Karen Bass responds to new ad linking her to Church of Scientology

As the race for Los Angeles mayor enters its final weeks, billionaire developer Rick Caruso released a new ad Monday reviving a speech his opponent, Rep. Karen Bass, made at a Church of Scientology event more than a decade ago.

The 60-second ad, titled "Church of Karen," splices Bass' 2010 speech at the opening of the Church of Scientology's headquarters in Los Angeles with newspaper headlines alleging wrongdoing on the part of the church over the course of decades.

In the speech, Bass called the opening of the headquarters an "exciting moment because I know your goal and your commitment is truly to make a difference." She also called the words of L. Ron Hubbard, the church's founder, "exciting."

"The Church of Scientology I know has made a difference," Bass said. "Because your creed is a universal creed."

Responding to the ad, Bass released a statement saying, "Rick Caruso is a lifelong anti-choice Republican and this misleading attack ad is straight out of the Republican playbook. Everybody knows Karen Bass condemns Scientology. LA knows Karen Bass shares our Democratic values and has always been on our side."  

The new ad, described by a Caruso campaign representative as "hard-hitting," re-introduces criticism that first surfaced in 2020, when Bass was being considered by then-presidential candidate Joe Biden as a potential vice presidential nominee.

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In 2020, Bass said she attended the Scientology event "knowing I was going to address a group of people with beliefs very different than my own, and spoke briefly about things I think most of us agree with, and on those things -- respect for different views, equality and fighting oppression -- my views have not changed."

Bass added: "Since then, published first-hand accounts in books, interviews and documentaries have exposed this group."

Caruso trailed Bass by double-digits in the most recent poll conducted in August by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

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Caruso has kept relatively quiet with ads after blitzing the airwaves ahead of the June primary, but the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that he is expected to spend more than $20 million on TV ads through the end of the campaign. Caruso's campaign has spent more than $40 million so far.

The developer also began airing another 60-second ad last week, providing personal background and calling himself a "proud Democrat." Caruso has faced criticism from Bass on flipping parties. He registered as a Democrat in January after previously being a Republican and having "no party preference."

Communities United for Bass, an independent political action committee supporting Bass, spent $500,000 on an ad last week titled "Liar Liar."