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  The Waxman-Berman Machine Finally Shuts Down
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Last Editedkarin1492  Feb 11, 2013 11:58pm
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CategoryPerspective
MediaMagazine - National Journal
News DateTuesday, February 12, 2013 05:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionThe phrase “Waxman-Berman machine” first appeared in The Washington Post almost four years before Howard Berman was even sworn into Congress. The year was 1979, and the occasion was when Rep. Henry Waxman, then a relatively junior Democrat from California, pulled off an upset win for the chairmanship of the Health Subcommittee of the powerful House Energy and Commerce panel.

Waxman did it, in part, by tapping the network of wealthy Los Angeles donors whom he and Berman, then a state Assembly member, had cultivated to cut $40,000 worth of checks to his congressional colleagues, including eight on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Sure enough, the recipients of his largesse helped Waxman leapfrog a more veteran lawmaker to secure the gavel.

“Some people were shocked that I would try to help Democrats on my committee,” Waxman recalled in a recent interview. “It was one of the first examples of a leadership PAC, of a member helping other members. Now, almost everybody does it.”

The coup was just one of the many exploits that Waxman and Berman pulled off over the years, forever linking the names of the two liberal Jewish Democrats from the west side of Los Angeles. From the late 1970s until the early 1990s, they operated the most potent political machine in California. A Waxman-Berman blessing could make a political career. The two dished out campaign cash, forged alliances, drew districts for friends (and themselves), and developed microtargeting techniques before a word for it even existed. “When I was a kid, I remember reading and hearing about the Waxman-Berman machine and what a powerhouse they were in Democratic politics,” says recently retired GOP Rep. David Dreier, who had represented Southern California for 30 years in the House.
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