Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso is a real estate developer who became a billionaire by raising some of L.A.’s most popular shopping centers. He’s the former president of the L.A. Board of Police Commissioners, and a cop-lover who has promised to massively fund and expand the LAPD, all while fear-mongering over a dubious “crime wave” that he claims requires a crackdown.
Snoop Dogg is a living legend in music — a native son of Long Beach who stumbled into a mentorship from Dr. Dre, launching his career as 1990s gangsta rap rose to the zeitgeist. Over the decades, Snoop has taken rhetorical shots at the police and their defense of corruption and whiteness, rapping about “crooked-ass cops” that want to “make a deal with me.” As recently as 2021, Snoop has openly disparaged the relationship between police, white society and the Black community, rapping about news media portraying young men as Crips and bemoaning how “the people sworn to protect is killin’ all my cousins.”
Given this framework, it’s hard to imagine why Snoop would rep Caruso, a once-committed Republican who has flipped Democrat for his mayoral run, in any meaningful fashion. But these two odd bedfellows have come together in mutual support, with Snoop endorsing the “pro-centrist” billionaire in a Zoom call this week. “Look at what he stands for. Look at what he’s about,” he said in the call. “You got my support. We’re a part of whatever you’re a part of, as far as bringing love to the community and keeping people there that were a part of the community.”
The joint endorsement from Snoop and Watts community activist “Sweet” Alice Harris is a big win for Caruso, who is currently in a dead heat with Rep. Karen Bass, former head of the Congressional Black Caucus. But when it comes to figuring out what Caruso’s really done, it just comes down to the same ol’ billionaire philanthropy we’ve seen before: Small chunks of tax-deductible contributions given to institutions that maintain much of the status quo.
In 2013, Caruso announced a $5 million donation, spread out over a decade, to a cop-led program to reach underserved youth in Watts, similar to other programs that research has shown can worsen the “school-to-prison” pipeline. Elsewhere, he’s given smaller amounts to mentorship programs and a children’s school in Skid Row, but it all pales in comparison to the $50-million-plus contributions he’s dumped on his alma mater, the University of Southern California, and to Pepperdine University in Malibu.
Perhaps Caruso believes that these well-endowed private universities still need all the funding they can get (or maybe he just loves seeing his name plastered all over buildings). Maybe he’s just saving up the rest of his $4 billion fortune so that he can, on a whim, dump about $10 million into a massive political ad campaign to garner attention with voters. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s another big capitalist who portrays himself as a beacon of competency and common sense in a sea of chaos.
In which case, Snoop’s support makes that much more sense, given he’s also an incredibly wealthy power-player who can make big splashes in all kinds of communities. Much has been written about the relationship between Black leaders and capitalist enterprise — everyone from Malcolm X to Nipsey Hussle has championed the need for enterprise and reinvestment into Black communities by Black people. It’s a flawed premise, given how much structural rot there is in America’s treatment of minority labor. And while there’s little doubt that Snoop has shown up for Long Beach and South Central, it’s also true that he’s made some contradictory choices that show his belief in the current system; consider him partnering with police and establishment politicians, even while claiming there is “no justice, no peace” when Black men are being gunned down by cops under a racist system.
Meanwhile, other celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and music producer extraordinaire Scooter Braun, have lined up behind Caruso in the mayoral race. Amid this flurry of action, Snoop is a strange but fitting commodity: A representative of a community that’s been exploited by the wealthy and damaged by gentrification, but also a believer in the siren song of capitalist success.
In the big picture, endorsement is just another lesson on why celebrities are perhaps the wrong people to care about when it comes to politics. Snoop is in a stratospheric tax bracket, and has been for a long time, and he deserves credit for hustling his way up from next to nothing. But survivorship bias is a real thing — and it creates real harms when it leads people to ignore how bad things are for the (metaphoric) casualties.
Why is Snoop voting for a cop-loving billionaire? It could be that the man really just loves Caruso — but more likely, it’s a reflection of how messy and opaque our electoral politics really are, especially when the wealthy have so much more pull than the rest of us.