Six weeks from the primary, Rick Caruso’s mayoral campaign in Los Angeles has already spent more than $23 million — an astronomical sum that will likely dwarf the combined spending of other candidates in the field.
This influx of money – which has largely come out of the billionaire property developer’s pocket – has reshaped the race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti. By comparison, Rep. Karen Bass has spent nearly $800,000 this year, according to a case summary presented to The Times.
Bass’s campaign has raised more than $1 million year-to-date, a figure well above the more than $570,000 raised by the Caruso campaign, according to filings from January 1 to April 23 submitted to the Court. City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission. Caruso didn’t enter the race until early February.
Bass also received more than $1 million in funds from the city’s Election Matching Program. Caruso withdrew from this program.
Filings for many other top candidates including Councilman Kevin de León, Councilman Joe Buscaino and City Atty. Mike Feuer, were not yet available. They must be returned before the end of the day.
The revelations come at a critical time in the race, with a recent poll showing around 40% of likely voters still undecided ahead of the June 7 primary. That same poll showed Bass and Caruso in a deadlock for first place, with 24% of likely voters backing Caruso and 23% backing Bass.
One of the latest entrants to the race, Gina Viola, raised just over $30,000 and spent about $7,000 on her campaign. The community activist, who has been a vocal critic of the city’s homelessness policies and the Los Angeles Police Department, scored 2% in a recent Times poll – ahead of several candidates who have raised and spent far more than she.
Caruso contributed $22.5 million of his own money to his bid for mayor — an unprecedented number in local Los Angeles politics. Garcetti spent about $10.2 million in total on his winning bid for a citywide job in 2013 — a figure that included not just the primary election, but also his runoff campaign against City Comptroller of the time, Wendy Greuel.
Republican businessman Richard Riordan invested $6 million of his own money in his successful 1993 mayoral campaign, which equates to just under $12 million in 2022 dollars after adjusting for the inflation. Only half of this sum was spent during the primary.
Caruso isn’t the only candidate giving big money to his own campaign. Ramit Varma, an Encino tech entrepreneur who had the support of 1% of likely voters in a recent poll, loaned his campaign $2.5 million, bringing the total he has received to $4 million. dollars since entering the race.
Of that, about $220,000 went to stick his face and QR codes on billboards, some along Los Angeles freeways. He also raised around $8,000.
Campaign finance is not the only source of money in the race: independent spending commissions supporting or opposing candidates have also begun to take shape. Donors can donate unlimited amounts of money to these committees, while campaign donations are capped at $1,500 per cycle.
Last week, the union representing Los Angeles police officers created an independent spending committee to oppose Bass. The union, which endorsed Caruso, paid an initial $500,000 to the committee. A separate committee supporting Bass had raised just under $1 million on Thursday.
Committees – which by law cannot communicate with campaigns – often air attack ads and negative messages, although they have not yet done so in the race.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.