In targeting women and minorities, billionaire Rick Caruso reopens past racial controversies

Californians shouldn’t be fooled by billionaire developer Rick Caruso’s latest slick attempt to rebrand himself. 

Last year, Caruso deluged Los Angeles with more than $100 million in ads promising a tough-on-crimeapproach to clean up Los Angeles. He pulled no punches and blamed the corrupt political system for the city’s intractable problems.

“The system is broken,” Caruso said during last year’s L.A. mayoral debate. “The system, quite frankly, is corrupt. And with all due respect to my opponent, she’s part of that system.”

As an Asian American woman, who converted from Democrat to Republican, I understood Caruso’s frustration with the current state of politics, especially in California. Now, Caruso is promising to do everything he can to enhance the power of the state’s Democratic establishment. Since California is a blue state – with every statewide office held by Democrats whose positions and actions do not reflect independent-minded voters like me – why is his focus on five congressional districts held by Republicans?

“It has not escaped the notice of LA political movers and shakers that of the Republicans congress members targeted by Caruso in the next election cycle, four are either first-generation immigrants or children of foreign-born parents, two are women, one is Latino, and two are Asian Americans,” writes the California Globe’sThomas Buckley. 

Caruso’s campaign pledge to target minority women is especially concerning in light of Caruso’s controversial past, including cases of targeting, bullying and discriminating against women, African Americans, and Asian American community leaders. 

In 2002, more than 100 people demanded that Caruso resign as President of the Los Angeles Police Commission after allegedly using a slur against Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

“If it is all right for the Police Commission president to call a congresswoman a bitch, is it all right for police officers on the street to call women bitches?” Waters asked the commission, according to the Los Angeles Times

Caruso’s alleged remark drew condemnation from Los Angeles Democrats, including then Councilmembers Nate Holden and Jan Perry. 

“Never in my more than 30 years as a public servant have I heard a public official refer to a female, prominent or otherwise, using the B word simply because he disagrees with what the woman says,” Holden said, according to Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Years later, one of Southern California’s leading Chinese-American philanthropists said he “was discriminated, humiliated, embarrassed and singled out” by Caruso because of his race. 

As Chairman of the USC Board of Trustees, Caruso “dismissed” fellow Trustee Ming Hsieh from a board discussion about the controversial termination of USC Marshall School Dean James Ellis. 

Caruso’s disrespectful treatment came after the Chinese-American entrepreneur had given more than $85 million to the school. USC Trustee Edward Roski, a fellow trustee in attendance at the December 2018 meeting, corroborated Hsieh’s story. In a Dec. 2018 letter to Caruso, Roski wrote that Caruso “verbally abused” the Chinese-American philanthropist – “bullying” Hsieh because of his race and differing viewpoints.

“You took advantage of the fact that English is Ming’s second language to stifle his ability to make his case,” Roski wrote, according to the USC Daily Trojan. “All of us have attorneys who represent us; are you going to silence the entire Board, or just the members who disagree with you or come from a different ethnicity or nationality?”

Ironically, three years prior, Caruso banned then presidential candidate Donald Trump from the Grove shopping mall because he lacked civility. 

“If you want to be in public office, you’ve got to be compassionate,” Caruso told TMZ, “You’ve got to be a gentleman. You got to be professional. You got to care about people.” 

After Trump won, Caruso flip-flopped on the ban, welcoming Trump back. In 2020, Caruso accepted an appointment to President Donald Trump‘s Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups Task Force Committee. 

Betty T. Chu, a former mayor of Monterey Park, is an American lawyer, politician and banker.

Rick Caruso Switching Sides… Again?

Failed LA Mayor candidate funding Democrats

Billionaire Developer Rick Caruso, who spent $104 million last year in his failed campaign to become mayor of Los Angeles, appears to be politically reinventing himself once again:  the former Republican donor and Trump appointee is now rebranding himself as a Democrat kingmaker.

And maybe thinking about being a king – or at least a mayor or governor – himself.

Recently, Caruso pledged to spend an undisclosed sum in 2024 to defeat five California Republican members of Congress. 

“We’ve got to get things moving and get out of this ridiculous constant fighting and everybody kicking sand in each other’s face in the sandbox,” Caruso told Politico’s Christopher Cadelago and Melanie Mason of his plans. He will “(S)tick with the central theme of getting moderates in the House,” Caruso said.  “I am not out to support extremists or, frankly, ideologues.”

Besides opening his checkbook, Caruso is reportedly making the Democratic rounds, hobnobbing in DC and trying to kiss and make up locally.

Prior to running for mayor as a Democrat, Caruso had been both a decline to state (independent) and a  Republican and a regular campaign contributor to GOP candidates and committees, nationally and locally. Over the years, Caruso has donated hundreds of thousands to Republican candidates, from George w. Bush to Mitt Romney to former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

“Rick Caruso has been a pro-life Republican his whole career until he decided to run for mayor,” tweeted Democrat consultant Bill Burton, the former deputy press secretary for President Obama. “So much so that Donald Trump appointed him to his economic team.” 

Caruso may find some of his more pro-business, tough(er) on crime positions not exactly welcome in many Democratic circles, which could hamper any attempt to run for anything.  

In other words, the checks will be welcomed by Democrats, the request to support any electoral ambitions may not.

The five congress members targeted also seems to raise uncomfortable questions.  Caruso in the past has been criticized for his alleged – and confirmed – treatment of members of minority groups.  He called Rep. Maxine Waters a “bitch,” which –  while it may or may not be accurate – was frowned upon by Black political leaders.

He was also criticized by a fellow USC trustee who felt he was dismissed and disparaged by Caruso for his background and tenuous command of the English language. 

“I strongly felt, I was discriminated, humiliated, embarrassed and singled out from the board the meeting because of my race and my knowledges of the facts” of the issue at hand, said Ming Hsieh according to USC Annenberg Media

Hsieh has donated $85 million to the school, endowed the USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering and established the Ming Hsieh Institute for Research on Engineering-Medicine for Cancer at USC.

Click here to the read full article in the California Globe

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

Caruso Exceeds $62 Million in Mayoral Race

Rick Caruso has spent more than $62 million since launching his Los Angeles mayoral bid in February, nearly all of it his own money.

It’s a figure that — save for fellow billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg’s three successful New York mayoral campaigns — is all but unrivaled in the annals of local politics in America.

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 outspent her by a factor of 10.

With a little more than 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.

Without independent wealth, Bass has little chance of matching Caruso’s prodigal war chest. But over the summer, the congresswoman had what appears to be her most impressive few months of fundraising yet.

During a roughly 12-week period, Bass took in nearly $2.2 million in contributions and more than $250,000 in city matching funds, according to filings covering July 1 through Sept. 24 submitted to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. She spent just under $1.2 million during that period.

Caruso spent a little more than $21 million during the same time period, according to his filings.

Caruso upended the race in the spring as a first-time candidate who entered the field with little name recognition and inundated the city with ad spending. He succeeded in introducing himself to Angelenos, and his centrist, “clean up L.A.” messaging seemed to find a foothold with an electorate frustrated by homelessness and crime.

But Bass finished with a 7-point lead in the June primary. Two weeks later, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade — ensuring abortion rights would remain at the center of the conversation through the November election and creating a far less favorable political environment for a former Republican hoping to lead a deep-blue city.

After his unstinting ad spending in the spring, Caruso remained off the airwaves until mid-September, leading many political watchers to wonder through the summer whether he would dump a similar ad blitz in the fall, or pivot to a different tactic.

The answer appears to be both. The TV ads will be plentiful, but his latest campaign filings also reveal a gargantuan investment in field efforts.

These efforts, which accounted for nearly half of the campaign’s spending during the most recent filing period, are central to a broader November strategy banking on the campaign’s ability to turn out voters who probably sat out the primary and are less likely to cast a general election ballot.

Personal communication, combined with culturally competent outreach, is key to a successful field effort, said Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College.

“Having those folks come out to knock on doors, we can anticipate it will have some effect,” Sadhwani said.

The campaign has spent nearly $10 million on its canvassing program over the last few months, according to filings covering July 1 through Sept. 24.

Caruso’s most visible areas of focus since the primary have been with Latino voters, Asian American voters and voters in the San Fernando Valley.

Caruso is slated to spend at least $20 million on TV advertising through the November election, according to data from media tracking firm AdImpact. Of that planned total reservation, he spent about $5.5 million on TV airtime during this filing period, in the form of payments to TV stations made by his media planner.

Building a field effort is more uphill for an outsider like Caruso, L.A.-based political consultant Mike Murphy said, because he can’t tap into the union infrastructure that will probably aid Bass. Murphy supports Caruso and has worked for him previously.

Caruso gets “criticized for the spend, but it also is a form of freedom. Which makes it easier to be the change candidate,” Murphy said.

Bass has been heavily favored by local labor groups during the campaign, and several are likely to provide volunteer support in the weeks ahead.

“Karen Bass has always fought for the average worker, not just the rich and big corporations,” Pete Rodriguez, executive secretary-treasurer of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said recently.

The union — one of several outside groups backing Bass — plans to spend more than $1 million on Spanish-language TV advertising to support her. Union members are also phone-banking and door-knocking for Bass in a volunteer capacity.

Campaign money from the primary can’t carry over to the general, meaning Bass essentially had to start from scratch on June 8, the day after the primary. Fundraising appears to have been one of her primary focuses during the summer months.

Over $200,000 — nearly a fifth of Bass’ spending during this period — went to fundraiser Stephanie Daily Smith’s Daily Consulting. The prominent Democratic fundraiser joined the Bass campaign after the primary.

Donors who maxed out their giving to Bass during this period include Steven Spielberg, former Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler, businessman Danny Bakewell, Washington, D.C., lobbyist Heather Podesta, filmmaker Barry Jenkins and Showtime Chief Executive David Nevins.

In a testament to the national focus on the race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti, the congresswoman’s summer fundraising drive included stops in New Orleans, Atlanta and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, according to finance disclosures and social media posts.

Caruso took in about $152,000 in donations during this same period and spent more than $21 million of his own money on his campaign, bringing the total he has put into the campaign since February to more than $61 million — representing nearly all of his total spending.

Outside spending will also continue to play a potent role in the race. Bass will be aided by a number of independent expenditure committees, including Communities United for Bass for LA Mayor 2022.

That political action committee, whose major funders include unions and Hollywood donors, took in more than $700,000 during the filing period and spent several hundred thousand on a digital attack ad characterizing Caruso as a liar.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

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

LA Times/ UC Berkeley Poll on LA Mayor’s Race Is Not Credible

The Los Angeles Times/UC Berkeley poll released this week shows that Congresswoman Karen Bass has a 21 point lead among likely voters over her opponent in the General election, philanthropist/developer Rick Caruso. Don’t believe the poll. It is a flawed poll with a history of “systemic liberal bias” that results in inaccuracy that always favors the Left side, whether a ballot measure or a candidate. These inaccurate polls then become tools used by an uncritical media, their inaccuracies appear in and are repeated in news reports and editorials, and in the process some voters may just stay home based on the wrong premises. That is called “voter suppression” and in this current era of high skepticism about the integrity of our elections, it is wrong.

The many historical examples of the huge failures of the Los Angeles Times/UC Berkeley poll to be predictive of actual voter sentiment are almost unreported in the media other than my blog posts. But among the many factual examples, the best are found in the same poll’s highly inaccurate polling of ballot measures in the 2020 California November election.

For example, in late September 2020, the poll issued a press release on four of the statewide ballot measures, namely Props. 15, 16, 21 and 22. The Berkeley poll had the Proposition 15 tax hike leading by 15 points (it lost losing by 3), Proposition 16 losing by 8 points (it won by 12 points), Proposition 21 “has voters split evenly” in the poll, but it lost by almost 20 points on election day, and the big one, Proposition 22, favored by 3 points when it won on election day by about 17 points. Please note that the failures here were all “double digit” ones!

How could the Berkeley poll be so wildly wrong? Not just closely wrong, but unequivocally wrong! The pollsters might argue that it was predictive but “only at the time”. But the counter to that is the poll and press was released just a week and a half before active “early voting” started in the state. Logically, the polling clearly was NOT predictive, it was wrong. To what extent does the error factor evidence a bias? Pollsters will say the poll was not biased, or that perhaps there were technically adjustments that should have been made in the samples of voters. Yet if you look at the actual results of the four measures polled for the September 22 press release, the common denominator is a deep under count of the side of the initiative endorsed by the Republican party.

The problem was not just with the September 22, 2020 poll. Los Angeles Times/UC Berkeley poll did announce poll results again closer to the election for the period October 16-23, 2020 and they did adjust their numbers slightly in favor of what became the winning side, but they were still way off of the actual result and appear to again poll in bias in favor of the Democratic Party position. In this subsequent poll on Proposition 22, 46% were reported as “Yes”, 42% was reported as “No,” and 12% were “Undecided.” If one is to believe in the validity of this allegedly “unbiased” academic poll, one has to believe that 100% of the “Undecided” vote ended up voting “Yes” on Proposition 22, since on election day the Yes side grew by slightly more than the entire 12% “undecided” tally reported in the poll. No way that happened. The poll was simply wildly wrong in the voting result.

There are many other similar examples of “systemic liberal bias” in the Los Angeles Times/UC Berkeley poll. Before the Presidential primary election in California in 2020, the poll gave socialist Senator Bernie Sanders a 17 point lead. Once again, the poll did not match the election day result by a wide margin, with Sanders winning, but by 8 points, not 17, an almost double-digit fail. In the Presidential election in November 2020, the poll issued a release stating Joe Biden had a 39 point lead over Donald Trump. The result was surely in Biden’s favor, but by a 29 point lead, another double digit failure for the poll.

So now the Los Angeles Times/UC Berkeley poll is saying Caruso is behind by 21 points. But we know this is from a poll that has repeatedly underreported support for the “other than Left” side of an issue or candidate. That is the first reason to think critically of the poll. The next reason is to question their “turn out model.” This is the tinkering pollsters do with actual data to manipulate a result. Usually the “turn out model” favors older and more conservative voters, who statistically are shown to vote with more passion and consistency than younger voters. These voters are known to political professionals as “high propensity voters.” However, in a highly suspect twist, the poll has employed a unique “turn out model” that must favor high levels of voting by young voters in comparison to typical “high propensity” voters. It is a hugely questionable model that has not been subjected to enough scrutiny in the press. The big lead is based on what I believe is a faulty turn out model. So what matters is the “registered voter” result of all voters in the survey, before the numbers are manipulated.

According to the press reports, Bass actually leads in the poll by 12 points among all registered voters, 43% to 31%, with a 3% margin of error. The poll had a large sample, which is a good thing and gives these results some validity. According to these results, Caruso can be seen as behind, but not as having lost a huge amount of ground, if the margin of error is factored in his favor. Because of the liberal bias of the poll, it should be! I think a truer glimpse of this research is that Caruso is about 8 points behind, not much different from the primary election result, and that he has his work cut out for him. And the rich vein of potential support the polling reveals is with the Latino community, which Caruso factually won in the primary. If Caruso can lift Latino vote in the General election, he will have a path to victory, regardless of suppression polls.

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

Runoff in the Cards for Bass, Caruso

Days before Los Angeles’ first open mayoral primary in nearly a decade, Rep. Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, the billionaire developer, appear headed toward a November runoff, with Bass building a small edge as the campaign moves toward a close.

Bass (D-Los Angeles) is benefiting from strong support among women, who make up a majority of the voters likely to cast ballots, and white liberals, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

Bass has support of 38% of likely voters in the poll, which was conducted May 24-31. Caruso, who has bombarded Los Angeles’ airwaves with millions of dollars of advertising, has 32%.

With 15% of likely voters saying they were still undecided, either of the two could still come out on top in the primary, but it’s unlikely either candidate would exceed 50% of the vote to win outright and avoid a November runoff.

The near certainty of Bass and Caruso advancing to the runoff comes after a frantic few weeks of campaigning across the city which has included increasingly personal and partisan attacks being slung from each camp. Caruso supporters have attacked Bass’ attendance record in Congress, while Bass backers have talked nonstop about the businessman previously being registered as a Republican and his previous ties to politicians who oppose abortion.

Since Caruso announced his candidacy in February, Times polling has found the contest to be largely a two-person race, with Caruso and Bass appealing to contrasting bases of support.

Concern about rising crime has provided the driving force for Caruso’s campaign, which early on drew strong support from more conservative Angelenos, especially white voters. Over time, however, he has also won over a growing number of Latino and Black male voters, the poll found.

Bass’ support was slower to consolidate. Since the last Berkeley IGS poll in April, however, previously undecided voters have made up their minds and some other candidates have dropped out of the race.

As that happened, Bass gained ground with the biggest segments of the city’s electorate — her fellow Democrats, liberals and women. She has also maintained a strong lead among Black women.

“It still looks fairly close, though maybe Bass has solidified her position a little bit,” said Eric Schickler, a Berkeley political science professor who is the IGS co-director.

“Caruso is doing a lot better with Republican, more conservative voters and voters more concerned about crime. Bass is doing better with the more traditional Democratic constituency.”

White voters who identify as liberals make up nearly a third of the likely electorate for the primary, the poll found. In April, Bass was ahead of Caruso 40% to 15% with them, and 34% were undecided. Now just 13% of them remain undecided, and her lead with that group has swelled to 66%-8%.

The race features a large gender gap which works to Bass’ advantage. She leads Caruso by 19 points among women, who make up slightly more than half of likely voters, the poll found. He leads by 8 points among men.

But the poll also found some areas in which Caruso has made striking gains. Bass, one of two Black members of the Los Angeles delegation in Congress, had been expected to run away with Black voters. But Caruso has been able to cut into her support by gaining ground among Black men.

Black women favor Bass by a significant margin, but Caruso appears to be at least even and perhaps ahead among Black men. The poll can’t say for sure because margins of error get larger with small subgroups of voters.

Similarly, Caruso has a lead among Latino men, while Bass appears to lead among Latina voters.

A third candidate — Councilman Kevin de León — who previously served in the state Senate and challenged Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her seat in 2018, had hoped to do well among Latino voters. His district is predominantly Latino, and his campaign has been grounded in his personal story of growing up poor.

But De León’s campaign has not gained traction. He’s raised and spent far less money, and the poll found him in third place with 6%, which is where he was in April.

The fact that he’s drawing support from just 1 in 5 Latino likely voters will be a disappointment for De León, said USC professor Manuel Pastor.

“Caruso has spent a lot of money on television, and that’s a major way that Latinos get their political information, and he also spent a lot of money on Spanish-language TV,” Pastor said.

“It’s not surprising to me that Caruso is doing well here,” Pastor said. “What we might be seeing is that being a businessperson, which can lead to some suspicion on the part of progressives, doesn’t cause as much suspicion it seems with Latino voters.”

Rounding out the field, activist Gina Viola has 2% support, as does Alex Gruenenfelder Smith, a 20-year-old Echo Park Neighborhood Council member. Both are running grass-roots campaigns aimed at the city’s progressive voters.

Two other candidates, City Atty. Mike Feuer and Councilman Joe Buscaino, dropped out of the race last month, with Feuer backing Bass and Buscaino endorsing Caruso.

This is the third poll of the mayoral race that The Times conducted in partnership with the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies in advance of the primary on Tuesday. The poll was conducted online in English and Spanish, among 1,204 registered voters in the city of Los Angeles. Based on prior voting history and stated interest in the June election, the poll identified 816 voters as likely to cast ballots.

The margin of sampling error for the likely voter sample is approximately 3.5% in either direction. A full description of the poll methodology is available on the IGS website.

Among the broader universe of registered voters, the race is within the margin of error between Bass at 25% and Caruso at 23% with 35% of voters undecided.

Looking ahead at a head-to-head November runoff, Bass leads Caruso 37%-33% among all registered voters with 30% undecided.

The November election always draws a significantly larger turnout than the June primary, and in heavily Democratic Los Angeles, that bigger vote probably works to Bass’ advantage, many political experts say. But with the race starting off close and many voters undecided, Caruso’s ability to spend huge sums on the campaign makes the outcome unpredictable.

Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc. and a California politics expert, noted Caruso’s relative popularity with Latinos may help him in November when more people are voting.

“Are those additional voters automatically in the Karen Bass camp like they would be if she was running against Larry Elder?” Mitchell asked. “It’s not as cut and dry, I think, as people might think. There might be pockets of that additional voter pool that comes in the general that are actually good for Caruso.”

Caruso already has poured nearly $40 million of his own wealth into the race — much of that spent on advertising. On the other side, Bass and the independent expenditure committee supporting her have spent just over $5 million.

His money has meant Caruso’s visage has been ubiquitous on the airwaves, the radio and on mailers in voters’ mailboxes. His message has been rooted in three issues: crime, homelessness and public corruption.

“This race is all about a thematic candidate like Caruso saying he’s had enough, we need change and is a can-do business guy, versus yet another friendly Democratic politician who is afraid to rock the boat,” said Republican strategist Mike Murphy, who lives in Los Angeles, is friends with Caruso and has worked with him in the past.

“There will be more casual voters, and that’s an opening in the general election, and the city is mad enough about City Hall corruption and homelessness,” Murphy said.

In the general election, crime probably will continue to play a key role in the race. Caruso has drawn strong support from voters who say they feel less safe now — just under half of the likely voters.

The share of likely voters who feel less safe, 48%, is up from what it was in the recent past, but safety has not become as universal a concern as homelessness. Just over half the likely voters said they feel about as safe as they did four years ago (43%) or feel safer (9%).

Three-quarters of Caruso voters say they feel less safe now, compared to one-third of Bass voters.

A key difference between Bass and Caruso is how large they think the LAPD should be.

The congresswoman wants the department to expand back to its authorized level of about 9,700 officers. Caruso wants the department to hire more and have 11,000 sworn officers.

Of people who said they’d be voting for Bass in the primary, 43% said they wanted the department to grow at least some. Nearly all, 95%, of Caruso supporters voiced that preference.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

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