Billionaire Rick Caruso’s next chapter: Helping Democrats retake the House

“Stick with the central theme of getting moderates in the House,” Caruso told POLITICO of his strategy for the next year. “I am not out to support extremists or, frankly, ideologues.”

“We’ve got to get things moving and get out of this ridiculous constant fighting and everybody kicking sand in each other’s face in the sandbox,” he added about congressional infighting on issues like spending to keep the government open.

The effort, which in the coming weeks will involve sit-downs with House candidates, amounts to a broader rebranding for Caruso, who took considerable heat from Mayor Karen Bass and her allies in the 2022 race for his past registration as a Republican and independent. While both Caruso and Bass are Democrats and the mayoral race was nonpartisan, Bass coalesced the party’s biggest stars, from former President Barack Obama to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, to ensure her victory over Caruso’s largely self-funded $104 million campaign. Bass also leaned into her support for abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, exploiting Caruso’s relationships with Republicans who oppose it.

The strategy recalls other billionaire political investors like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent years showering Democrats with donations and funding their causes between his successful runs for City Hall and a disastrous bid for president in 2020.

In the interview, Caruso didn’t rule out a future run when asked about a possible rematch with Bass in three years — or the 2026 race for California governor. But he said his focus right now is on helping Democrats retake the House next year.

“I am open to it, but there’s a lot of time and things will unfold. If there is an opportunity that makes sense, I will look at it,” he said.

Caruso’s political reset has included private meetings or conversions in Los Angeles and Washington. The exchanges dovetail with a new generation of House leadership trying to fill the huge shoes of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi in building strong rapport with donors.

He has been working with House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar, of California, and already contributed a maximum $26,400 to the congressman’s California House Majority Fund. He wants to sink six figures into federal races.

He’s connected with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and met in recent days with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Suzan DelBene for a Washington briefing on the national landscape.

Asked if he’s supporting Biden, Caruso said the president was his only option to thwart Republicans.

“There’s no other choice,” he said. “I am going to lean in on all of it.”

His public statements and television appearances have also stoked speculation about his future political plans. In one August post on X (formerly Twitter), he sounded not unlike a candidate running on a law-and-order platform, demanding elected officials “change the laws to hold criminals accountable.”

Caruso stressed that his concerns go beyond the Los Angeles city limits. He warned about problems across the state, including the need to build more housing and promote pro-business policies.

But the city has been a major focus of his. He promised in his mayoral campaign to curb crime and replenish the city’s depleted police department as he tried to capture the attention of Angelenos tired of the status quo and hungry for someone from outside the political ranks. Caruso didn’t dwell on the race, but did suggest that voters were still frustrated.

He contended that conditions on the ground in Los Angeles around homelessness and the housing shortage have grown worse under Bass. “It hasn’t gotten better,” he said. “The homeless count was up 10 percent. There are areas where crime is continuing to grow. I would love to have someone tell me how many new units have been built.”

Yusef Robb, Bass’ political advisor, disputed Caruso’s comments on the city’s condition.

Mayor Bass was overwhelmingly elected to change the status quo on homelessness, public safety and opportunity, and she is doing just that by bringing 17,000 people inside and counting, funding a record number of new police officers and making City Hall more responsive to every Angeleno,” he said.

When asked if Bass’ political operation was tracking Caruso’s future ambitions, he was more succinct: “Nope.”

Mark Gonzalez, the Democratic chairman in Los Angeles County, said he met with Caruso months back after the grueling mayor’s race and they discussed their disagreements. Gonzalez said he’s urged Caruso to reach out to Bass and work with her office on solutions for the city.

Gonzalez said he also told Caruso that as a newer Democrat who did not seek the county party endorsement, “he had some making up to do.”

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