LA mayor's race: Bass campaign raises ethics concerns about Caruso's possible conflicts of interest

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Friday, September 2, 2022
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Rep. Karen Bass is raising questions about potential conflicts of interest developer Rick Caruso would have if he defeats her in the Los Angeles mayoral race.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Rep. Karen Bass is raising questions about potential conflicts of interest developer Rick Caruso would have if he defeats her in the Los Angeles mayoral race.

Caruso handed over his company to a new CEO, his chief development officer Corinne Verdery. But Bass says what the billionaire developer is doing is not enough to curtail ethics concerns.

The Bass campaign is sharing the opinions of two ethics experts who are urging Caruso to commit to selling all his Los Angeles real estate assets if elected.

"You would have people doing deals with the mayor's real estate holdings and companies throughout his mayoral term," said Richard Painter, the chief ethics adviser to former President George W. Bush. "There's an enormous number of decisions in the mayor's office that affect the pay of real estate. Everything from policing, to zoning issues, water."

Caruso's company owns and operates billions of dollars worth of commercial properties in Southern California. If elected, Caruso has committed to putting those assets into a blind trust that Verdery, the new CEO, would not be in charge of, but rather a separate trustee, according to the campaign.

But Bass' campaign isn't buying it. She points to the ongoing battle between Hackman Capital's redevelopment of Television City, which Caruso is against. Television City is located at Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, next to the Grove.

"He declared he was going to be the champion for Hollywood and now we find out he's actually fighting the development. I don't believe appointing someone to head up his corporation, that he would actually be distant from that," Bass said to Eyewitness News during an interview two weeks ago.

Hackman Capital has released these plans and adds that the planning department has said the impact to traffic would be "less than significant." Hackman Capital says the project would generate approximately $2.4 billion annually in new economic output and an estimated 18,760 direct and indirect jobs once operational.

"We saw this with President Trump who continued to benefit from his known properties with his name, which he also called a blind trust," said Norman Eisen, the chief ethics adviser to former President Barack Obama.

But Rick Caruso's campaign is hitting back by sending out a fake diploma awarding Bass a "Master's of ethics violations" because of gifts she's accepted and special interest donations.

The Caruso campaign says "with a record like this, no wonder Karen is trying to mislead voters with false attacks and lies about Rick Caruso. The only person with a clear and long list of ethics problems is Karen Bass."

Caruso has also committed to appointing an ethics czar to oversee his ethics pledges while at City Hall, a place dominated by corruption.