Billionaire for mayor? Looking into Rick Caruso’s claims and his record

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso meets with reporters.
Rick Caruso meets reporters after filing paperwork to run for mayor of Los Angeles at the city clerk’s office at the Piper Tech building in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 11.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, April 19. I’m Justin Ray.

If you live in L.A. right now, you can’t get away from Rick Caruso.

The billionaire’s ads for his mayoral bid have appeared ceaselessly on television and online. For me, every ad break during my favorite YouTube true crime programs inevitably brings Caruso back to my screen.

So who is this dude? In a revealing profile published by The Times, we learn a lot about him. He is a developer of luxury retail, residential and hotel projects who spent most of his life as a Republican but recently came out as a Democrat. He’s responsible for the Grove, Americana at Brand and Palisades Village. He’s also white, which is notable because his chief rival, Rep. Karen Bass, is a progressive Black congresswoman who made her name doing community work in South Los Angeles.

During the current mayoral race, Caruso has been criticized for many reasons. For one, he missed the first debate. Then, there is the whole “not releasing his tax returns thing.” Of course, his wealth also makes him a target.


As the race has progressed, The Times itself has examined aspects of Caruso’s past and claims he’s made on the campaign trail. Here are some notable moments:

  • Caruso missed nearly 40% of Los Angeles Police Commission meetings when he served on the volunteer paneltwo decades ago, an attendance record far worse than those of his fellow commissioners. The billionaire mall developer also arrived late for a dozen meetings, according to documents. Caruso defended his record, saying he consulted with others on the commission to make sure he never missed a meeting at which his vote was critical. The Times also spoke to former colleagues, who gave unvarnished accounts of his character.
  • His claims about his LAPD work are overstated. Caruso said in an interview, “I am the only candidate that has ever headed up a police department.” However, Caruso did not head the LAPD but, rather, led the panel of five civilians two decades ago who ended former LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks’ reign and helped make William J. Bratton the new chief (a choice ultimately made by former Mayor James K. Hahn).
  • His statements about crime aren’t accurate. Standing on a debate stage for the first time, Caruso said Los Angeles was experiencing some of the worst crime in the city’s history. The statement was not true at all. While it is true that violent crime in the city has risen over the last two years, it is nowhere near its peak in the 1990s. He also said that everybody in the city “at every corner of the city, no matter where you live, what your background is, is scared to walk out their doors.” After The Times conducted interviews with dozens of Angelenos, a nuanced picture emerged that ran counter to Caruso’s rhetoric.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

A 29-year-old student cinematographer was killed Friday when an off-road vehicle carrying a group of young filmmakers rolled over in Imperial Valley, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki, who is facing growing criticism of her handling of sexual harassment allegations involving her husband, announced Monday that she is separating from her spouse. The announcement comes after a Times investigation reporting that California State University paid $600,000 this year to settle a claim with a Sonoma State provost who reported retaliation and sexual harassment allegations involving Sakaki and her husband. Los Angeles Times


The 65 best bookstores in L.A. It shouldn’t be too surprising that a vast city of unique neighborhoods should abound in utterly distinctive local bookstores. We have unveiled a list of the city’s best book establishments; it includes proudly Black-owned storefronts, bilingual learning centers, and mom-and-pop labors of love. Los Angeles Times

Asia Pietrzyk / For The Times
(Asia Pietrzyk / For The Times)

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Judge: Oakland improperly fired 5 police officers for 2018 fatal shooting. The 2018 shooting and killing of Joshua Pawlik led to five officers being fired — the most police officers fired for a single event in recent Oakland Police Department history. However, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch issued an order that said the city “improperly manipulated” reports prepared by a city-hired attorney, Jeffrey Sloan. Roesch recommended the city hire the officers back, with back pay. Oaklandside


An Orange County man who had been convicted of stabbing his mother to death in 2017 was arrested Sunday after going missing, prompting a police hunt. Ike Nicholas Souzer, 18, removed his electronic monitoring bracelet Wednesday within hours of being moved to a Santa Ana halfway house, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney’s office said. Souzer was 13 when he killed his mother, Barbara Scheuer-Souzer, 48, outside their home in Garden Grove, stabbing her twice in the stomach. Los Angeles Times

The family of a California grandmother fatally shot by police claim excessive force. Tracy Gaeta, 54, died after an officer who has been identified as Kyle Ribera fired more than two dozen shots into her car on Feb. 22, according to police. “Like too many Black women across this country, [she] is yet another victim of preventable police violence,” an attorney at the firm representing Gaeta’s family said in a statement. Stockton police said a multi-agency investigation into the incident is underway. USA Today

Sherri Papini pleads guilty to faking her own kidnapping. Five years after she claimed she was dumped on the side of a Northern California highway in chains by her kidnappers, Papini formally admitted in federal court Monday that she faked the whole scheme. Los Angeles Times

Sherri Papini leaves the federal courthouse after her arraignment.
Sherri Papini of Redding leaves the federal courthouse after her arraignment on April 13.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

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The Medical Board of California has launched an investigation after a 2-year-old died on the operating table during liver resection surgery at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. The inquiry comes in response to a San Francisco Chronicle investigation that found that John Muir leaders had ignored warnings from staff that the community hospital was not equipped to handle such an operation. In a statement, John Muir Health said that it “welcomes the review by the California Medical Board, as do all of the physicians involved in this case.” San Francisco Chronicle


A man died at an automatic, self-service car wash in Escondido after his body got jammed between his vehicle and the car wash’s machinery, Escondido police said. The 56-year-old man drove his Scion xB hatchback into Pearl Car Wash and, for an unknown reason, tried to exit the vehicle, said police Lt. Scott Walters. The car then rolled forward, pinning him between the car and the car wash’s machinery. San Diego Union-Tribune

Column: Trevor Bauer creates an ongoing nightmare for Dodgers. “Nearly a year after sexual assault allegations against him initially surfaced, Bauer remains out of sight but definitely not out of mind. His presence is everywhere,” writes sports columnist Dylan Hernández. Los Angeles Times

The quest to save Cantonese in a world dominated by Mandarin. Although there are efforts to save Cantonese at Stanford, the language remains under threat. Globally, Cantonese is being swamped by Mandarin. (The two languages are as different as Spanish is from French.) But many descendants of Cantonese speakers are third-, fourth- or fifth-generation Americans who find fewer and fewer places where they can learn their ancestral tongue, either to link them to the distant past or to relatives who are still alive. Los Angeles Times

Sik Lee Dennig
Sik Lee Dennig has taught Cantonese for more than 21 years at Stanford University.
(Paul Kuroda / For The Times)

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Today’s California memory is from Cheryl Geyerman:

When I lived in San Francisco from 1974 to 1976, my husband and I would drive to Indian Wells where his parents had a home. As we approached Riverside, I remember it being so cloudy that I thought it would rain. It wasn’t until years later, once the many regulations had been in place to clean the air, that I realized it was smog.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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