PAC has spent $500,000.
Both Members are likely to advance beyond the June 5 all-party primary in this strongly Democratic district, though there are a couple of Republicans in the race.