Rick Caruso has spent more than $62 million since running for Los Angeles mayor in February, almost all of it his own money.
It’s a number that – apart from fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s three successful New York City mayoral campaigns – is all but unrivaled in the annals of American local politics.
His opponent, Rep. Karen Bass, has spent just over $6 million since entering the race more than a year ago, meaning the real estate developer has outstripped her by a factor of 10.
A little over five weeks before the Nov. 8 election, campaign finance disclosures released late Thursday paint a revealing picture of how both campaigns have regrouped since the primary.
Find out about LA politics
In this crucial election year, we’ll break down the ballot and tell you why it matters in our LA on the Record newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Without independent wealth, Bass has little chance of taking on Caruso’s lavish war chest. But the congresswoman had what appeared to be her most impressive month of fundraising yet over the summer.
During an approximately 12-week period, Bass earned nearly $2.2 million in submissions and more than $250,000 in city-matching funds, as evidenced by the July 1 through September 24 at the city’s ethics committee documents filed in Los Angeles. She spent nearly $1.2 million during that time.
According to his files, Caruso spent just over $21 million during the same period.
Caruso turned the race on its head in the spring as a first-time contender, entering the field with little publicity and flooding the city with ad spend. He managed to envision Angelenos, and his centrist “Clean LA” message seemed to be gaining traction with an electorate frustrated by homelessness and crime.
But Bass finished the June primary with a seven-point lead. Two weeks later, the US Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade – ensuring abortion rights remain the focus of conversation until November’s election, and creating a far less favorable political environment for a former Republican hoping to lead deep -blue city.
After his relentless publicity spend throughout the spring, Caruso stayed off the airwaves through mid-September, leading many political observers to wonder throughout the summer whether Caruso would pull off a similar publicity streak in the fall or switch to different tactics.
The answer seems to be both. TV ads will be plentiful, but its latest campaign documents also show a gargantuan investment in field trials.
That effort, which accounted for nearly half of the campaign’s spending during the most recent registration period, is central to a broader November strategy that relies on the campaign’s ability to attract voters who likely missed the primary and with less probability of a general election will vote.
Personal communication combined with culturally competent outreach is key to successful fieldwork, said Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College.
“If these people come out to knock on doors, we can assume that it will have some impact,” Sadhwani said.
The campaign has spent nearly $10 million on its advertising program over the past few months, according to filings dated July 1 through September 24. Caruso’s most visible focuses since the primary have been Latino voters, Asian American voters, and voters in the San Fernando Valley.
According to data from media-tracking firm AdImpact, Caruso is expected to spend at least $20 million on television advertising between now and November’s election. Of this total projected reservation, Caruso spent approximately $5.5 million on television airtime during this filing period in the form of payments to television stations made by his media scheduler.
Setting up field trials is more difficult for an outsider like Caruso, an LA-based policy consultant Mike Murphy said because he can’t access the union infrastructure, which Bass is likely to help. Murphy supports Caruso and has previously worked for him.
Caruso is “criticized for spending, but it’s also a form of freedom. It makes it easier to be the change candidate,” Murphy said.
Bass was heavily favored by local work groups during the campaign, and several are likely to volunteer support in the coming weeks.
“Karen Bass has always fought for the average worker, not just the rich and big corporations,” said Pete Rodriguez, executive secretary and treasurer of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, recently.
The union — one of several outside groups supporting Bass — plans to spend more than $1 million on Spanish-language television advertising to support her. Union members also volunteer to do phone banking and door knocking for Bass.
Campaign money from the primary cannot be carried over to the general, meaning Bass had to essentially start from scratch on June 8, the day after the primary. Fundraising seems to have been one of her main focuses during the summer months.
More than $200,000 — nearly a fifth of Bass’ spending during that period — went to Stephanie Daily Smith’s “Daily Consulting” fundraiser. The prominent Democratic fundraiser joined the Bass campaign after the primary.
Donors who have fully supported Bass during this time include Steven Spielberg, Sheryl Sandberg, former Chief Operating Officer of Meta, Laphonza Butler, President of Emily’s List, Washington, DC businessman Danny Bakewell, lobbyist Heather Podesta, the filmmaker Barry Jenkins and Showtime Chief Executive David Nevins.
In a testament to the national focus on the race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti, congressmen’s summer fundraising included stops in New Orleans, Atlanta and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, according to financial statements and social media posts.
Caruso raised approximately $152,000 in donations over the same period and poured more than $21 million of his own money into his campaign, bringing the total amount he has committed to his campaign since February to more than $61 million -dollar has increased – which is almost equal to his total expenses.
External spending will continue to play an important role in the race. Bass is supported by a number of independent spending committees, including Communities United for Bass for LA Mayor 2022. This political action committee, whose primary funders include unions and Hollywood donors, raised more than $700,000 during the application period and spent hundreds of thousands a digital attack display characterizing Caruso as a liar.
A new pro-bass PAC led by the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters has raised more than $2 million in donations in recent weeks.
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor also formed its own committee to support Bass with six-figure donations from the Labor Federation and SEIU Local 2015 representing long-term carers.
These outside groups are not subject to campaign finance regulations, which limit individual donations to candidates to $1,500 per cycle, making it easier for them to raise large sums of money.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-30/caruso-bass-spending-fundraising-fall Rick Caruso’s spending tops $62 million in L.A. mayor’s race