Wake Up Call for Wendy, Jan, Kevin and Eric: Here Comes Rick Caruso into the Mayor’s Race with a Blank Check

The drumbeat about billionaire developer and long-time City Hall power player Rick Caruso entering the mayor’s race has grown into a crescendo.

The word is that he’s telling friends he might will announce he is running within two weeks and already is lining up a TV ad buy to promote his candidacy after the presidential election in November.

One source said that billionaire-philanthropist Eli Broad held a fund-raising event last week to put a tough pension reform measure on the ballot and went around personally asking everyone in the room how much they would put into the kitty.

Caruso reportedly begged off, saying he would soon be facing a lot of political expenses.

How much, he was asked.

Without hesitation, he reportedly said: “$15 to $20 million.”

That’s peanuts for Caruso whose estimated to be worth nearly $2 billion.

Caruso, developer of the Grove, Americana at Brand, Calabasas Commons and other highly successful shopping centers that double as popular gathering spots, has long eyed running for mayor while serving as a city commissioner, including the DWP Commission and the Police Commission where he was instrumental in hiring Bill Bratton as Chief.

At the last minute in 2009, he backed out of running for mayor, citing family considerations, although knocking off an incumbent Antonio Villaraigosa seemed very tough when the filing deadline came four months before the primary.

The mayor’s office is open now and the supposed front-runners with $2 million in campaign contributions — Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti — have stirred no excitement around town and would have a tough time explaining City Hall’s downward spiral during their dozen years in city elected offices.

Councilwoman Jan Perry has somewhat less baggage, having stood up for ratepayers against DWP, but doesn’t have the fund-raising clout of the other insiders.

Talk show host Kevin James is the only candidate to actually articulate solutions to some of the city biggest problems but has had to work hard to just to be included in forums and be taken seriously in the press because he has only raised a tenth of the money the top candidates have.

Money is no issue for Caruso and he will be a formidable candidate with the ability to argue he can put the city back on a sound financial footing.

He told one recent interviewer that the insider candidates were “part of the problem, not part of the solution” and another that City Hall policies are driving business away and not addressing LA’s massive unemployment problem.

Kate Linthicum speculated about Caruso’s candidacy 10 days ago in the LA Times, reporting he “has been conferring with a team of political consultants … He previously signaled that he would decide by mid-September, but aides would only say an announcement was coming.”

“The entrance of Caruso, a former Republican who recently changed his party affiliation to ‘decline to state,’ would shake up a field of candidates dominated by three veteran Democratic elected leaders, particularly if he was willing to draw on his estimated $2-billion personal fortune to finance a campaign,” she said.

Matt Middlebrook, a top aide to Mayor James Hahn, has served as a top executive to Caruso for several years and brings expertise in public relations and politics.

From the point of view of community activists and communities of interest throughout the city, the concerns about Caruso are clear enough:

Is he just another rich guy who doesn’t understand how the quality of life in so many neighborhoods is being destroyed by City Hall policies?

Is he so tied into the city’s business-civic elites that he doesn’t understand that they have gone along for the ride as City Hall poured the public’s wealth into downtown and Hollywood at the expense of the infrastructure and pandered to unions and special interests at the expense of ordinary people?

Without question, Caruso will enliven what to this point has been a dull and lifeless mayoral campaign season.


19 thoughts on “Wake Up Call for Wendy, Jan, Kevin and Eric: Here Comes Rick Caruso into the Mayor’s Race with a Blank Check”

  1. My vote is for Kevin James. By the way “declined to state” is a gutless position and should tell everyone what they need to know about Caruso. We desperately need transparency and leadership in Los Angeles. That’s Kevin James.

  2. There are a lot of people waiting for Caruso to jump in. Say what you will but he’s smart, down to earth, knows how to fix this City. His success has shown he’s intelligent and can get us back on track. I like Kevin James who has more heart and really cares but Caruso is the best choice amongst the candidates.

    “””Councilwoman Jan Perry has somewhat less baggage, having stood up for ratepayers against DWP, but doesn’t have the fund-raising clout of the other insiders.””” REALLY? She is the reason AEG has gotten away with the corrupt NFL deal. She is the reason why we have so many digital billboards all over the City. C’mon we’re smarter then that.

  3. I think Dennis Zine also changes his status to “decline to state.”

    So many questions about Caruso. Will his candidacy go the way of Meg Whitman – lots of money but little appeal? Probably not. Meg was so disconnected from politics and was a fish out of water. Caruso has important contacts from his development work. The Grove’s immense popularity would put him in a good light. Don’t know if he has any baggage, though.

    Assuming there are no skeletons in his closet, he does not necessarily hurt James. I personally know activists who are not happy with anyone in the race. They will tend to sit out or cast a vote for the least of the three evils from the insider group. Caruso will likely broaden the voter pool, guaranteeing a runoff – one where at least two of the insiders will not reach.

    If he is in for sure, it was a smart move on his part to sit it out. Money is certainly not an issue and way too many voters are so focused on the national elections to care about the mayoral race.

  4. Rick Caruso as Mayor is exactly what the City of Los Angeles needs. I worked with him when he was the President of the Police Commission, best experience of my city career. I have no doubt he’ll make a difference.

  5. (gave a courtesy ‘wish you were running’ to Zev last week at a groundbreaking, but he seems burnt out…)

    Ric…may be ready this time. In 2009, it wasn’t just Antonio’s fundraising, it was the no-win situation of the city…now, there’s nowhere to go but up.

    I like Caruso…watched him for years, before the Grove. A class act, and as a developer, he knows the value of listening, and embracing concerns, in terms of mitigating impacts. Granted, some folks are never happy, but he sets the standard in LA.

    As a mensch, I can vouch for some of his philanthrophy…but he does tend to get hit up a bit too much. Likewise, I’m amused to see him let the collectino basket pass him at Broad’s event. My teacher wife would approve, not just because of the pension reform, but due to Broad’s audacity…oh wait, he calls it being ‘Unreasonable’.

    Biggest clues…not just the decline to state, and the lack of Romney fundraisers this time around…not to mention his proactive jab at Pacquiao before his mis-attributed quote was clarified.

    So, as to the important questions about governance…I think he’s a sharp Exec, and knows enough about this city to be much much more than Meg and others that have also-ran over the last decade.

    Take a look into his work with the recently named “USC Sol Price School of Public Policy”…he does more than homework, he assigns it! (Don’t know how happy I was to see the nascient Schwarzenegger Institute, but we’ll see how that goes).

    I wish Kevin well, but if Caruso comes in, all bets are off.

  6. I tend to be rather slow and need to reduce things to something simple — like anyone who takes $52 Million from the city when the city is cutting back on fire and paramedic services is inherently evil — yet that’s what eli broad did. For him, a fancy smancy garage next to his art museum for the limos of his corrupt cronies is more important that the lives of Angelenos. And, who is one of his corrupt cronies? — Caruso

    The sleazy dripping from Caruso is no better than the dreck dripping from Garcetti. Since Garcetti has made such a mess of fronting for the corrupt developers, one of them is ready to actually take the reigns himself.

  7. I’m not a fan of the Billionaire’s Boy’s Club. Billionaires like Eli Broad use other people’s money – Just look how he took public funds $52 million for the parking lot for his Museum. And now how he is taking collections to fund his initiative.

    That being said, I would like to see Caruso use all of his financial smarts and thoroughly dissect the very latest AEG agreement with the City including all financing, worst case downside risk for the City and what role the financial strength of AEG plays in protecting the City’s interest.

    Caruso has taken advantage of other Cities for his own personal financial gain. Now in that sense, I would hope he would be able to look out for the City, but if he approves of the tax waivers, HUD loans, Billboard deals and gigantic zoning variances that the City has given to the Grand Wilshire Hotel, to AEG, CIM Group, etc, then he is no better than Garcetti, Greuel, or Perry.

    Then we should definitely go for Kevin James, hold his feet to the fire in going after developers and look for one of these weak-kneed developers to pay for a PAC to trash Kevin James’ opponents.

    1. Out here (working still in my old home town of Agoura) Caruso was sought after for win-win…no exploitation of the cities of Thousand Oaks/Calabasas I’ve ever heard of.

      The Villages concept in Agoura Hills would be perfect for his approach, but there’s too many disparate landowners…Caruso Affiliated prefers to own and control…as opposed to relying on somebody elses money.

      And the word in Glendale is that even his old nemesis have turned to partnering with him after the Americana withstood the worst timing in the world for a upscale mixed use experiment.

  8. OK, everything being said about Caruso being a great business man is correct but is that enough? Or do we need a real reformer? I’m sure he thinks he knows the Council, how it works etc. but then there are the unions and more importantly all the bureaucrats that don’t serve at the pleasure of the Mayor who can do more damage than he can imagine. The pensions alone will do that. Did anyone read Riordan’s remarks in the Times (Opinion section) the other day? He said he sold all his government bonds two years ago?

  9. If $15-20 million is “peanuts” to Caruso, why did he stiff fellow billionaire Eli Broad
    when the anti-union collection plate was passed around? Not a damn dime! Surely a Double-Billionaire like Caruso could have thrown in a couple of hundred thousand
    The New Mayor’s Race– The Battle of The Goombahs:Garcetti versus Caruso: Little
    Ricky versus Big Ricky. That’ll be the day!

    1. It’ll reeealy be interesting to see how he comes down in the end vis a vis unions. Not sure what kind of rapport he had with D’Arcy…or lack thereof. Whether he’s in tight with Broad & Riodan, he may not want to be associated (at this time at least) with the pension reform motions they’re going through. It might thwart his ‘centering’ from any sentiment that he’s just a rich white Republican.

      Now, for those who wouldn’t mind a little (or a lot) of pension reform discussion…and not just some half hearted deal such as Brown’s effort has been branded…he can probably afford not to pander to that base.

      Up against the other 3 insiders, he’ll still be viewed as a much better alternative.

      But let’s not fail to promote Kevin James…

  10. I JUST DONATED TO PAUL KORETZ 2013 RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN! Check the L.A. City Ethics Commission under “CD5.” I’m so proud of proving I support the Left Wing Anti-Business pro-DWP union hog Koretz! This alone should ban me from running for Mayor. I’m a businessman Bilionaire, but deep down, I’m a Lefty schmuck and always will be. Anyway, I don’t want to spend a year explaining this support of the Koretz 2013 campaign. Even my spin-doctors can’t get me out of this one.

  11. John maybe Caruso doesn’t want to align himself with Broad who is part of the Mayor’s croonies. Caruso will bring CLASS back to Los Angeles along with his expertise on how to get things done and move this City forward. I’ve seen him work with different types of people from all areas of LA. Let’s not forget Caruso had the guts to make the tough decisions in the face of adversity like getting rid of Chief Parks although now Parks was good on the redistricting issue. We don’t have anyone in City Hall that has guts anymore. They will all vote for AEG no matter what it costs the taxpayers. Caruso isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and blast Garcetti, Perry, Greuel for their incompetence.

  12. Does Caruso support a charter amendment the would require the City to “Live Within Its Means?” This would require the City to develop and adhere to a Five Year Financial Plan and pass a two year balanced budget based on GAAP, and over the next ten years, to eliminate the unfunded pension liability and fix our roads, sidewalks, and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure.

  13. Fact- Rick gave Assessor Noguez large campaign contributions.
    Rick may be investigated for direct involvement in illegal tax reduction schemes for some of his high value properties in LA. The notoriety would prevent him from running. He might even be indicted and convicted of crimes.

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