Where is the money for the Los Angeles mayor’s race coming from?

Nearly half of campaign donations flow from outside the city
City Government

Illustration of City Hall with dollars falling


As the June 7 mayoral primary nears, a clutch of candidates are rapidly spending the money they have been raising for months, or in some cases more than a year. But an examination of fundraising data filed with the City Ethics Commission reveals something surprising: Take away the $26.5 million in loans that a pair of candidates have given to their campaigns, and those aiming to succeed Eric Garcetti have collectively received nearly as much money from areas outside Los Angeles as from within the city they aim to lead.


Through April 23, $9,153,619 had been raised from traditional contributions, almost all of it pulled in by six candidates: U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, Councilmember Joe Buscaino, developer Rick Caruso, Councilmember Kevin de León, City Attorney Mike Feuer and tech entrepreneur Ramit Varma.


A new Ethics Commission dashboard shows that $3,513,590 came from donors outside the city of Los Angeles, but within California, and another $824,988 emanated from outside the state. Together, this amounts to $4.34 million. (Note: Some figures on the dashboard have changed since originally published, and could again be altered.)


It means that at least 47.4% of the (non-loan) funds came from outside the city.


Donors in New York have given $170,670 to L.A. mayoral candidates, more than from any other state beyond California; the average donation is $969. The second most prolific giving state is Illinois, with $89,894, and an average donation of $724.


The big picture

The maximum an individual can donate to a candidate is $1,500. But someone running for office can loan their campaign an unlimited amount. Caruso has taken advantage of that, and has contributed $22.5 million to his mayoral bid. Varma has given his campaign $4 million. 


Piece chart of money raised by mayoral candidates


Including the Caruso and Varma loans, nearly $31 million has been raised by people who reside in Los Angeles, according to the Ethics Commission.


Here is how money for the four candidates who have raised the most from donors breaks down.


Karen Bass

Bass, who launched her campaign last September, has been the strongest performer in the field, raising $3,040,587, with more than $1 million coming since Jan. 1. According to Ethics Commission disclosures, $1,487,013 was given by donors within the city. The dashboard identifies $1.03 million as coming from within the state, but outside city limits, and $401,000 donated from outside California. 


The disclosure statements leave some wiggle room, identifying $51,656 as “potential inside city” donations. Another nearly $70,000 for Bass is identified as “unitemized.” 


Altogether, at least $1.43 million of the Bass campaign funds came from outside the city. This means, at minimum, 47% of the money she has raised flowed from beyond Los Angeles.


Horizontal bar chart of Karen Bass campaign donations


Her prowess with outside-L.A. donors likely stems from her long record. Bass has been in Congress since 2011, and before that spent six years in the California legislature, including two years as state Assembly Speaker. For much of that time she was headquartered in Sacramento.


The ZIP codes that have turned out strongest for her are 90049 (which includes Brentwood; $84,805 in donations); 90019 (Mid-City; $77,658); and 90064 (Century City/West Los Angeles; $75,929). 


Joe Buscaino

Buscaino has represented District 15 on the council—it includes San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles, as well as Watts and other neighborhoods—for a decade. He entered the race in March 2021 and has raised $1,318,891.


According to Ethics Commission disclosures, Buscaino has raised $495,458 within Los Angeles and close to $20,000 is labeled as “potential inside city.” His campaign has garnered $645,873 from Californians who reside outside L.A., and $151,550 has come from other parts of the U.S. 


Altogether, at least $797,423 of Buscaino’s campaign donations came from outside Los Angeles. That accounts for 60.5% of his money.


Horizontal bar chart of Joe Buscaino campaign donations


Buscaino’s greatest source of financial support is the ZIP code 90275 (which includes Rancho Palos Verdes; $94,017). Other areas supporting him include 90731 (his home base of San Pedro; $67,864); and 90274 (Palos Verdes; $59,726).   


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Kevin de León

The former president of the state Senate, who won his District 14 council seat—it includes Downtown, Boyle Heights and communities in Northeast L.A.—in 2020, has been the second most popular figure with donors, raising $1,807,436. He entered the race in September. 


According to the Ethics Commission dashboard, de León has raised $671,826 from Los Angeles inhabitants, and $51,583 is listed as “potential inside city.”


The dashboard identifies $993,072 coming from within the state but outside city limits. Another $74,700 flowed from other parts of the country. Altogether this means at least $1,067,772 of de León’s campaign funds came beyond Los Angeles. That accounts for 59% of the money he has raised.


Horizontal bar chart of Kevin de Leon campaign donations


The ZIP codes that have turned out strongest for de León are 90210 (which includes Beverly Hills; $48,200 in donations); 90015 (part of Downtown; $33,680); and 90021 (also part of Downtown; $25,000). 


Mike Feuer

Feuer won a seat on the City Council in the 1990s, later served in the state legislature, and has been the city’s top lawyer since 2013. His campaign has raised $1,186,430 (including a $100,000 personal loan). 


According to Ethics Commission disclosures, Feuer has raised a higher percentage of his campaign funds from within the city than the other leading candidates: The dashboard identifies raising $807,686 from Los Angeles, and $21,050 is “potential within city.” 


Disclosure statements identify $316,480 as emanating from outside the city but within the state. Just $37,150 was given from outside California. This means his beyond-L.A. take is at least $353,630; that works out to 29.8% of his contributions.


Horizontal bar chart of Mike Feuer campaign donations


The ZIP codes that have turned out strongest for Feuer are 90048 (which includes Mid-Wilshire; $112,850); 90210 (Beverly Hills; $84,731); and 90049 (Brentwood; $82,255).


How we did it: We examined data from the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and the Los Angeles City Campaign Contributions from March 2020-April 23, 2022. Some of the data on an Ethics Commission dashboard may change and may not be fully reflected in this article.


Have questions about our data? Or have a question? Write to us at askus@xtown.la