Hill Climbers: Working for a Tax Lawyer

Posted September 29, 2009 at 4:40pm

The thought of working for a tax lawyer might not be the most exciting thing, but when it comes to Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), you might want to make a reassessment. A former accountant and tax lawyer, Sherman is widely regarded for his unique sense of humor. As evidence, look no further than the people Sherman attracts to work for him.

[IMGCAP(1)]This year, “Shermania— has undergone a number of staff changes and hires. Home to University of Southern California Trojans enthusiasts and self-confessed political junkies, Sherman’s office is never boring.

Starting off a number of recent staff changes is Marc Berkman, who was promoted to chief counsel in August.

An aide to Sherman since 2007, Berkman, 39, shares not only his home state with Sherman, but also a former career path. Berkman practiced tax law and securities litigation before jumping to the Hill. “I consider it a bonus to work for the only current Member that is a former tax attorney,— he said.

Berkman is a 2000 graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned a J.D. in 2004 from Columbia Law School. Between finishing college and enrolling in law school, Berkman worked an unlikely job — as a child care worker. “I assisted in the education and psychiatric treatment of 20 first-graders with severe behavior problems,— Berkman said. After that experience, he was ready for anything, saying, “[It] was certainly easier than working with lawyers.—

Also joining the Sherman shuffle is Erin Prangley, who in March was promoted to counsel/senior adviser from deputy chief of staff/district director.

A native Californian, Prangley, 39, graduated from USC in 1992. She earned a J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law in 1996 and went on to work for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). After several years of experience in Washington, D.C., Prangley headed back to the Golden State to set up a law practice with her husband.

But she did not leave politics behind for long, joining Sherman’s district office in 2004. “A former Hill colleague knew that I missed Congressional policy and politics,— she said. “I jumped at an opportunity to work for him.—

As an undergraduate, Prangley played soccer for the USC soccer team. And even though her job does not allow her to display her athletic talent, Prangley has more recently found another outlet — coaching her 3-year-old daughter’s soccer team, the Our Lady of Lourdes Lions.

Another promotion in Sherman’s office went to Rebecca Korman, who became legislative director in June. Korman, 29, was most recently senior legislative correspondent, but started with Sherman in 2005 as a legislative assistant. Korman began working for Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) shortly after graduating from Northwestern University in 2002. A native of Glencoe, Ill., Korman’s first experience in politics was a college internship with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Korman said her appreciation for Washington, D.C., largely comes from the city’s mild winters. But the Hill has brought Korman a lot more than better weather: Korman met her husband, Marc, on a Birthright Israel trip for Hill staffers. “We started dating about nine months after we returned,— she said.

With the promise of a “lifetime of stories to tell at cocktail parties,— Justin Friedman joined Sherman’s office as a legislative assistant in September. A native of Bethesda, Md., Friedman, 27, has worked in several other Members’ offices. He worked as a staff assistant to then-Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and was a legislative correspondent for Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) prior to joining Sherman’s office.

A 2005 graduate of the University of Maryland, Friedman said he was torn between politics and Wall Street at the start of his professional career. Even though politics eventually won out, Friedman still calls himself “an economist first and a ‘political hack’ second.—

Friedman said most people are surprised by his weekly attendance at a Torah study session of Congressional staffers. “I’m not very religious, but I find it intellectually stimulating,— he said.

Another new legislative aide in Sherman’s office is Matthew Dicker, who in August was promoted from staff assistant.

A native of Los Angeles, Dicker, 25, goes way back with Sherman. While just 17, Dicker looked up Sherman in the Almanac of American Politics and liked what he saw. “I called his campaign office and asked if I could help,— he said. “I’ve been working on and off for Rep. Sherman ever since.—

A 2006 graduate of USC, Dicker briefly jumped into campaign work after college. Dicker worked as a field organizer for then-Sen. Joseph Biden’s (D-Del.) presidential campaign before joining Sherman in 2008.

Dicker said his time in Washington, D.C., was made most memorable with President Barack Obama’s inauguration — and not just for the history of that experience. “To stand in the freezing cold for seven hours is no easy task for a Southern Californian,— he said.

In May, Cameron French joined Sherman’s staff as deputy communications director. French, 25, oversees Sherman’s online presence and contributes to the office’s “legendary mail program.—

A 2006 graduate of the University of North Carolina, French attributes getting a job with Sherman to persistence. “After seeing a listing on an e-mail, I contacted someone I knew worked with the California delegation and asked them to make sure my résumé actually made it to the office,— he said.

A self-described car-lover, French has found that politics has demanded a lot from his passion. “I had my own car last year, but she was tragically killed by an aggressive truck driver while I worked in North Carolina for the Obama campaign,— he said.

In July, Jessica Jensen joined Sherman’s office as a staff assistant. Jensen’s past internships with EMILY’s List, the Democratic National Committee and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) campaign all helped hone her political chops.

But Jensen’s alma mater did not hurt either. The 22-year-old is a 2009 graduate of USC with a degree in political science.

Stacey Lima rounds out Sherman’s recent staff changes. In May, Lima transitioned to scheduler from staff assistant in Sherman’s Washington office.

A Californian and 2008 graduate of the University of California, Irvine, Lima briefly worked for Sherman’s district after college. In January, she headed to the Hill for a brief stint as Sherman’s staff assistant before her promotion to scheduler.

Even though Lima has only been in D.C., for 10 months now, she said her time has not disappointed. This spring, Lima was fortunate to have her outfit critiqued by Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, who at the time was lobbying on Capitol Hill. “He told me my outfit was ‘absolutely fabulous’ and that my stockings were ‘amazing,’— Lima said. “I felt like I could die happy.—

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