Hollywood money begins to flow into committee backing Karen Bass in mayor’s race

J.J. Abrams, right, and Katie McGrath
Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams, shown in 2017, have contributed $250,000 to an independent expenditure committee supporting Rep. Karen Bass’ run for mayor.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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Billionaire Rick Caruso has already put millions of dollars toward television ads, and is expected to vastly outspend his competitors in the Los Angeles mayor’s race.

But supporters of Rep. Karen Bass have launched an independent expenditure committee to help the longtime officeholder compete with Caruso’s wealth.

The newly formed committee reported raising nearly $270,000 in the last two weeks, according to disclosure forms filed with the City Ethics Commission. This group was incorporated last month and is called Communities United for Bass for LA Mayor 2022.


That total included $125,000 each from Hollywood producer-director J.J. Abrams and his wife, Bad Robot Productions co-CEO Katie McGrath, according to disclosure filings.

Starting 90 days before an election, campaigns and independent committees are required to file disclosures of donations over $1,000 within 24 hours of receiving them. The election is June 7.

The committee is also receiving support from DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, a longtime Bass backer who has committed to giving at least $250,000, according to sources familiar with the matter, though his contribution has not yet appeared in public filings. Katzenberg and some of his key advisors are also helping make calls to prospective donors, the sources said. A Katzenberg representative declined to comment.

Independent expenditure committees are prohibited from coordinating with campaigns. Donors to independent expenditure committees are not bound by the $1,500 limit for citywide races, and can give as much as they would like.

Abrams and McGrath are longtime Democratic donors who also have given extensively to charitable causes, including the Community Coalition, which Bass helped found and ran before running for the state Assembly. In 2015, they hosted a fundraiser for Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who had also led the Community Coalition and is now a key supporter of Bass.


A representative of McGrath and Abrams declined to comment. The expenditure committee’s chair, Morgan Miller, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“We are a diverse coalition of voters dedicated to electing Karen Bass as our next mayor,” the committee said in a statement. “We are committed to making Los Angeles a better place for all and firmly believe this office cannot be bought by anyone.”

(In a statement, Caruso senior campaign advisor Lex Olbrei said: “It’s not surprising that special interest politicians who have raised millions from corporate interests are being propped up by a special interest Washington, D.C., super PAC.”)

Abrams and McGrath were some of the many people working in Hollywood who gave directly to Bass’ campaign, which raised nearly $2 million last year after she got into the race in September. They included actors Felicity Huffman, Donald Glover and Jennifer Garner — along with Katzenberg, who has recently become more politically engaged on homelessness issues, and his wife, Marilyn.

City Councilman Kevin de León’s mayoral bid is also receiving support from an independent expenditure committee, which is being funded by a local union, and has raised $250,000 to back the former state senator and several candidates for City Council. This committee last week reported spending around $35,000 to distribute mailers in support of de León.

Karen Bass should not be cowed those whose positions on homelessness and public safety would cause her to lose the race for L.A. mayor.

March 17, 2022

Also last week, the Ethics Commission said Caruso had already “made or incurred expenses” for his campaign that exceed $3.3 million. As a result, other candidates, most of whom have agreed to accept public matching funds for their campaigns, will be permitted to spend greater amounts than previously allowed.


Caruso is not lacking in Hollywood support as well. He recently hosted an event that was attended by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and executive Scooter Braun.

Katzenberg has been a major player in national Democratic politics for years, giving heavily to the likes of Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Contribution records show that Katzenberg also has been giving locally, donating $50,000 in 2017 to the campaign for Measure H, which raised taxes to pay for social services that help Los Angeles County’s homeless population.

A year earlier, he contributed $100,000 to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s campaign for Measure M, the half-cent sales tax to support public transit and transportation programs.

In 2013, Katzenberg put more than $101,000 into the effort to elect Wendy Greuel — who worked with him at DreamWorks — as mayor.

Last summer, Katzenberg met with numerous local elected officials and aides who work on homelessness policy in the run-up to a vote to impose new anti-camping rules, which would allow the city to remove encampments that are near key public facilities, such as libraries and homeless shelters, once offers of housing have been made.