Detectives claim LAPD chief sought investigation of Mayor Bass over USC scholarship

Two detectives in the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division say they were ordered to investigate Mayor Karen Bass shortly after her election at the behest of Chief Michel Moore, allegations the chief has strongly denied.

The detectives filed the complaints with the Office of the Inspector General alleging that Moore called for Internal Affairs investigators to conduct an inquiry into a USC scholarship that Bass received.

Bass’ USC scholarship had come under scrutiny during the 2022 election, when her opponent in the mayoral race, Rick Caruso, blasted her for accepting it and later offering legislation that would have given USC and private universities wider eligibility for federal funding. Bass denied any wrongdoing, and the House Committee on Ethics cleared her request to accept the tuition award.

While federal prosecutors did not charge Bass, they said in court papers that her scholarship and her dealings with USC were “critical” to a corruption case involving the university and a top Los Angeles County elected official.

In a message to The Times on Tuesday, Moore said: “The mayor and I have NOT discussed any such investigation by anyone in the department into her USC Master’s Degree in Social Work,” he said. “Additionally, I have no such knowledge of any alleged investigation nor would I initiate any such investigation.”

On Wednesday, after The Times’ story was published, Moore posted a follow-up statement calling the allegations “patently false.”

“The Los Angeles Police Department Internal Affairs Division is restricted in scope to conducting investigations of potential misconduct by Department employee. their investigation into these fictitious allegations,” the statement read. “I did not initiate, request, or authorize an investigation as alleged in any fashion. This matter is now with the Office of the Inspector General and I look forward to their investigation into these fictitious allegations.”

In their complaints, the detectives said they found Moore’s alleged request, which was relayed by their supervisors, troubling to the point that they ultimately refused the assignment. It’s unclear why Internal Affairs investigators would have been asked to handle such an inquiry.

Moore did not respond to a question about the possibility that his underlings may have misinterpreted him. The detectives’ complaints say it was not clear “how far and to what extent” any subsequent investigation into Bass went. But they said the timing of the request — in early January, as Moore’s future as the city’s top cop was in limbo under the new mayor — led them to question the chief’s motives.

“I believe that using LAPD resources to investigate Karen Bass was improper, unethical and a violation of City ordinances and was done for the personal benefit of Chief Moore to assure his reappointment as Chief of Police,” one of the complaints said.

The competing narratives, between the chief and two seasoned detectives, have once again thrust the normally secretive inner workings of the department into the public spotlight after a string of embarrassing scandals involving LAPD leadership. The latest allegations are not supported by any evidence in the complaints, and neither detective would discuss the case further.

One of the detectives, Jason Turner, declined to comment when contacted by The Times on Tuesday. Attorney Greg Smith provided the Times with a copy of the other detective’s complaint on the condition that they not be identified because they fear retaliation within the department.

The Times asked the Office of the Inspector General if it had received complaints regarding allegations involving Moore and Bass and a spokesperson said it had.

“We have received communications regarding this matter, and we are handling them according to our standard protocols,” the office said in a statement. “In general, when the OIG receives allegations of misconduct against any Department employee, we ensure that a formal complaint investigation is initiated.”

The Times reviewed copies of the complaints and emails showing they were submitted. The first claim was also sent to a member of the mayor’s staff, who confirmed receipt, according to a record of the email reviewed by The Times.

In response to questions Tuesday about the allegations, a spokesperson for Bass said: “Mayor Bass’ focus is on reducing crime. People need to get with that program and stop wasting time and resources on debunked political attacks.”

The complaints say Moore’s order to investigate Bass was relayed by Capt. Divyesh “John” Shah, the head of internal affairs, during a meeting at a Figueroa Street high-rise that houses the department’s professional standards bureau, among other city agencies.

With Moore nearing the end of his first five-year term and seeking reappointment, the detectives said they were uncomfortable with the request to look into the incoming mayor’s prior scholarship.

Turner said another internal affairs supervisor who was present for the conversation, Det. Jason De La Cova, asked him to draw on his connections and experience working in the Southwest Division, where USC is located, his complaint alleges.

The two detectives had already been investigating the university over its connection to Cory Palka, the former LAPD captain who retired last year amid allegations that he schemed to cover up a sexual abuse claim against former CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves. Their investigation centered on whether Palka’s daughter, who was a USC student at the time, had received an internship thanks to her father’s cozy relationship to Moonves.

In their complaints, the detectives said Shah and De La Cova briefed them on a meeting about the Palka case with Moore and Michael Rimkunas, his deputy chief in charge of professional standards. Shah suggested the order to investigate Bass came out of that meeting, the complaints say.

After they refused, De La Cova took on the assignment, according to the complaints.

Attempts to reach Shah and De La Cova for comment on Tuesday were not successful.

Questions about Bass’ ties to USC arose last fall when The Times, citing congressional records, reported that she had been awarded a $95,000 scholarship to USC’s social work school without having directly applied. The scholarship led her to be discussed in a federal corruption case involving the school’s former dean, Marilyn Flynn.

Flynn was sentenced to three years probation after she admitted to bribing one-time Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in exchange for his help securing the renewal of a county contract.

Ridley-Thomas, a former City Councilman and onetime Bass ally, was sentenced earlier this year to 42 months in prison after a federal jury convicted him of a scheme to extract benefits from USC for himself and his son. The jury acquitted Ridley-Thomas of 12 other charges related to a scholarship and a professorship that his son, Sebastian, received from USC. Bass did not testify during the trial. Ridley-Thomas is appealing the conviction.

In support of Caruso, the Los Angeles Police Protective League sponsored a series of biting campaign commercials that sought to tie Bass to the federal corruption case involving Ridley-Thomas. A lawyer for Bass later sent a cease-and-desist letter to five local TV stations demanding they stop airing the ad.

Bass told The Times last fall that she initially applied to USC’s master’s in public administration program, a degree offered by the university’s Price School of Public Policy, which is separate from the social work school. Bass also said she thought her status as a former USC employee made her eligible for free tuition, but she did not continue when she found out she had to pay for the program.

Despite the controversy, Bass won the election by a healthy margin. The question of whether to bring back Moore as chief was one her first major decisions after taking office at the end of 2022. Under the city charter, the decision on whether to reappoint a police chief rests with the five-member civilian Police Commission But, in practice the final choice effectively rests with the mayor, who appoints the oversight body’s members.

Late last December, weeks after Moore expressed desire to return for a second term, the commission’s president announced that a vote on Moore’s reappointment would be held on Jan. 10 — around the same time as the alleged Internal Affairs meeting regarding Bass’ scholarship. The announcement drew criticism from some longtime department observers, who accused the commission of rushing through its decision without considering Moore’s record.

The vote was delayed after Bass released a statement saying she too felt it was “too soon.” She asked the commission to take it up at a later date.

Moore had faced criticism in some quarters during his first term for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department’s response to the mass protests of 2020, a botched detonation of a fireworks cache that destroyed a South L.A. neighborhood, and several controversial killings by officers.

The decision to reappoint Moore had been widely expected as several commission members had signaled their support for him. In news interviews and public comments, they called him a strong leader who was familiar with the intricacies of running the LAPD — a massive, multibillion-dollar organization that is constantly under a microscope.

And despite a string of recent controversies, a Loyola Marymount University survey of Los Angeles residents showed stronger satisfaction with the LAPD’s overall performance than in recent years. The one caveat was that swaths of the population still see disparities in the way the department polices Black and Latino residents.

The chief was ultimately reappointed for a second term on January 31. Moore has said he plans to serve only another two or three years to ensure a smooth handoff to his successor.

In recent months, the department has been roiled by accusations of thefts and illegal stops by anti-gang officers in the San Fernando Valley, the inadvertent release of photos of undercover officers, and an allegation that an assistant chief used an Apple AirTag to surreptitiously track an officer with whom he had been romantically involved.

Moore has maintained public support from Bass, who defended the chief and praised his response to the gang unit scandal. They appeared together recently at a news conference at the Police Academy where Bass outlined her public safety bona fides.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

LA Homeless Crisis: Mayor Bass Signs Updated Declaration of Emergency on Homelessness

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass Monday signed an updated declaration of a state of emergency on homelessness to further expedite affordable housing and bring unhoused Angelenos inside.

The mayor’s updated declaration comes just six months after she took office, where on day one, she declared a state of local emergency on homelessness.

“Over the first six months of my administration, we’ve seen thousands of Angelenos come inside and thousands of units expedited,” Bass said during a Monday morning press briefing at City Hall. “That’s the urgency that must continue with added collaboration and coordination with the City Council in this emergency.”

“We are in an emergency every single night,” she said, noting that thousands of Angelenos sleep on city streets or in their cars, and up to five Angelenos are “dying on our streets each night.”

The homelessness crisis is a matter of “life and death,” Bass said.

“While we’ve made progress, there is absolutely much more work that needs to be done,” she said. “That’s why we will sign an emergency declaration, an updated emergency declaration, that continues our momentum confronting the homelessness crisis and build more housing in Los Angeles.”

The updated declaration will allow the mayor additional “emergency powers” and enhance collaboration with the City Council on the following:

-coordinating and issuing rules;

-expediting contracting;

-ordering contracts; and

-emergency service of city employees.

Under the updated declaration, it also expands the criteria needed for the mayor to declare an emergency on homelessness. The City Council will consider renewal of the order every 90 days, and it will end if members do not renew it.

When Bass took office in December, as part of her initial declaration of emergency on homelessness, she launched Inside Safe, a program that led to tents coming down around the city and brought more than 1,300 Angelenos inside motels and other temporary housing.

Bass took a moment to thank the Council, L.A. County Supervisors and her partners for “locking arms” on the issue and confronting the homelessness crisis with urgency.

In addition, the mayor’s mandate expedited the building of affordable housing projects and focused efforts to maximize the use of publicly owned land for housing projects.

“We cut red tape and we fast tracked approval,” Bass said when talking about how housing developments continue to move forward.

Bass, who was joined by Council President Paul Krekorian and Council President Pro Tempore Marqueece Harris-Dawson, said Monday’s action will continue “access to tools and powers to make sure that we are using every resources possible at the scale that is needed to save lives and restore our neighborhoods.”

Click here to read the full article at Fox11

Bass Wants to Bring Homeless People Indoors. Can She Secure Enough Beds?

Seated on the hard sidewalk along Cahuenga Boulevard, Rue Ryan arranged a batch of red roses she had plucked from the trash into a memorial for her “street mom,” Hyper, who died two years ago.

The work was an escape from the activity around her, as friends and fellow encampment residents hurriedly prepared to move into nearby hotel rooms, choosing what to keep or toss.

Outreach workers had counted about 25 people living under a 101 Freeway overpass in Hollywood, and on Tuesday, 11 of them went to one of three nearby hotels. A hot shower, a good night’s rest — these are luxuries housed people take for granted, Ryan said, and would help her find a job, some security and a permanent place to live.

“It’s dangerous out here. People are getting trafficked. People are getting killed,” said Ryan, a 32-year-old Alabama native. “You can’t sleep if you’re staying on the streets. So you’re exhausted. You’re not going to work. You look filthy and smell. Nobody wants to deal with you. How can you move forward in life? That’s why people get stuck out here so long.”

Ryan hoped to get a hotel room of her own as part of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ “Inside Safe” initiative, which Bass unveiled Wednesday, nine days after she declared a citywide state of emergency on homelessness. The declaration she signed Wednesday formally kicks off a determined effort to clear encampments by offering people such as Ryan hotel and motel rooms.

Fellow politicians, nonprofit providers and some activists have applauded the urgency and focus that Bass is bringing to moving people off the street and into temporary housing, from which social workers can help them find permanent housing.

In the first two weeks of her administration, Bass has sought to centralize the work of identifying encampments with the most vulnerable people and which are the biggest sources of frustration for nearby residents. She has also focused on identifying the steps in the process that delay people going indoors, or housing from being built.

What occurred at the encampment on Cahuenga was effective, providers say, because they had hotel rooms rented and ready for people to occupy.

“The pace at which Inside Safe can bring people indoors from encampments across the city will largely depend on the availability of beds,” said Cheri Todoroff, executive director of Los Angeles County’s Homeless Initiative. “What the city is doing that will likely be a game changer is accelerating housing placements, both in interim and permanent housing.”

More buildings master-leased — a process in which the city would take control of entire hotels or motels — means more people off the streets. But it remains to be seen whether the city can lease enough beds to meaningfully reduce or eliminate large encampments across Los Angeles.

Bass has made clear she wants to work closely with Todoroff’s bosses — the five Los Angeles County supervisors — appearing before them Tuesday to talk about the need for better partnership between the bureaucracies. The county does much of the funding and contracting of the outreach work taking place on city streets.

The county will be expanding some of these different outreach teams in the coming year, which will bolster the plans that Bass and council offices have to address large encampments across the city.

Still, providers say the work of gaining a homeless person’s trust to persuade them to move off the street is easier when a bed is available along with transportation to it. Case in point: A city Dash bus idled in position Wednesday, poised to ferry people to a motel once they were ready and had packed the two bags they were allowed to bring.

As people moved out of their makeshift structures, sanitation workers quickly moved in to throw away large items and dispose of what was left behind. Homeless people have often complained that this work by the Sanitation Department causes them to lose personal items and important documents.

Bass appeared cognizant of this broader challenge Wednesday as she highlighted how this effort on Cahuenga followed the approach that had been developed at large encampment cleanups across the city in 2021. She made clear that these operations weren’t being led by law enforcement and that she didn’t want to see homeless people ticketed or punished for living on the street.

“We know that there are specific motels where people can go to,” she said of the Hollywood cleanup and effort to move people indoors. “In the best of all worlds, what I would like to see is us to be able to do this citywide. But we’re not at that capacity just now. It’s going to take us a minute to ramp up. I think this is day nine or day 10 of me being mayor.”

Bass was flanked by outreach workers and social services providers at Wednesday’s news conference, where she signed the executive order. Among other things, it directs city officials to compile a report by the end of March that will “create a unit acquisition strategy, including master leasing for both interim and permanent housing options.”

The first goal, she sets out in the document, is to “decrease the number and size of encampments across the city.”

Bass’ emergency declaration, which the City Council authorized, gives her a lot more flexibility to quickly commit city funds toward leasing motel and hotel rooms. City officials said Bass currently has about $20 million at her disposal that could be put toward leasing beds quickly.

More funds could be made available to her, but that would require more input from the council.

Bass credited Va Lecia Adams Kellum, chief executive of St. Joseph Center in Venice, with helping spearhead some of this work.

Last year, Adams Kellum’s organization coordinated the outreach and renting of hotel rooms along Ocean Front Walk in Venice, where a massive encampment had sprung up, frustrating local residents and business owners.

The city gave her organization about $5 million to do that work, and more than half of the funds went to renting motels for more than 200 people. Much of the rest went toward staff to supervise the outreach and operations of the hotels.

That operation was delayed in part because Adams Kellum’s team had to wait for the City Council to sign off on the money being spent, recalled former Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represented the area and helped organize this work.

“There was a really drawn-out process then,” Bonin said. “Karen has the opportunity to say ‘let’s get moving’ and people will move. It’s a big difference from the usual legislative process.”

Both Bonin and Adams Kellum said the success of that work in Venice hinged on having beds available for people to quickly move into.

In an interview, Adams Kellum, who is on Bass’ transition advisory team, said that of the 213 people moved off Ocean Front Walk, 109 have found permanent housing. She added that it’s much easier to get people paired with a housing subsidy and into permanent housing if they’re indoors already.

“She knows housing has to be a part of it,” Adams Kellum said of Bass and her team’s work. “I know she’s lining that up because she knows you can’t go into an encampment sincerely without [the motel bed] in hand.”

Back on Cahuenga, Ryan waited for her case manager to arrive with her driver’s license — a delivery that continued to be delayed. Some of Ryan’s friends planned to stay on the street — uninterested in the offers of a hotel room. She had also seen some people lose items they cared about during the cleanup Tuesday.

Click here to read the full story in the LA Times

Karen Bass Moves Ahead of Rick Caruso in L.A. Mayor’s Race

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass overtook businessman Rick Caruso in the seesaw battle to be mayor of Los Angeles, with Friday’s tally putting the veteran lawmaker 4,384 votes ahead of the real estate developer in a contest that will not be settled until next week at the earliest.

The new totals from county election officials put Bass ahead by a fraction, 50.38% to 49.62%, for the first time since Caruso took a slim advantage in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Bass has now bested Caruso in the last two updates from the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.

Going into Friday, Caruso held a tiny lead of one-half percentage point, or 2,695 votes. The fourth lead change in less than 72 hours tended to affirm pre-election predictions that a winner might not be known for a week or more after last Tuesday’s election day. The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office promises another updated count Saturday.

With only about 30,000 votes added to the mayoral tote board Friday, Caruso’s supporters cautioned against reading too much into the new totals. But Bass partisans sounded buoyant that despite the modest overall numbers, their candidate had taken 60% of the votes revealed since Thursday.

Independent analysts suggest that a minimum of 300,000 ballots remain to be counted, the vast majority of them mail-ins. Bass pulled from behind in the vote count in the June primary on the strength of mail-in votes, and the new totals this week — with the congresswoman gaining three-fifths of the total 82,510 new votes over two days — suggested a possible repeat of that pattern.

“Give me one more [vote batch] like these last two and it will officially be a trend,” said Paul Mitchell, an expert in voting patterns who has been closely tracking the L.A. election. “It becomes increasingly hard for Caruso to claw back, and makes it hard to come up with any intellectually credible justification of why these ballots should start changing course.”

The new frontrunner’s campaign manager, Jenny Dellwood, said the Bass team “continues to feel great about the numbers, and Karen is optimistic and ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work.”

In the race for L.A. county supervisor in the 3rd District, West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath also pushed into a narrow lead with the new vote totals Friday. Her 670-vote advantage over State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), if it holds, would keep the five-member board all female.

“I’m so grateful to the voters of District 3 for their confidence and support,” Horvath said in a statement. “We are confident that when every vote is counted and certified, we will win this race and bring much needed change to L.A. County.”

In another high-profile county race, Sheriff Alex Villanueva continued to lag far behind challenger Robert Luna, leaving his chance of winning a second term in considerable doubt. The latest batch of ballots had Luna up more than 235,000 votes.

The two would-be mayors have presented a study in contrasts since voting concluded Tuesday: Bass hunkering down with her family and staff members and Caruso spending at least some of his day presenting himself to Angelenos as a kind of mayor-in-waiting.

On Wednesday, the 63-year-old mall developer folded into a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s Deli west of downtown. On Friday, he dropped in on a Veterans Day parade, greeting the crowd with his golden retriever Hudson and sharing a brief greeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was riding in the parade and has one month left in office.

Bass, who would be the first female mayor in L.A.’s nearly 250-year history, hasn’t been seen by the press since her election night speech and has been relatively silent compared with her opponent. The veteran House member “has been catching up on her personal life and spending time with family,” said spokesperson Sarah Leonard Sheahan. “Today she held a luncheon for her staff to express her appreciation.”

On Friday, hours before the latest tally was released, Caruso stood on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, waving to veterans taking part in parade and posing for photos with fans who approached the mayoral candidate.

“This is exactly what we were expecting,” Caruso said. “We’re gonna go up and down as these ballots get counted. … We’re going to be on a roller coaster for a while. But I’m very optimistic.”

Caruso’s interview with reporters was interrupted when Garcetti passed by, wearing his Navy Reserve uniform and sitting atop the back of a convertible that rolled down Laurel Canyon.

“Look who it is!” Caruso said, walking over to shake the mayor’s hand.

The two had earlier exchanged texts and, after shaking hands on the parade route, agreed to soon connect on the phone. Garcetti said he had also been in touch with Bass and that his staff and city department heads had begun to work with both camps to smooth the way for a transition that will be completed with the swearing in of a new mayor on Dec. 12.

Meanwhile in other races, city attorney candidate Hydee Feldstein Soto continued to lead attorney Faisal Gill. Feldstein Soto has 57.7% of the vote, to Gill’s 42.2%, according to Friday’s results.

In the City Council race for a Glassell Park to Hollywood seat, labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez maintained his edge over Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who is vying for a third term. Soto-Martinez leads 53.3% to O’Farrell’s 46.7%.

On the Westside, Traci Park maintained a 9-percentage-point lead over attorney Erin Darling in the race to succeed City Councilmember Mike Bonin.

In the race to replace Councilmember Paul Koretz for a Fairfax to Bel-Air seat, political aide Katy Young Yaroslavsky continued to lead attorney Sam Yebri, 57% to 42.9%.

Attorney Tim McOsker also maintained a significant lead over neighborhood council member Danielle Sandoval, with McOsker at 65.4% and Sandoval at 34.6%.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Mayoral Contest Tightens

Bass holds slim edge, and negative ads put Caruso within striking distance, poll shows.

The race for mayor of Los Angeles was tightening rapidly as it entered its final week, with Rick Caruso cutting deeply into Rep. Karen Bass’ lead, putting him within striking distance in the contest to run the nation’s second-largest city.

Bass continues to hold an edge, 45% to 41% among likely voters, with 13% saying they remain undecided, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Times. But Bass’ advantageis within the poll’s margin of error and strikingly smaller than the 15-point margin she held a month ago.

Support for Bass, a longtime elected official, has not significantly declined — she maintains strong backing among key groups of voters, including women, liberals and registered Democrats.

But Caruso, a billionaire businessman and developer, has steadily gained ground as previously undecided voters have made up their minds. His push has been powered by tens of millions of dollars spent on attack ads that appear to have succeeded in raising doubts about Bass in many voters’ minds.

He has maintained big advantages among the relatively few conservative and Republican voters in Los Angeles while also opening up sizable leads among Latinos, moderates and people living in the San Fernando Valley.

Bass leads across the rest of the city, relying on the electorate’s polarized view of Caruso, the backing of the state’s Democratic establishment and the liberal tilt of the city’s electorate. She leads among both white and Black likely voters, the poll found.

The survey comes on the heels of several other public and private polls that have shown significant tightening in the contest.

“This race could go either way,” said Tommy Newman, senior director at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, who is working with a coalition to pass a housing tax measure on the November ballot and is a close watcher of local politics.

“Nobody has this in the bag. There has been tremendous movement with Latino voters. The question is, will that correlate into votes?” Newman said. “[Caruso] is probably running the most robust field campaign we have ever seen in a mayor’s race. In a tight race, that’s when field campaigns matter.”

The tightening of the race has come during a period when the mayoral campaign has been somewhat overshadowed by the scandal that began with a leaked audio recording of three City Council members and a labor leader making racist remarks during a discussion last year about drawing new city council district boundaries.

The resulting furor has focused attention on racial and ethnic tensions in the city. The poll found that 69% of registered voters said relations among various racial and ethnic groups were just fair or poor, while just 23% said they were excellent or good.

The survey doesn’t, however, show a clear impact from the scandal on the mayoral race.

Bass and Caruso called for everyone involved in making racist comments to resign. They also each used the moment to make points they’d been pushing throughout the campaign.

For Caruso the scandal reflected a continuation of what he sees as the corruption that’s run rampant at City Hall and spoke to the need for an outsider to clean up city government. Bass said the scandal offered a moment for the city to come together and talk about its divisions while finding avenues to bridge them.

The poll found that voters who put a high priority on building coalitions among racial and ethnic groups favor Bass.

What clearly has had an effect is Caruso’s money.

With both campaigns now turning to get-out-the-vote efforts, Caruso has spent about $13 million mustering about 300 to 400 door knockers who have fanned out across the city to remind voters about the election. The field operation is designed to spur turnout among people — especially Latino voters — who have shown an interest in Caruso but won’t necessarily cast a ballot unless pushed.

That effort has been aided by the onslaught of advertising. Since the primary, Caruso is slated to spend $26 million on TV, radio and digital ads in the general election through Tuesday. That’s eight times the $3.3 million Bass is scheduled to spend, according to data from media tracking firm AdImpact.

Bass will also be boosted by a number of independent supporters on the airwaves, including unions representing carpenters and electrical workers and a pro-Bass political action committee funded by labor and Hollywood money. Those groups, which can’t legally coordinate with the Bass campaign, plan to spend several million on ads supporting the congresswoman.

A good deal of Caruso’s advertising is in Spanish. Together with the canvassing aimed at Latino voters, that pitch appears to be paying off. In the last Berkeley IGS poll just over a month ago, Bass led among Latino likely voters by 6 points, 35% to 29%; she now trails by 17 percentage points in that group, 48% to 31%. Many of Caruso’s Latino supporters, however, don’t routinely vote in every election, making turnout a challenge for him.

“You got to give Caruso a lot of credit. He’s making big inroads into this segment, but they’re not regular voters,” said Mark DiCamillo, who directed the poll and has been surveying California voters for decades.

“He’s making inroads where he didn’t have those inroads in June” in the primary, DiCamillo said. “The whole question is, will it be enough? It’s definitely going to be close.”

Bass’ biggest advantage remains her overwhelming support among liberals — the voters who define the shape of Los Angeles’ electorate.

In recent elections, liberal voters powered Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who campaigned with Bass last week, to victory in Los Angeles during the Democratic primary in 2020 and propelled progressive candidates to the fore in this year’s primary.

If their sway holds, Bass will likely win.

Bass leads by 40 percentage points among likely voters who identify as somewhat liberal (64% to 22%) and about 60 percentage points among those who are strongly liberal (74% to 12%).

Those liberal voters are the bulwark that could block further growth of Caruso’s support in the San Fernando Valley, where he now leads by 9 points (45% to 36%). Bass remains ahead in every other part of the city by nearly 20-point margins. The one exception is the South L.A. and Harbor region, where Bass leads 48% to 43%.

“It’s problematic for Caruso,” said Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, political science professor at USC. Bass “has her base of support. We’ll see if the structural advantage for Bass holds.”

In the last several weeks, the campaign has featured a volley of attacks on issues including each candidate’s ties to USC. Caruso has lambasted Bass for taking a $95,000 scholarship to attend a graduate program, while Bass has attacked him for his involvement in the response to a sexual misconduct scandal.

But Caruso’s ads have been far more frequent. Their effect can be seen in the rise in the share of voters who have an unfavorable view of Bass and in an erosion of her standing among registered Democrats.

About half the electorate still has a favorable view of Bass, but the share of likely voters who see her unfavorably is up 10 points since September to 35%.

Among Latino voters, one-third now have an unfavorable view of Bass, compared with one-sixth in September.

Bass continues to have a more favorable image than Caruso, however. In the current survey, 43% view him favorably and 42% unfavorably, compared with 38% to 40% last month.

Caruso has gained some support among Democrats, who make up the majority of Los Angeles voters. In September, just 19% of Democratic likely voters backed him. Now, 28% do. That’s still much less support than Bass, who is backed by 56% of Democrats, with 14% undecided, but it represents a significant inroad by the businessman, who was a Republican much of his life and only changed his party registration to Democrat in January.

About 20% of voters surveyed had already voted. Caruso had a slight lead among them — 49% to 46%. He also leads heavily among voters who said they planned to cast ballots in person on election day. Bass was doing much better with voters who plan to mail or drop off their ballots, leading 50% to 33% among them, the poll found.

Beyond the negative ads, the central policy arguments of the race have been over homelessness and public safety. These two issues along with the economy and education are what voters say the next mayor must prioritize.

Addressing climate change and coalition building between people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are seen as less important by most voters, although they are top priorities for Bass’ backers.

Even though Caruso is trailing, voters believe he would do a better job addressing crime, the economy and homelessness. They believe Bass would do a better job tackling education, climate change and coalition building.

The Berkeley IGS poll was conducted Oct. 25-31 among 1,437 Los Angeles registered voters, of whom 1,131 were deemed likely to vote in the November election. The sample was weighted to match census and voter registration benchmarks.

Click here to read the full article at the LA

Karen Bass Got a USC Degree for Free. It’s Now Pulling Her Into a Federal Corruption Case 

During the last decade, two influential Los Angeles politicians were awarded full-tuition scholarships valued at nearly $100,000 each from USC’s social work program. 

One of those scholarships led to the indictment of former L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of USC’s social work program, Marilyn Flynn, on bribery and fraud charges.

The other scholarship recipient, Rep. Karen Bass, is the leading contender to be L.A.’s next mayor.

Federal prosecutors have made no indication that Bass is under a criminal investigation.

But prosecutors have now declared that Bass’ scholarship and her dealings with USC are “critical” to their bribery case and to their broader portrayal of corruption in the university’s social work program.

When jurors ultimately decide whether to convict Ridley-Thomas and Flynn, prosecutors have indicated they want Bass’ relationship with USC, the largest private employer in her congressional district, to inform their verdict.

By awarding free tuition to Bass in 2011, Flynn hoped to obtain the congresswoman’s assistance in passing coveted legislation, prosecutors wrote in a July court filing. Bass later sponsored a bill in Congress that would have expanded USC’s and other private universities’ access to federal funding for social work — “just as defendant Flynn wanted,” the filing states.

Flynn is charged for what prosecutors allege was a quid pro quo with Ridley-Thomas involving a scholarship awarded to his son in exchange for lucrative county contracts. To bolster their case, prosecutors have pointed to an email from Flynn in which she noted doing “the same” sort of scholarship-for-funding with Bass.

Bass’ name is redacted in much of the court filings, which prosecutors said accorded with Department of Justice policy.The Times confirmed her identity through case records, people familiar with the matter and some copies of emails that were briefly filed in court this summer and later redacted.

Federal prosecutors declined this week to elaborate on their statements about the scholarship. “At present and based on the evidence obtained to date, Rep. Bass is not a target or a subject of our office’s investigation,” said Thom Mrozek, director of media relations for the U.S. attorney’s office in L.A.

But with Flynn and Ridley-Thomas on trial in November, the circumstances of Bass’ free master’s degree could become an increasingly contested part of the case. In June, Flynn’s lawyers subpoenaed USC for correspondence pertaining to Bass’ scholarship and any honors or benefits given to the congresswoman, according to a copy of the subpoena filed last month. 

A court battle over the involvement of Bass’ scholarship could in turn offer grist for political attacks as she heads into the final weeks of her mayoral campaign against developer Rick Caruso.

Through a spokesperson, Bass denied ever speaking with Flynn about federal funding for social work programs at private universities while the pair discussed her attendance at USC. Asked whether it was apparent that Flynn had a legislative agenda in offering the scholarship, Bass said, “No.”

“Everybody knows that the welfare of children and families has been a passion and policy focus of mine for decades,” Bass said. “The only reason I studied nights and weekends for a master’s degree was to become a better advocate for children and families — period.”

‘Clearly’ a gift

The Times revealed the Bass scholarship last year, noting that full-tuition awards like the one she received were not publicized, had no formal application process and were more generous than grants typically given to other students.

In an interview last fall for that article, Bass said that she didn’t apply for the social work program; Flynn apparently made the decision to admit her after learning of her interest in getting a graduate degree.

Before accepting the scholarship, Bass said, she wrote to the House Committee on Ethics in 2011, requesting an exemption on the rule prohibiting gifts to members of Congress. She told ethics officials the graduate degree would deepen her knowledge of child welfare policy and help her better represent constituents, according to congressional records.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Latinos Liked Caruso in the Primary. Can Bass Catch Up?

As Los Angeles residents decide who will be their mayor, Rep. Karen Bass is trying to build on her seven-point advantage in the primary over billionaire developer Rick Caruso.

But in precincts with large Latino populations, the primary results were different — Caruso generally came out ahead of Bass, according to a Times analysis.

While Latino voters in L.A. have historically leaned progressive, they can have a conservative streak on some issues, including policing. Party affiliation is relatively weak among Latinos, with some identifying as Democrats but willing to cross over for candidates who speak to them on issues, experts said.

With homelessness, crime and affordable housing on voters’ minds this year, Caruso’s pitch that he is an outsider who can fix these problems appealed to Latino voters in the primary and could do so head-to-head with the more liberal Bass.

But turnout is expected to be much higher in the November general election. City Councilman Kevin de León, the only major Latino candidate, had strong support among Latinos in the primary, and it is unclear where those voters will end up.

Latinos, who make up more than a third of the city’s electorate, could still swing for Bass, experts said.

As he did during the primary, Caruso — a former Republican who is now a Democrat — will probably use his fortune to saturate the airwaves, including Spanish-language media.

Bass (D-Los Angeles), a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus with a strong base in South L.A., will rely on endorsements from Latino leaders, as well as one-on-one meetings and intimate gatherings at homes, to make up for what she lacks in money.

“Those TV ads are effective, but they’re superficial,” said Matt A. Barreto, a researcher with the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Institute. “Community, door-to-door contact is way more effective.”

In L.A. precincts with populations that are at least 80% Latino, Caruso got 34% of the vote in the primary, and Bass got 27%, according to the Times analysis.

De León captured 8% of the overall vote but 24% in those precincts, the analysis showed. He was the top finisher in Boyle Heights, which he represents on the City Council, and received strong support in South-Central, where votes were split almost evenly among the top three candidates.

De León, who has not endorsed Bass or Caruso, has said he will support whichever candidate “has the strongest plan to build pathways into the middle class for the workers who make this city go.”

Boyle Heights and South-Central are areas where a majority of residents earn less than the city’s median income and are renters.

In the San Fernando Valley, voters overall supported Caruso; the same was true in areas with large Latino populations such as Sylmar and Pacoima.

A UCLA statistical analysis also showed Caruso as the top finisher among Latinos, with 34% of the vote. De León finished second, with 29%, and Bass had 20%.

At 17%, voter turnout in the Latino-heavy precincts analyzed by The Times was much lower than the overall turnout of 30%. Some see that as an indication that candidates aren’t doing enough to connect with Latino voters.

Lack of outreach leads Latinos to feel disillusioned or disconnected with political leaders and their campaigns, according to Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund.

Political analysts and voting advocates have urged the candidates to engage with Latinos by meeting them face to face in their communities. Bass will need to increase her name recognition outside of South L.A., while Caruso will need to make his message to voters more substantive, experts said.

Bass said her campaign has created a “Latino affinity group” to organize in-person events. She leans on her decades of experience working with Latino activists in South L.A. as a founder of Community Coalition, which attempts to address the root causes of poverty, crime and violence. She has secured endorsements from key Latino politicians, as well as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, or CHIRLA.

Besides advertising on Spanish-language television, Caruso’s campaign has conducted outreach in Latino neighborhoods such as Pacoima and Boyle Heights, according to Juan Rodriguez, a political consultant for the candidate.

“That the vote broke down the way it did makes us feel really good about the potential of November,” Rodriguez said.

Sean Rivas, chair of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley, which previously endorsed De León, believes Caruso’s advertisements have made an impact.

“Rick came out swinging. He spent so much money on TV advertising during the peak times, the [telenovela] times and during the day as well,” Rivas said, adding that it “made an impact because he got ahead of the talking points,” including homelessness.

Angelica Salas, executive director of CHIRLA, said she doesn’t think “slick ads” in Spanish are enough to win over Latino voters.

“I want all candidates to understand we are sophisticated voters,” she said. “We’re people who are paying attention.”

While Caruso’s wealth turns off some voters, it can be a plus for Latinos who see their own journeys reflected in his. Maria S. Salinas, president and chief executive of the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Caruso, said his immigrant and business background, as well as his philanthropy, appeals to Latinos.

“Many Latinos start their own businesses, because that’s the way for economic opportunity,” she said. “Mr. Caruso is an entrepreneur himself. I know he’s a person that is definitely very connected to philanthropic work throughout the city, and he is a man of faith. Those are all qualities that I think appeal to everyday Latinos.”

Maggie Darett-Quiroz sees her immigrant family’s story in Caruso, who is of Italian descent, and doesn’t mind that he has spent millions of his own money on his campaign.

“He’s willing to make a change, and right now, we need the change,” said Darett-Quiroz, who voted for Caruso and is commissioner of Empower L.A., the city department that oversees neighborhood councils. “We can’t stick to the plan anymore.”

Roselia Melgoza, a 73-year-old Boyle Heights resident, said she didn’t vote in the primary and doesn’t know much about the candidates. But she is leaning toward voting for Caruso in November. From friends, family and TV ads, she has gleaned that he comes from an immigrant family that initially settled in Boyle Heights and that he has given to charities. She also thinks he might use his wealth to help the city.

She hasn’t heard anything about Bass.

“One listens to the people who surround you,” she said.

Mireira Moran, a 32-year-old Pacoima resident and member of the neighborhood council, said she supports Bass because of the congresswoman’s experience and political values. But Moran is in the minority, in her neighborhood and on the council. She said people are looking for something different — someone who is not a politician.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times