With six weeks remaining before the primary, Rick Caruso’s Los Angeles mayoral campaign has already spent more than $23 million — an astronomical sum that will likely dwarf the combined spending of the other candidates in the field.

That influx of cash — which has largely come out of the billionaire real estate developer’s own pocket — has reshaped the race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti. By comparison, Rep. Karen Bass has spent nearly $800,000 this year.

Bass’s campaign has raised more than $1 million since the beginning of the year, a figure well above the more than $570,000 raised by the Caruso campaign, according to filings covering Jan. 1 through April 23 submitted to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. Caruso did not enter the race until early February.

Bass also received more than $1 million in funds from the city’s election matching program. Caruso opted out of this program.

Filings for many other leading candidates, including Councilman Kevin de León, Councilman Joe Buscaino and City Attorney Mike Feuer, were not yet available. They must be submitted by the end of the day.

These disclosures come at a critical moment in the race, with recent polling showing that about 40% of likely voters are still undecided ahead of June 7 primary. That same polling showed Bass and Caruso in a dead heat for first place, with 24% of likely voters backing Caruso and 23% supporting Bass.

One of the latest entrants to the race, Gina Viola, has raised just over $30,000 and spent about $7,000 on her campaign. The community activist, who has been a vocal critic of the city’s homelessness policies and the Los Angeles Police Department, picked up 2% in a recent Times poll — ahead of several candidates who have raised and spent far more than she has.

Caruso has poured $22.5 million of his own money into his mayoral bid — a figure without precedent in local L.A. politics. Garcetti spent about $10.2 million in total on his winning bid for citywide office in 2013 — a figure that included not just the primary election but also his runoff campaign against then-City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Republican businessman Richard Riordan put $6 million of his own money into his successful 1993 campaign for mayor, equivalent to just under $12 million in 2022 dollars after adjusting for inflation. Only half of that was spent during the primary.

Caruso isn’t the only candidate giving big money to his own campaign. Ramit Varma, a tech entrepreneur from Encino who had the support of 1% of likely voters in recent polling, loaned his campaign $2.5 million, bringing the total he’s given to $4 million since jumping into the race.

Of that amount, about $220,000 went to plastering his face and QR codes on billboards — some along Los Angeles freeways. He also raised about $8,000.

Campaign funding is not the only source of money in the race: independent expenditure committees supporting or opposing candidates have also begun to take shape. Donors can give unlimited amounts of money to these committees, while donations to campaigns are capped at $1,500 per cycle.

Last week, the union representing Los Angeles police officers started an independent expenditure committee to oppose Bass. The union, which has endorsed Caruso, put an initial $500,000 into the committee. A separate committee supporting Bass had raised just under $1 million as of Thursday.

The committees — which by law cannot communicate with the campaigns — often drive attack ads and negative messaging, though they have yet to do so in the race.


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