Bass, Caruso clash on USC ties, ethics, crime in L.A. mayor debate

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US Rep. Karen Bass and real estate developer Rick Caruso lashed out at each other with allegations of abuse and inhumanity during an hour-long debate on Wednesday, the latest rhetoric escalation in a once relatively decent campaign for mayor of Los Angeles.

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The veteran Washington lawmaker portrayed the businessman as being out of touch with highly Democratic L.A. because of his previous Republican registration and financial contributions to anti-abortion politicians.

In turn, Caruso portrays Bass as a hidden member of a dysfunctional political class that has been ineffective in curbing the city’s homelessness and crime – two issues voters say are their top concerns.


The hostile exchange during the debate, broadcast live from the Skirball Cultural Center at Sipulved Pass, builds on the rough tone made by the campaign in recent weeks. It represents a marked departure from previous declarations of mutual respect between the two mayors, including a moment three years ago when the two sat side by side as dignitaries at the USC graduation.

Bass is trying to consolidate his lead in the June primary, defeating Caruso by 7 percentage points, and extending it to 12 points in the summer polls. Caruso still hopes to persuade the nearly one-quarter of voters who remain undecided, a group that could move the race before voting ends on November 8.

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Many disagreements on Wednesday centered on USC, the university both candidates attended and that has been the focus of repeated scandals in recent years.

Bass attacked Caruso for his time as chairman of the university’s board of trustees. She reiterated previous reports in The Times about how Caruso backtracked on a pledge to release a report about an investigation by a gynecologist accused of sexual misconduct.

“Victims of the gynecologist, literally hundreds of students at USC, asked you to release the report,” Bass said. “As chairman of the board of trustees, he committed to doing an investigation, making a report, and then he decided he was not going to release it when the victims asked to release it.”

Caruso helped USC reach $1.1 billion in legal settlements with former patients of gynecologist George Tyndall, and changed the leadership and governing structure of the university. But in recent years, he has held back from releasing the report, saying that USC attorneys only gave oral briefings to the trustees and that there were no reports to release.

Caruso said her opponent’s attack was intended to distract from her own abuse, when she received a scholarship of nearly $100,000 “without applying” to earn a master’s degree from USC’s School of Social Work.

“She received a $95,000 scholarship. She failed to report it …. the paperwork where it was to be reported,” Caruso said. “She got her degree, took fewer classes than her fellow students, and then worked with the dean [of the School of Social Work] To push it through fashion legislation and Congress, taxpayer dollars to go back to the same school.

Bass replied that he had worked hard for his degree. “I don’t think it was a bad decision at all,” she told Caruso. “I have spent the last three decades working for the most vulnerable children in our country, the children in the child welfare system.”

The exchange ended when Caruso asked if Bass “was lying to prosecutors” when he mentioned him in a parallel corruption investigation involving now-suspended Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “No,” replied Bass. “I’m saying you are.”

Ridley-Thomas has been accused of providing a contract to USC in exchange for a scholarship and job for her son. He has pleaded not guilty. Her trial is scheduled for November 15.

Former USC Dean Marilyn Flynn, who provided the scholarship to Bass, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of bribery in the Ridley-Thomas case. The US Attorney’s Office told The Times earlier this month that, “at this time,” Bass “was not the target or subject of our office’s investigation.”

Although the race for mayor of Los Angeles is technically non-partisan, the issue of party affiliation has been pushed to the fore by Bass and his campaign.

Responding to a question, the Congresswoman said that Caruso had been a Republican for decades, then an independent, and then a Republican. He registered as a Democrat at the start of the current campaign.

“That’s the problem,” Bass said. “You keep going back and forth like that.”

Bass tried to draw that distinction from the very beginning of the debate. When asked about the biggest differences between him and Caruso, he described himself as “a lifelong pro-choice Democrat.”

Caruso admitted that he went back to the Republican Party in 2016 to support former Ohio Governor John Kasich, whom he saw as the only viable Republican who could prevent Donald Trump from winning the party’s presidential nomination. Were.

“I never supported Trump. I didn’t give him a dime,” Caruso said. He also noted that he had contributed to several Democrats, including Bass. He said congressmen had unfairly compared him to Trump in the past.

“When you asked me for donations, I supported you,” Caruso said. “And do you think I was Donald Trump when I was writing you a check?”

Caruso also struck Bass for an incident earlier this month when thieves broke into his Baldwin Vista home and stole two .38-caliber revolvers. He asked a series of questions, wondering whether the guns were safely stored as Bass said they were.

“There are two guns on the road now. And we have terrible gun violence in the city of Los Angeles,” Caruso said, seeking more answers from Bass about the incident.

Bass responded that she was stunned that Caruso would lay the blame on her when she was the victim of a crime, and that when he had previously called her to offer her concern about the theft at The Grove, an upscale shopping center. was the owner of

“I think it’s an act of desperation, Rick,” Bass said.

The candidates also addressed the policy issues that voters say they care about most.

On public safety, Bass reiterated her intention to bring the LAPD back to its previously authorized staff of 9,700 officers, saying she would take more police to the streets by firing them from desk jobs.

Caruso has called for a bigger build-up to 11,000 officers, which would be an all-time high for the force. This will be a costly and difficult task, as the force has been reduced to only 9,200 officers over the years, which is a shortfall of 800 officers.

Upon homelessness, Caruso and Bass repeated their previous plans – to build 15,000 units of their housing and to supply 30,000 units to non-households within 300 days of taking office.

She will build new shelter beds to accommodate about 1,000 people, expand the use of housing vouchers, lease and buy motels and hotels and try other avenues. The price tag in the first year will be $292 million, which includes construction costs and operating expenses for the shelter beds.

Caruso’s plan to build or acquire the housing and prepare it for occupancy will cost an estimated $843 million in the first year. He declined to estimate operating expenses for housing 30,000 people, but a previous Times analysis of city documents found it would cost about $660 million a year, or about $22,000 per person.

Caruso said Bass’s plan appears to be the same. “The population has grown by 80% during Karen Bass’s tenure in office,” Caruso said.

Caruso said he would use his knowledge as a developer to help streamline the city’s bureaucracy and make the construction of new housing easier. He said he would focus on both temporary and permanent structures after declaring a state of emergency on homelessness.

Caruso repeatedly suggested that his professional experience in solving homelessness and other problems would be important. When Bass said she would appoint a deputy mayor for business, she replied: “I don’t need a deputy mayor for business, I know business.”

Given the Supreme Court’s decision outlawing abortion, candidates were asked whether this should be an issue in the campaign.

Bass said it should. Even though the city is not directly involved in the administration of healthcare, she said the issue is “a question of values.”

Caruso – whose past donations to anti-abortion politicians have been the subject of frequent attacks during the race – insisted: “I am the pro-choice, I always have been.”


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