Caruso’s ad blitz could hit $53 million in L.A. mayor’s race

Businessman Rick Caruso will end his campaign for mayor of Los Angeles the way he started it – with a TV ad campaign trying to convince Angelenos that he’s the kind of independent problem solver who has deep-seated and corrupt interests can overcome in the town hall.

Spending about 13 times more than his opponent Karen Bass, Caruso’s advertising spree across TV, radio and digital platforms is expected to top $53 million, enough to set the themes for the race but not enough to win secure, so several politicians are watching the competition. Those numbers include what both candidates are expected to spend in the primary and general elections, according to data from media-tracking firm AdImpact.

Despite the one-sided spending, Bass seemed to remain the strong frontrunner throughout the summer and into the fall. A poll conducted in late September saw Bass 15 points ahead of Caruso among likely voters and 3 points ahead — within the poll’s margin of error — among all voters.

However, it’s widely believed that the race has intensified in recent weeks, likely due at least in part to the $3 million to $4 million a week Caruso has been spending on advertising since the beginning of the month.

Campaign experts said publicity attacks from both sides appear less savage than in some past mayoral campaigns and may be tempered by race and gender, with Bass being constrained by more intense scrutiny that sometimes confronts women and black candidates, and Caruso keen to Avoid accusations that are his calls are sexist or racist.

With no single ad or image dominating, it is the sheer size of Caruso’s advantage that will make the most lasting impression of the 2022 campaign. Caruso is sometimes recognized at campaign stops by Angelenos, who have no real idea who he is – other than the certainty that they must be famous because they saw him on TV.

“Caruso’s advertising campaign consisted of a 12-course meal, complete with matching wines and small palate cleansers, to counter negative publicity on Karen Bass,” said John Shallman, a veteran consultant who previously advised mayoral candidates and City Atty. mike fire “By comparison, Bass is trying to serve a home-cooked meal to a packed Dodger Stadium with just enough to feed the field crew.”

Robert Shrum, director of the USC Center for the Political Future, agreed that studies have shown that “the amount of advertising is at least as important as the content of the advertising. By this casting weight standard, it is clear and undeniable that Caruso has an advantage.”

A little less than half of Caruso’s ad spend has come in since he finished second to Bass in the first round of voting in June. His $25.7 million since then is eight times Bass’ $3.2 million, according to AdImpact data.

Caruso has had nearly a dozen commercials on TV in the past few months, while Bass has poured just over $3 million into a single 30-second TV spot.

Caruso’s television ads since elementary school have run the gamut, including a series of biographical spots, Spanish and English ads contrasting his homelessness plan with Bass, and two assault spots — one targeting the controversial scholarship she received for grad school at USC received, and another highlight was a speech in which Bass praised Scientology.

Although the Scientology ad ran on television for almost a week in late September and early October, the Caruso campaign made more money than almost any other ad, according to AdImpact data.

The ad repeats a 2010 speech in which Bass speaks warmly about Scientology and its “universal creed.” It contrasts Bass’ positive pronouncements with descriptions of the church by news organizations characterizing Scientology as “homophobic” and “a ruthless global fraud.”

Bass said she appeared at a time when she was not fully aware of Scientology’s “abuses.” Her campaign said she condemned these actions when she became better informed about them.

Caruso’s other ads have highlighted his family’s immigrant history, Boyle Heights ancestry, and business background. Last week, the businessman’s campaign ran an ad lumping Bass with other “career LA politicians” — a spot that includes a montage of headlines about corruption and “City Hall in Chaos.”

The ad features not only images of Mitchell Englander and Jose Huizar – council members embroiled in corruption investigations – but also photos of Nury Martinez, the council president who resigned after an audio recording of her and other city lawmakers in a crude and sometimes racist discussion about urban redevelopment procedures. The ad portrays Caruso as an antidote to established city Poles, an outsider who “will serve no one but LA voters.”

Bass’ much more limited advertising budget — just over $4.1 million compared to Caruso’s $53.3 million, mostly from his personal funds — has largely gone into a “Way Forward” biographical ad, which featured a picture of the congressman and her begins colleague in the US House of Representatives, the late Representative John Lewis. The spot portrays her as a battle-hardened leader who has successfully navigated various crises as a legislator.

Dermot Givens, a lawyer and political adviser, said he sees both Bass and Caruso “pulling their punches” — during debates and in their publicity calls — so bad feelings don’t rebound on them.

“The stereotype Karen has to fight against is that of the ‘angry black woman.’ She doesn’t want to be accused of that,” said Givens, who is black. “So she must be the nice black woman. And she does.”

Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, chair of USC’s Department of Political Science and International Relations, said research shows that negative publicity backfires more on female candidates than on male candidates. Hancock Alfaro said this stems from societal expectations that female candidates should be “warm and fuzzy”.

Givens said he felt Caruso was also less than full-blown in his attacks on Bass, who, if elected, would become the first woman to serve as mayor of Los Angeles.

Givens said that before the campaign began, he consulted with other candidates considering running for mayor. He said they all believed Bass’s identity and status as an early frontrunner would make her difficult to challenge.

“We are in an era where black women have been identified as the core of the Democratic Party. We have Kamala Harris in the White House,” Givens said. “Nobody felt like they wanted to attack [Bass]to make a hit in an age that feels like the age of black women.

The attacks from the bass side come from groups not directly related to their campaign. A Bass political action committee, funded largely by unions and Hollywood donors, is investing $1 million in a television ad that pitted images of Caruso against Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and the developer for donations to “Pro -Gun and anti-abortion Republicans.”

The PAC – which cannot legally coordinate with Bass’s campaign – has taken on an attack dog role in the race, frequently branding Caruso a liar in a series of digital ads that also criticize his time on the police commission.

Another outside group, the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, plans to spend just over $2 million by Nov. 8 to air a Spanish-language television spot in support of Bass’s campaign, according to a union spokesman.

Caruso registered as a Democrat just before entering the mayoral race, and his past membership in the Republican Party was an issue Bass has hammered on in heavily Democratic Los Angeles.

The fact that Caruso has supported anti-abortion politicians and voiced his own doubts about abortion rights has a meaning for Bass allies, according to a 2007 Los Angeles magazine story that the developer has since denied created a rich line of attack.

The Bass campaign has scrapped a number of negative digital ads for Caruso, including one focused on abortion, but Democratic lawmakers have put very limited financial backing behind those videos, according to the campaign.

During the campaign, Caruso has said repeatedly that he supports a woman’s right to make her own decisions about abortion without government interference.

The beating on Caruso closely mirrors Councilman Michael Woo’s beating on Republican businessman Richard Riordan during their 1993 mayoral showdown. Woo slapped Riordan as a Republican “wheeler dealer made rich on Reaganomics”. Another ad contrasted Riordan’s claims that he supports abortion rights with a clip from a cable TV interview in which he described his mixed feelings and his belief that abortion was “murder.”

Riordan also provided a precursor to the arguments Caruso makes against Bass today, portraying Woo as part of the City Hall establishment that needed to be shaken to transform LA after civil unrest devastated the city in 1992.

In another ad that aired in mid-October, Caruso made a tactical change. During the primary campaign, the real estate magnate usually tried to avoid discussions about his partisan trajectory, but he addressed the issue head-on in the new spot.

“You may have heard that I used to be a Republican,” says Caruso. “But the Republican Party has moved to a place that doesn’t represent my values. So I left.” He also reiterated that on abortion, “I am pro-choice. And I will defend that with all my might.”

Shrum, who has previously led regional and national political campaigns for Democrats, said he thinks this is an important message for Caruso to get out, but one that he should have gotten out sooner rather than “catching up.” Caruso’s ad blitz could hit $53 million in L.A. mayor’s race

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