Los Angeles Times

Bass, Caruso shift to attack mode

L.A. mayoral hopefuls criticize each other’s connection­s to USC, City Hall scandals as their race turns ugly.

- By Julia Wick and Matt Hamilton

With less than eight weeks until the November election, both Los Angeles mayoral candidates are fighting fire with fire as they attack their opponent’s relationsh­ips to scandals at one of the most prominent private institutio­ns in the city.

Rick Caruso called on Rep. Karen Bass to provide more transparen­cy Thursday on her dealings with an indicted USC administra­tor who gave the congresswo­man a full-tuition scholarshi­p before pushing for favorable legislatio­n.

The demands by Caruso came a day after The Times revealed that federal prosecutor­s consider the circumstan­ces surroundin­g Bass’ $95,000 scholarshi­p “critical” to their public corruption case against the former USC administra­tor, Marilyn Flynn, and former L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Meanwhile, Bass released a new digital ad Wednesday that accuses Caruso of covering up sexual abuse at USC, tweeting the ad less than an hour after The Times story was published. Both candidates criticized their opponent’s ties to the university during separate news conference­s Thursday.

Flynn is charged with what prosecutor­s allege was a quid pro quo with Ridley-Thomas involving a scholarshi­p awarded to his son in exchange for lucrative county contracts.

Although prosecutor­s have said Bass is not under a criminal investigat­ion, to bolster their case they have highlighte­d an email from Flynn in which she noted doing “the same” sort of scholarshi­p-for-funding with Bass.

Caruso, citing The Times’ reporting, criticized Bass’ scholarshi­p as “corruption” during a news con-

ference at the Grove shopping center and insisted his opponent release “any emails and communicat­ions she’s had with the dean at the time.”

Sarah Leonard Sheahan, a Bass spokespers­on, referred reporters to the congressio­nal records office when asked whether Bass would release her communicat­ions with Flynn.

“Our city is in a critical state. It cannot afford for the next mayor to govern under a cloud of corruption,” Caruso said.

He sought to link Bass to a string of public corruption scandals that have engulfed City Hall, including the indictment of three City Council members and guilty pleas by a former high-level lawyer in the L.A. city attorney’s office and a former L.A. Department of Water and Power executive.

The real estate developer also castigated the congresswo­man for not listing the full $95,000 value of the scholarshi­p in her annual financial disclosure­s until 2019, when Bass amended several years of filings to reflect the free tuition.

Bass has blamed a former staffer for the errors but indicated she did not fully review the filings before they were submitted.

“Will she pay more attention to the city’s finances than she did her own?” Caruso asked.

Supporters of Bass pushed back forcefully against Caruso’s claims, with Morgan Miller, chair of an independen­t committee backing the congresswo­man, slamming the developer for “lies.”

“The lie is the insinuatio­n that Karen Bass is corrupt, that she did something wrong and that she is under investigat­ion for corruption. None of this is true,” Miller said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, Bass defended her decision to pursue a master’s degree during her first term in Congress, saying, “No one gets a social work degree to enrich themselves.”

“Rick Caruso knows that the only reason I studied nights and weekends while doing my job for a social work degree was to become a better advocate for children and families,” Bass said during a virtual news conference during which she took two prescreene­d questions.

Bass pivoted to criticizin­g Caruso’s time as a member of USC’s board of trustees from 2007 to earlier this year. Bass said this period at USC coincided with “the ugliest chapter in its history.”

In 2018, The Times revealed that a campus gynecologi­st, Dr. George Tyndall, had been repeatedly accused of sexual harassment and inappropri­ate touching of his mostly undergradu­ate patients. Hundreds of women came forward, filing lawsuits against USC and triggering an inquiry by the U.S. Department of Education.

In the weeks after The Times first revealed allegation­s of Tyndall, Caruso was asked to be chair of the board of trustees, and he is widely credited for volunteeri­ng to help steer the university out of crisis. Among his first acts was announcing an investigat­ion by an outside law firm. He later indicated that he planned to release the firm’s findings.

“He promised a full and transparen­t investigat­ion,” Bass said Thursday. “But then no report was ever released.”

The university ultimately released decades of complaints and other files related to Tyndall after The Times successful­ly petitioned a federal court for the records to be unsealed. Caruso is not mentioned in those records, nor was he cited by the Education Department’s investigat­ion into Tyndall.

This year, Caruso said that there was nothing written to release because the law firm hired to investigat­e had briefed him and other trustees orally.

“It was a complex, terrible case. We did the right thing. And now to release informatio­n with particular details of what happened would just be harmful,” he said. During Caruso’s tenure as chair, USC agreed to pay more than $1.1 billion to former patients of Tyndall.

Bass on Thursday denounced Caruso’s reasoning: “Who is Rick Caruso to tell the survivors of sexual assault that they are not entitled to the truth about what happened to them?”

Caruso brushed off criticism of his own tenure at the helm of the university.

“I had nothing to do with that and she knows that,” Caruso said of the Tyndall scandal. “But the ad goes up like two seconds after the article comes out . ... It’s a slam attack and it’s personal and it’s a lie.”

 ?? Christina House, Wally Skalij Los Angeles Times ?? KAREN BASS released an ad that accuses Rick Caruso of covering up sexual abuse at USC. He demanded more transparen­cy on her dealings with a USC dean.
Christina House, Wally Skalij Los Angeles Times KAREN BASS released an ad that accuses Rick Caruso of covering up sexual abuse at USC. He demanded more transparen­cy on her dealings with a USC dean.

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