Rep. Brad Sherman makes a point during a debate with Rep. Howard Berman and GOP candidate Mark Reed in Tarzana earlier this year.

Rep. Brad Sherman makes a point during a debate with Rep. Howard Berman and GOP candidate Mark Reed in Tarzana earlier this year. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / August 24, 2012)

It's the latest twist in an increasingly vitriolic campaign for Congress: Rep. Brad Sherman is going after payments made to the brother of his rival, fellow Democratic Rep. Howard Berman.

In a complaint filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, the Sherman campaign alleges that Berman vastly, and illegally, overpaid Michael Berman or his political consulting firm for campaign services during two decades in which the congressman faced only token reelection challenges and spent relatively little to reach voters.

It's not illegal to hire family members for campaign work, and some other members of Congress also do it. But the practice is controversial, and federal campaign laws require that the services provided be legitimate and in line with the usual cost, or fair market value, of the job performed.

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-- Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times