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.