Rick Caruso pledged $1 million to support abortion rights proposition but has yet to donate

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 06: Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso holds an event at the Los Angeles Police Museum in Northeast Los Angeles to answer community members questions on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso speaks at a question-and-answer session with residents of northeast Los Angeles in September. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

A day after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overruling Roe vs. Wade sent shockwaves through the country, Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso took to Twitter to vehemently defend his support of abortion rights.

Caruso also vowed to financially support a proposal that Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders had just announced, which would explicitly enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution through passage of a ballot measure now known as Proposition 1.

“I will be forming a California PAC for choice and providing initial support of $100,000 and pledging $1 million to ensure the amendment’s passage,” Caruso wrote in a statement, backing a measure that state lawmakers would later vote to place on the November ballot.

That was May 3. With just weeks until voters have their say on Proposition 1 and the Los Angeles mayor's race, Caruso does not appear to have put any money toward the abortion rights proposition — drawing ire from his mayoral opponent, Rep. Karen Bass.

"Has anybody seen the $1 million?" said Bass, standing before a wall of brightly illustrated feminist political posters Monday morning. A chorus of noes echoed through the Boyle Heights storefront offices of Women's March Action.

"Rick can't even keep promises he made as campaign gimmicks," Bass said. "How can we trust him with the keys to City Hall?"

Peter Ragone, a spokesperson for Caruso, said the real estate developer was still planning to financially support the committee.

"It was always our intention to fund this effort at the closest proximity to ballots landing in mailboxes," Ragone said.

Ragone declined to specify when Caruso might put the money in before the Nov. 8 election. County elections offices must begin mailing ballots by Oct. 10, according to the secretary of state's office.

Initial paperwork forming the “Caruso Right to Choose Constitutional Amendment Committee” was filed May 20, according to state records. The committee has filed three campaign statements since then, with the most recent paperwork covering the period between July and Sept. 24.

No money has been put into the committee since it launched in May, though the group has racked up more than $9,000 in legal bills.

Caruso, who is largely self-funding his bid for Los Angeles mayor, has put more than $61 million into his mayoral campaign.

Proposition 1, the abortion rights measure on the state ballot, would put in the state Constitution language explicitly stating that California can’t deny or interfere with a person’s reproductive decisions.

An August poll showed that voters overwhelmingly back the measure. More than $11 million has been put toward support of Proposition 1's passage, according to state records, and Caruso's name does not appear in the list of donors.

Reproductive rights — an issue the mayor of Los Angeles will have little control over — have become a focal point in the race since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade was announced two weeks after the June primary.

The attention on abortion rights has been a political boon for Bass, allowing the congresswoman to draw frequent pointed comparisons between her lifelong support for abortion rights and Caruso's past donations to antiabortion conservatives.

Bass' Monday morning attack on Caruso came during a broader "Roevember" news conference held with reproductive rights leaders who back her candidacy.

Karen Bass speaks with a line of people behind her.
Rep. Karen Bass speaks at Monday's news conference at Women's March Action in Boyle Heights. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Bass, who would be the city's first female mayor if elected, has the overwhelming support of establishment women's groups.

"While [abortion rights advocacy organization] NARAL does not generally endorse in local races, the stakes in this race are simply too high to sit on the sidelines," Shannon K. Olivieri Hovis, director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, told the bank of TV cameras, citing Caruso's prior support of antiabortion politicians.

Representatives from Women's March Action, Emily's List, the political arm of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and other women's political groups also spoke.

Despite his past donations, Caruso has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he has always supported abortion rights. He released a new video last week in which he affirms his support for abortion rights as phrases like "Abortion is healthcare," "Pro-choice" and "Fight for women" flash below his name.

The Caruso campaign plans to text the video directly to 350,000 voters, Ragone said, characterizing the video as a response to "the Karen Bass campaign of lies and misinformation related to his unwavering position on choice and reproductive freedom."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.