Rick Caruso is a piece of shit. You won’t find these words blasted on the bills and banners that have littered Los Angeles for the past year, but that does not make the sentiment any less true. By the time this article will be published, the billionaire property developer will have spent more than $100 million dollars of his own fortune on his mayoral campaign. While that figure is a drop in the bucket relative to the $5.3 billion he has acquired by building upscale shopping centers like The Grove, the question has never been if Caruso could foot the bill but why. Never has a candidate invested so much personal wealth in a bid for public office. When Angelenos hit the polls this Tuesday, they can rest assured that the greater motivations of this candidate are steeped in private interests.
The platform on which Caruso is claiming is mostly performative, carefully engineered, and outright false. In order to appeal to the largely progressive city of Los Angeles, Caruso changed his party affiliation to Democrat this past January only a few weeks before announcing his run for mayor in the 2022 election. Caruso had contemplated candidacy in 2013, at which point he changed his party affiliation to “decline to state” after a lifetime as a registered Republican.
There is nothing progressive or democratic about Rick Caruso. When recently questioned on his feelings about abortion and womens reproductive rights, Caruso maintains that his pro-choice position has always been clear. Caruso is an outspoken and devout Catholic, as evidenced by the USC Caruso Catholic Center erected in his name. He has donated upwards of $6 million to the center which stands alongside the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, Created Equal, and Live Action as the city’s most pronounced anti-abortion groups. Additionally, the Caruso Catholic Center participated in the annual anti-abortion march OneLife LA, going so far as to advertise its participation on its website. Such endorsements have been removed since Caruso’s entry in the mayoral race.
In 2007, Caruso hosted a presidential campaign fundraiser for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at his home in Los Angeles, as reported by the Boston Globe. The event raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican, pro-life candidate. Caruso shifted his registered party affiliation in 2016 when he served as a campaign co-chair for Republican John Kasich’s presidential bid. He became an independent again in 2019.
Caruso resigned his chair on USC’s Board of Trustees in February of this year. He was elected to the role shortly after hundreds of sexual abuse charges were brought against the university’s former gynecologist George Tyndall. The resulting $1.1 billion USC would pay out stands as the largest sex-abuse settlement in education history. Still, these claims far from reflect the total scope of sexual misconduct and allegations brought against the college in recent years. In his brief time as chair, Caruso made extraordinary efforts to protect the reputation of the university and obscure accountability. During investigations, Caruso hired O’Melveny & Myers to counsel. The same office was hired to represent Harvey Weinstein, Alex Jones, and Kyle Rittenhouse.
In his race to replace mayor Eric Garcetti, who is approaching his term limit, Caruso trails slightly behind former community organizer Karen Bass. The California congresswoman who led by 7 points at the polls this past June has been endorsed by both president Joe Biden and former president Barack Obama. If elected, Bass would become the first female, and first black female, elected mayor of Los Angeles.
Their debates have been largely focused around issues of violent crime and housing for the city’s rapidly growing homeless population. Both candidates share pro-cop sentiments and a desire to reinstate the full capacity of the Los Angeles Police Department. Bass and Caruso have been instrumental in pushing an urgent “crime wave” narrative, while the Public Policy Institute of California reports the state’s violent crime increased from 440 per 100,000 residents in 2020 to 466 in 2021. Homicides accounted for 1% of violent crimes in 2021.
In addressing homelessness, Caruso will find it impossible to make a convincing, unfeigned argument. Again, Caruso is a real estate and property developer with more than $5 billion at his disposal who chose to invest $100 million of that in a masturbatory mayoral bid. If he had any sincere inclination to find housing solutions and exits from homelessness for the thousands living on L.A. streets, he could and should have done that already.
Just a few weeks ago, Nury Martinez resigned from L.A. City Council after audio leaked of her making inflammatory, racist, anti-Black comments about another council member’s adopted son. Caruso has only used the scandal to cast himself as a political outlier eager to challenge the existing order. It’s a campaign strategy that worked famously for Donald Trump.
This Tuesday, don’t be fooled by banners or billboards. Don’t be fooled by a billionaire this close to purchasing a public office as if it were a pair of shoes. We are not shoes. We are people. We are Angelenos, and we are not for sale.