$104,848,887.43 – Rick Caruso spent at least that much on his unsuccessful campaign to become mayor of Los Angeles, according to the latest campaign finance records.
That’s 11 times more than the $9 million spent by winner Karen Bass. It’s the largest sum spent by a mayoral candidate in US history, just ahead of the $102 million that Michael Bloomberg threw down in New York when he was re-elected in 2009.
Caruso hoped to replicate the success of Richard Riordan, another LA rich man-turned-mayor.
Instead, the billionaire developer joined Al Checchi, Michael Huffington and Meg Whitman in California’s political bonfire of self-funded, fabulously wealthy losers.
In a concession statement posted on social media, Caruso had no regrets about his run, saying it had been “one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Do you know who else got rewarded? Many people.
Radio and television stations and other media (including this one) collectively raking in tens of millions of advertising dollars. millions of consultants. $10,000 for the Italian Festival in Los Angeles. $2,500 to Canoga Park Elks Lodge #2190. $9,881 for a talk organized by the Men’s Forum of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in Pasadena but held in Burbank – two cities where the LA mayor has no jurisdiction.
$104 million plus change is, well, pocket money for someone whose net worth is estimated at $5.9 billion by the Los Angeles Business Journal. That’s what makes the crowd so obscene. Once the final numbers on campaign finance come in, it could go even higher.
If Caruso wanted to change people’s lives through benevolence, he could have done it in many ways with the same money.
Consider the possibilities.
At Casa Vega, Sherman Oaks’ legendary Cal-Mex restaurant where Caruso met with business owners in August, $104 million will sell for $3,851,851. No chicken or beef taco; chile relleno. A free dinner would have warmed voters further than any of Caruso’s incessant campaign ads, which Angelenos will remember with the same fondness they have for former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.
For what Caruso spent on his race, he could have given away 522,613 one-year print-plus-digital subscriptions to The Hollywood Reporter or 581,005 to his rival Variety. Both publications cover the activities of his celebrity supporters, including Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg and George Lopez.
14,964,028 Dodger Dogs – Fans would demand the franchise create a jersey number for Caruso only to have it retired!
Or, if you prefer, 5,213,033 Pastrami Reubens from Canter’s Deli.
Caruso’s $104 million could have paid for what LA Mayor Eric Garcetti earned last year — $283,827 — for the next 366 years.
He could have covered a year of tuition, housing, food and books for 1,124 students at his alma mater, USC — or gotten more for his beaucoup dollar by sponsoring 3,000 UCLA students.
Also on the education front, how about a year at the private Brentwood School his children attended, for 2,553 K-8 students or 2,158 high schoolers?
$104 million is good for 3,466,666 all-day parking passes at The Grove, Caruso’s most famous mall. Or 24,452 Friday and Saturday stays in the cheapest suite at his Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort in Montecito.
Or an annual lease for 1,375 people in the cheapest apartment in his luxury project 8500 Burton. The $6,300 per month for these units is well above the average LA rent of $1,532. At that average price, if Caruso was willing to stretch his buck, he could fit 5,690 people for a year — not the 30,000 people he wanted to fit in 30 days, but something.
In his concession statement, Caruso promised that “more will come of the movement we have created.”
Well, Rick, LA has a lot of bills to pay. Her $104 million nearly matches the $105.5 million the Los Angeles Police Department is asking for pay, overtime and hiring increases in its upcoming budget. A good chunk of cost overruns for the ever-delayed Purple Line extension. About a third of Bass’ $292 million plan to house 17,000 homeless people. About a fifth of a mile from LAX’s upcoming People Mover.
By the end of the year, Rick could have given out $104 million in holiday cheer, just as he did on Thanksgiving when he gave out turkeys to South Los Angeles crime victims. The following scenarios are impossible in the real world – but hey, so is a big guy on a reindeer sled in the air.
Caruso’s generosity could have bought 1,857 Patio Suite packages at SoFi Stadium for the December 8 Rams Raiders match. For $56,000 each package includes 28 tickets, five VIP parking spaces, food and beverages and a private toilet.
Next year, Caruso could please 742,857 families of four with a Dodger Stadium special that includes $60 tickets and meal vouchers.
This month he was able to purchase 13,500 center-side seats for the December 13 Lakers game against the Boston Celtics at Crypto.com Arena. He could give away 8,068,269 matinee tickets at the Grove for The Fabelmans, a Steven Spielberg story about the never-ending love between an ambitious son and his imperfect father that would resonate with our man.
$104 million is so much that some of Caruso’s other generosity seems downright stingy. The Caruso Family Foundation, the charitable wing of his empire, spent $7.5 million on various causes in 2019, the most recent year for which publicly available tax returns are available.
The $5 million pledge Caruso’s foundation made to benefit Operation Progress, a Watts nonprofit that aims to get neighborhood kids on the road to college, looks like starvation wages. So did the $3 million the foundation donated to Para Los Niños, which helps children in Skid Row.
This is the great tragedy of Caruso’s campaign. As I have already written, he is not a greedy Mr. Burns or Scrooge. His commitment to helping those who need it, motivated by his own family’s immigrant history and his Catholic faith, is genuine. That same commitment to a better LA is why he ran for mayor and spent all his money, he says.
But his futile effort reminds me of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s warning that “politics must not absorb all the spiritual and creative energies of a people.” Caruso could have done better with his fortune. Here’s hoping he does in the future.
104 million six-month subscriptions to the LA Times – just saying!
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-27/rick-caruso-mayors-race-104-million-campaign-spending 104 million better ways Rick Caruso could’ve spent his money