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Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate Rick Caruso
Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso in Los Angeles on May 18, 2022.Kyle Grillot / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Self-funding Caruso dominates in LA mayoral ad spending

The billionaire businessman has spent more than three times as much as the next five candidates combined.


Billionaire Rick Caruso has taken the Los Angeles mayoral race by storm, heading into the final days as a frontrunner thanks in no small part to tens of millions of self-funding and high-profile celebrity endorsements.

Caruso has spent a mind-boggling $34 million on his campaign, according to the city's Ethics Commission, funded almost exclusively by a loan from Caruso himself. That spending figure is leagues more than his next-closest competitor, Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, who has spent $2.9 million, and is more than three times as much as Bass and the next four top-spending candidates combined.

The discrepancy is also playing out on the airwaves. He's spent $23.9 million so far on television, radio and digital advertising, per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, about 85 percent of every dollar spent on ads in the race. By comparison, Bass and an allied group have spent under $2 million combined.

Bass has the endorsement of much of the Democratic establishment both in the state and nationally — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former California Sen. Barbara Boxer, 10 members of the House of Representatives, the state treasurer and lieutenant governor, the state Assembly speaker, influential labor leader Dolores Huerta, Los Angeles basketball legend Magic Johnson, EMILY's List and the Los Angeles Times' editorial board.

But Caruso has deep pockets, and the backing of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, former Los Angeles Police Chiefs Charlie Beck and Bill Bratton, as well as celebrities like rapper Snoop Dogg, television personalities Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, former California first lady Maria Shriver and chef Wolfgang Puck.

Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León is backed by three members of Congress, as well as the Latino Victory Fund and a group of state lawmakers.

Caruso doesn't have the typical profile of a frontrunner in a city as blue as Los Angeles. He's a former head of the city's civilian police commission who used to be a Republican and only registered as a Democrat in January — a political past that could be a vulnerability with some Democratic primary voters. But one he's hoping could be an asset in California's blanket primary, where all candidates are on the same ballot regardless of party.

And he's used his massive war chest to blanket the state in ads, trying to frame Bass as a corrupt career politician, and messaging about crime and homelessness. He's also getting some help from the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which is running anti-Bass ads too.

Outmatched on the airwaves, the pro-Bass effort is trying to compare Caruso to former President Donald Trump and highlighting his history as a Republican.

Polls continue to show Caruso and Bass at the top of the pack ahead of next week's primary, where the top two candidates move onto a general election.