Though he’s only 5’6″, Scott Berkowitz is easy to spot among the staff and volunteers at Gary Hart’s Presidential campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C. In a sea of faded jeans, sweatshirts and well-worn jogging shoes, Berkowitz is often the only person wearing a three-piece suit. “Dressing well makes me feel good and it gives me added respect,” he explains. Implied, but not stated, is the fact that since he’s only 15, Berkowitz needs all the respect he can get.
Berkowitz may well be the youngest person ever to become a professional fund raiser for a Presidential hopeful. His voice has yet to break, but Berkowitz has already broken into the big time when it comes to raising money. In just 10 months his efforts have brought in more than $125,000 for Hart.
When Berkowitz volunteered his services at Hart headquarters last July, he met with skepticism from older pols. But he quickly showed a talent for sophisticated campaign research, including analysis of the spending patterns of other candidates. Soon Berkowitz was masterminding major money-raising efforts, including a one-night benefit performance of the Broadway musical Doonesbury, which brought $25,000 to the campaign.
Berkowitz, who assisted in fund-raising activities for his congressman at 13, finished the seventh grade at Glen Rock (N.J.) High School. High scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and a year of intensive private instruction enabled him in January 1983 to enroll at the American University in Washington, D.C. Six months later he suspended his studies to work for Hart. As a full-time staffer, Berkowitz is entitled to a “subsistence salary,” but, he says, “they haven’t met payroll in a while.” So his parents, a hospital administrator and a housewife, whom Scott now sees every two months, pay for his room and board in a private residence.
Berkowitz had never met the candidate when he signed on but says that Hart “seemed like the type of man I’d want to support.” Scott puts in 14-hour days, including weekends, and is pleased to see that his efforts are beginning to pay off. “We had to convince people,” he says, “that Gary Hart is in this for a long time.” As for the future, Berkowitz makes no secret of his aspirations to the same office Hart is seeking. Of course, he’ll have to wait until at least 2004.