As Los Angeles gears up for the mayoral primary on June 7, candidates are rapidly spending money on TV ads, mailers and more. But where did all that cash come from?
In Rick Caruso’s case, the vast majority flowed from his personal fortune, as he has given his campaign more than $25 million. Other candidates, however, spent months or longer soliciting campaign contributions from a variety of individuals, with the maximum donation of $1,500.
In the effort to maintain transparency, there are strict financial disclosure laws in municipal elections. The City Ethics Commission and the publicly available L.A. City Campaign Contribution dataset reveal donation data up through April 23.
Perusing the data reveals that people who work in a few select fields are frequent and outsized donors: Disclosure statements are peppered with contributions from those in the legal, real estate, education and entertainment sectors. (The donations are separate from the independent expenditures that certain groups or political action committees spend to boost favored candidates.)
Crosstown pored through the data to analyze which candidates receive outsized support from which sectors. Examining job titles has limits, and much depends on self-reporting. Additionally, in some cases broad titles such as “executive” or “manager” could apply to a range of fields, and thus may not always be counted in an individual candidate’s tabulation.
Here is where some of the big money is coming from.
No work sector appears to donate more to L.A. political candidates than the legal field. People who list their occupation as lawyer, attorney, paralegal, prosecutor, defender or judge have donated a total of $761,343 to mayoral candidates since fundraising began back in March 2020. This works out to 8.4% of the approximately $9.1 million raised by all candidates from donors.
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass has pulled in $315,269 from 461 donors in this field. This accounts for about 10% of the $3.04 million she had raised through April 23.
Disclosure forms show that Bass received 36 donations from people who work at the multinational law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Together, employees there donated $38,714 to Bass.
Mike Feuer, who dropped out of the race Tuesday morning and endorsed Bass, has raised $213,458 from 309 law professionals. That likely stems from his position as City Attorney, as the office has extensive dealings with people in the legal field.
The donations make up 20% of the $1.07 million Feuer got from donors (he also loaned his campaign $100,000). His contributions include $9,500 from Los Angeles-based law firm KTBS Law LLP.
Councilmember Kevin de León received 135 contributions from legal professionals, totaling $104,789, out of $1.8 million raised. Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who dropped out of the race last week and is backing Caruso, has 74 contributions from those in the legal field. They add up to $53,622.
In addition to his personal loans, Caruso raised $576,342 from donors through April. That includes 82 legal sector donations worth $18,585.
Before dropping out, Buscaino was a darling of the real estate sector: More than 100 individuals who list their occupation as realtor, architect, property developer, property manager and construction donated over $100,000 to the San Pedro-based councilmember. That works out to almost 9% of the $1.3 million he raised.
Through April 23, Caruso recorded 244 donations from those in the real estate sector, accounting for $71,239. That makes up 12% of his contributions.
Bass counts 139 real estate contributors who pooled $81,626. Feuer received 59 donations worth $50,150.
According to the disclosures, de León received $105,789 from 120 individuals in real estate. His filings reveal donations from 22 employees of the non-profit AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is behind several housing projects for formerly homeless individuals in the councilman’s 14th District.
One other candidate also made inroads with the real estate sector: Mel Wilson, who owns a San Fernando Valley-based real estate firm, received contributions from 94 individuals who work in the field. The donations amount to $38,280, and represent 22% of the $174,622 Wilson raised.
Bass has received far more support from people in the education field than any other candidate. She has pulled in $73,766 from professors, teachers, educators, faculty members, principals and others. Altogether she has 244 donations from this sector, with more than half the job titles listed as professor.
One of the most interesting revelations in the disclosures involves USC. Caruso has frequently touted his time as chair of the Board of Trustees of the university. Disclosure statements reveal that he has received eight donations from people affiliated with USC, worth a total of $3,600. Bass, meanwhile, boasts 52 contributions from USC employees, worth a cumulative $19,453.
Bass also received 41 contributions, totaling $13,842, from employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Entertainment industry and the arts
Gwyneth Paltrow made a video endorsing Caruso, but so far the entertainment industry has donated more money to Bass. Her disclosure statements reveal 405 contributions from artists, filmmakers, musicians, producers, actors, agents and more, amounting to $233,182, or nearly 8% of her total raised.
Those who have donated include Hollywood elites. Actors Jennifer Aniston and Samuel L. Jackson maxed out their contributions. Jane Fonda delivered $1,200. Directors J.J. Abrams and Aaron Sorkin, and Disney co-chairman Alan Horn, all gave $1,500.
Caruso had 99 contributions from the arts sector, while de León had 45, Feuer had 43 and Buscaino had 26.
Caruso has many friends at United Talent Agency: 21 employees at the industry powerhouse gave a total of $22,350.
How we did it: We examined the 2022 mayoral fundraising race data up until April 23, 2022 from the City Ethics Commission and the City Campaign Contributions dataset. Figures are based on what is reported by individual campaigns and updates may not be reflected in this story.
Have questions about our data? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.