Home>Articles>LA Mayoral Candidate Karen Bass’ Free USC Degree Has Landed Her In a Federal Corruption Case

Congresswoman Karen Bass. (Photo: @RepKarenBass, Twitter)

LA Mayoral Candidate Karen Bass’ Free USC Degree Has Landed Her In a Federal Corruption Case

If I was with the Caruso campaign, I’d get her voting record on private university funding or funding for social work programs’

By Evan Symon, September 9, 2022 2:30 am

Los Angeles Mayoral candidate and Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) found herself in a growing scandal Thursday amid allegations that a corrupt former Dean of University of Southern California (USC) had given her a $95,000 scholarship in exchange for helping pass legislation for more federal funding.

The dean in question, Marilyn Flynn, formerly was the dean of the USC social work program. Before the Bass allegations, Flynn had been tied to several other bribery scandals and allegations, including one with former Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Specifically, it has been alleged that, in early 2018, Ridley-Thomas gave $100,000 to the USC School of Social Work through his political campaign fund. In turn, the school’s dean, Marilyn Flynn, sent the money to a think tank run by his son. However, this raised alarm bells, ultimately revealing that it was all a scheme for his son to get benefits from USC, such as a graduate school admission and a scholarship, in exchange for the elder Ridley-Thomas to support contracts between the County and USC. That led to the indictment of the elder Ridley-Thomas and Flynn by the US Attorney for the Central District of California in October of 2021.

However, investigations continued into 2022. And prosecutors soon zeroed in on Bass after an email from Flynn was found saying, “We will offer a full scholarship between the two schools. I did the same for Karen Bass – full scholarship for our funds.”

According to prosecutors, Flynn allegedly gave Bass a scholarship for a Master’s degree in 2011 in exchange for Bass helping pass legislation that would give more funds to private universities like USC for social work programs.

The allegations quickly hurt Bass at the polls Thursday, with pollsters noting many on the fence swinging towards Caruso because of the scholarship scandal. Bass’ opponent in the LA Mayoral race, developer Rick Caruso, said on Thursday, “Bass’ scholarship amounts to corruption and dishonesty. We cannot afford for the next mayor to govern under a cloud of corruption.”

Despite the allegations, the U.S. Attorney’s office said that, as of Thursday, Bass was not a target of their investigation into Flynn.

“At present and based on the evidence obtained to date, Rep. Bass is not a target or a subject of our office’s investigation,” noted a a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office on Thursday.

Bass denies allegations

Bass herself has also come out against the allegations, saying that there was nothing wrong with how she received her $95,000 scholarship.

“This case has nothing to do with me, other than in a middle of a political campaign, Rick Caruso is trying to take advantage,” retorted Bass on Thursday. “Everybody knows that the welfare of children and families has been a passion and policy focus of mine for decades. The only reason I studied nights and weekends for a master’s degree was to become a better advocate for children and families — period.”

Political experts note that, should the allegations continue to pick up steam, Bass’ campaign will likely take a major hit only two months before the election. Recent polls have put Bass at a commanding 12 point lead, but the scandal could halve that by the time of the next major poll – putting Caruso back within striking distance.

“Bass needs to come clean about the whole thing,” explained Jan Ives, a Washington-based local election analyst, to the Globe on Thursday. “If she is completely innocent, great, but just explain how you got the scholarship, that it was based on merit. She just keeps issuing brusque denials, and that isn’t doing her any favors. It looks suspicious to many.”

“Caruso needs to push this issue. Bass has been hammering him for awhile, and now the tables have turned. If I was with the Caruso campaign, I’d get her voting record on private university funding or funding for social work programs. Link it up with that alleged e-mail from Flynn. Then let voters connect those dots. Maybe say that, if she’s elected, she may be under fire from prosecutors over that. There’s so much they can do here with it. Especially if there is a photo of her out there with Flynn. If there is, expect that to be plastered across LA for the next two months.”

“Regardless, this is a serious allegation that needs to be looked into. Trading votes for a scholarship worth nearly $100,000 is a serious allegation.”

More on the Bass corruption allegations

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18 thoughts on “LA Mayoral Candidate Karen Bass’ Free USC Degree Has Landed Her In a Federal Corruption Case

  1. Unfortunately for Karen Bass, this story —- which has been bouncing around for awhile —- has the ring of truth no matter how many self-interested people try to protect her from it and its damage to her candidacy. Good thing Caruso has finally dragged it out into the light for closer inspection.

  2. Bass (aka “Roz from Monsters, Inc.) is just your typical pay-to-play politician, and Caruso would be wise to fully turn on the proverbial kitchen light and watch this political cockroach scurry….

  3. She’s a typical Democrat who is ethically challenged and she will no doubt be placed into the LA mayor’s office with Democrat voter fraud and rigged voting machines?

  4. I don’t think Bass has stated if she actually believes there is a corruption problem at City Hall, and that could be because she has never been specifically asked that question by the lame ass reporters at the LAT. And of course she would never come out and provide that information on her own, why would she if it was a liability for her in this race for mayor and she knew it.

  5. Bass is your typical CA recyclable democrat that hasn’t built anything in her life or helped anyone’s life for the better, while moving from state to city and county political office due to term limits. She would be a laughingstock in the private sector, so she needs to stay in the public trough to make a living. Let’s send her to the private sector so she can live under the conditions she created for taxpayers of CA.

  6. It just verifies she is a legit demoncrat.
    Pay to play is all part of their corrupt game.
    We in California deserve so much more, voters need to start paying more attention to the integrity of the candidate and not the (D) or (R) next to the name.
    If the politicians cared about the citizens of LA, the streets would not be riddled in filth and crime.

  7. Sounds like the USC Provost is asleep at the wheel. The provost is supposed to oversee all academic departments and ethical violations, along with the university General Counsel (attorney). Is there a coverup going on?

    USC Office of the Provost – Office of the Provost
    Dr. Charles F. Zukoski was appointed Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs on October 1, 2019. He holds the Shelly and Ofer Nemirovsky Provost’s Chair. As the university’s second-ranking administrator, he provides academic oversight of USC’s 23 schools and academic units.

  8. Caruso is scum. He’s a proven liar and will do snd say anything to get elected. It’s the old GOP “Hillary’s Emails” scam. Caruso is an entitled rich guy that only cares about enriching himself an could care less about regular citizens. You can always measure someone’s character by how they treat people who can do them no good. Caruso is scum..

    1. So your point is Caruso is scum? Got it.
      How would you describe Bass? Upstanding? A woman who could not pass up an offer too good to be true.

  9. What a crock of bovine excrement , John…

    Caruso probably isn’t going to be winning the race for the next Pope (er, wait, that doesn’t have the same meaning that it used to, either!) but he’s at least a proven businessman who can spot the fraud, waste and abuse that characterizes LA politics, and he’s ALREADY rich enough from his real estate holdings and operations…

    He doesn’t NEED to get elected to office to enrich himself like Bass does (and has for years)…

    Caruso strikes me as just what LA needs now, much like Richard Riordan was, after years of Tom Bradley’s mismanagement….

  10. I agree that the USC/Bass scandal is not a good look at all; However, I can see her making the error in good faith — if in fact an error was made at all without considering the potential for future conflict of interest. If looked at as professional development, an educational program that would enable her to be a better public servant does differ from other “gifts” in a unique way — especially an education that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for a public servant. It would be more cut and dry if the tuition had been a gift for one of her children or siblings or partners, as it was for Ridley-Thomas. Are scholarships considered taxable income? Current Federal/California State law does not consider student loan cancellation as taxable income.
    The fact, as stated in the article, that She is not under investigation belies the hook in the title of the article. Only in the mind and writing of this journalist has Ms. Bass “Landed in the Middle of a Corruption Investigation.”
    I voted for Caruso in the primaries, but after witnessing the viciousness and agenda driven commentary here, I would have second thoughts if Caruso’s campaign were to mount an attack on Bass’s character based on what I have read here.

  11. I agree that the USC/Bass scandal is not a good look at all. However, I can see her making the error in good faith without considering the potential for future conflict of interest. An education that would enable her to be a better public servant does differ from other “gifts” in a unique way — especially an education that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for a public servant. It would be more cut and dry if the tuition had been a gift for one of her children or siblings, as it was for Not being aware of the tax consequences of such a gift is also potentially innocent. Are parents liable for taxes on scholarships received by dependent children? Ivy League scholarships could put parents into a tax bracket and “income” they couldn’t possibly afford to pay the taxes on.

  12. A free scholarship for a political office holder is very suspicious! Ms Bass’s explanation suffers from creditability problems! Political freebies always do!

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