Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said fellow Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) is a "superficial and headline-hunting" congressman on a conference call for Sherman's opponent, fellow Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).
Frank, never one to mince words, said while he'd already endorsed Berman in the race, he'd planned on staying mostly uninvolved until Sherman claimed that he'd "had more to do with" the Dodd-Frank bill to regulate Wall Street "than anyone except Dodd and Frank," and that he'd forced a major change in the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
"They are both appallingly off the mark, they are fantasies. I am a great admirer of Howard Berman. I am not an admirer of Brad Sherman's approach, I think it's superficial and headline-hunting," he said Tuesday afternoon. "This is unfortunately what he does — makes things up to enhance his role, and there's no basis for it."
Frank pointed out that Sherman had voted against TARP both times when it came on the House floor, and said he'd had little to do with the Wall Street reform regulation.
Sherman and Berman are facing off in a redrawn Los Angeles district that mostly includes Sherman's old territory. Sherman has a big geographic edge as well as a cash advantage, led in the first round of voting in California's "top two" primary system by a wide margin, and seems to have an edge heading into the November election. But Berman has received the backing of most of the state's Democratic elected officials, as well as many more members of Congress.
Frank said those endorsements stemmed from people's respect for Berman — and dislike of Sherman's style.
"This is one of the greatest contrasts I could think of between a very responsible, very constructive member and someone who really plays a much more superficial role," he said. "People who make headlines don't get anything done."
Sherman fired back.
"The people of the San Fernando Valley know I opposed the $700 miliion Wall Street bailout. I know I made Congressman Frank extremely angry because he saw me as anti-bailout and Berman as pro-bailout," he said in a statement to The Hill. "Now the Masschusetts congressman is trying to extend the bailout to the Berman campaign."
This post was updated at 8:05 p.m.