Bass takes in nearly $2 million to lead mayoral rivals in early fundraising

Rep. Karen Bass speaks to supporters at the kickoff to her campaign for mayor in Los Angeles
Rep. Karen Bass reported raising nearly $2 million in 2021 for her bid for L.A. mayor, outpacing her rivals.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Karen Bass raised nearly $2 million after launching her campaign in the fall to become Los Angeles’ next mayor, demonstrating an early base of support and enthusiasm as she far outpaced her rivals in the crowded field.

The $1.98 million she took in was almost $800,000 more than her closest competitor, Councilmember Kevin de León, who raised about $1.2 million, according to filings covering the last six months of 2021 submitted to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

For the record:

9:55 a.m. Feb. 2, 2022An earlier version of this article misspelled city attorney candidate Faisal Gill’s name as Faisil Gil.

The required filings provide an early glimpse into which candidates have been able to distinguish themselves and make inroads in the first open election for the city’s top job in nearly a decade. Both Bass and De León entered the race in September.

Bass has spent about $500,000 since she entered the contest and received money from a host of celebrities and boldface names in politics and entertainment. They include Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has recently become more politically engaged on issues surrounding the homelessness crisis. Actors Felicity Huffman, Donald Glover and Jennifer Garner also all gave to her campaign. The average contribution to Bass from all donors was $646.

The Recall Bonin 2021 campaign has fallen about 1,350 signatures short of the amount needed to trigger a recall election, city officials said.

Jan. 18, 2022

“The people of this city are demanding solutions to our problems with homelessness and public safety,” Bass campaign manager Jamarah Hayner said in a statement. “They are rallying behind the decisive leadership Karen Bass has always demonstrated. That’s why we’re seeing this momentum and it’s only going to grow.”


Bass also received donations from Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas and his family. This largess was returned the day after he was indicted on federal bribery charges. He was suspended by his colleagues, even as he denied the accusations and said he would fight the case.

De León’s campaign reported spending about $161,000 through the end of the year.

Another prominent candidate, Councilmember Joe Buscaino, raised about $373,000 from July 1 through the end of the year, bringing his total to about $1.2 million since he started his campaign in March 2021. His operation has spent about $615,000.

Buscaino, a former Los Angeles police officer, has made clean streets and more stringent rules for where homeless people can sit, sleep and lie a centerpiece of his campaign. His team has been striving to collect signatures to get a ballot initiative barring homeless encampments in public spaces on the November ballot.

While separate, this effort, which has raised $870,000, is sure to buoy his campaign. The mailers sent by the committee and its website feature Buscaino and his opinions on homelessness. The committee spent about $400,000 last year.

“I stand ready to tackle our cities toughest challenges, and am grateful for the overwhelming support I have received thus far,” Buscaino said in a statement.

City Atty. Mike Feuer, who has been in the race the longest, raised about $247,000 in the last six months of the year and about $550,000 in all of 2021. He spent $430,000 last year and has been on a months-long tour of Los Angeles neighborhoods. Since he first announced his intention to run in March 2020, he has raised $968,000.

For citywide elected positions such as city attorney, controller and mayor, the most voters can donate in the primary, which will take place June 7, is $1,500. They can donate another $1,500 if there’s a runoff. There’s no limit on donations to ballot measure committees like the one that is backing Buscaino.


Jessica Lall, the president and chief executive of the downtown business group Central City Assn., entered the race in late September. Since then she has focused much of her campaign on addressing the homelessness crisis, raising about $404,000 along the way.

“She has never run for office before. She really worked hard at it. She made tons of calls,” said strategist Bill Carrick, who is advising Lall. “The fact she has never been a candidate. I thought those numbers are good. “

Candidates will be required to report all expenditures and contributions that occurred between Jan. 1 and April 23 by April 28.

Rick Caruso has considered running for L.A. mayor before but has never jumped in. For this year’s race, he promises a “final decision shortly.”

Jan. 23, 2022

Reports of these donations come as billionaire developer Rick Caruso weighs a decision on whether to join the race. His entry would shake up the field — partially because he would be able to largely self-fund his campaign.

Another entrant this fall was Ramit Varma, a tech entrepreneur from Encino, who rented out the Banc of California Stadium for his kickoff event. His campaign raised $182,356 and was also helped by $1.5 million in loans from Varma.

Mel Wilson, a former Metro board member who owns a real estate company in the San Fernando Valley, raised nearly $141,000 last year.

The race to succeed City Controller Ron Galperin also came into fuller view. Councilmember Paul Koretz raised about $466,000, far outpacing his two closest rivals, accountant and activist Kenneth Mejia and lawyer and accountant David Vahedi. They raised about $150,000 and $184,000 respectively.

Similarly, the contest to succeed Feuer now includes Homeland Security official Faisal Gill, who has about $866,000 mostly thanks to a $600,000 loan he gave his campaign. Teddy Kapur, Kevin James, Marina Torres and Hydee Feldstein Soto have raised about $500,000, $460,000 and $372,000 and $341,000 respectively.