Every morning, USC screenwriting professor Howard A. Rodman wakes up early, meditates, makes an espresso and goes hunting for a superyacht.
The ship Rodman is looking for is valued at $100 million and spans over 215 feet.
It also belongs to Los Angeles mayoral candidate and former USC Board of Trustees Chair Rick Caruso.
Rodman is the artistic director of Sundance Screenwriting Labs and governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is a former union organizer.
Rodman said he first became aware of the yacht, named the Invictus, during the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal. Olivia Jade, who was one of the most prominent beneficiaries and the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, was on the Invictus when the news broke. She was with Caruso’s daughter Gianna, a former USC student.
After learning of the Invictus during the announcement of Loughlin’s indictment, Rodman launched a self-described “conceptual art project” to tweet its location every morning.
Most days, Rodman doesn’t receive many likes. But for him, engagement isn’t the purpose.
“It’s a kind of daily devotional activity for me. Most days I get two likes, four likes. I think the most I’ve ever gotten was like eight or nine. So it’s clearly not getting massive engagement and it’s been very much below the radar,” Rodman said.
How does one find a superyacht?
“[I]t’s really easy,” Rodman said. “You go to any number of websites. If you Google “maritime tracking,” you’ll find one or two of them and you just enter “Invictus” and it’ll tell you where it is, as you can with almost any named ship.”
Because the information is public, Rodman’s ship-hunting is legally above board.
Rodman’s daily tracking takes him to different parts of the world. One day it’s Cannes in the French Riviera, then Sanremo, Italy and then onto Boston, where it recently stayed for 23 days. There is no information about who is actually using the yacht, just its whereabouts.
So when Caruso threw his hat in the ring for mayor, Rodman looked to the high seas.
Rodman said he tweets the location of the superyacht to beg the question: “Does [Caruso] really understand what it is [like] for the wild majority of us to live in L.A.?”
Caruso’s wealth extends well beyond the ship, which sleeps nine and staffs 12. Forbes lists his net worth at $5.3 billion. Caruso built his wealth by developing shopping centers. Some of his properties, owned through his privately held real estate company Caruso, include The Grove, The Americana and The Commons in Calabasas.
Both Caruso’s campaign and the campaign of Rep. Karen Bass, his opponent in the mayoral race, declined to comment.
Caruso is no stranger to USC. A 1980 Marshall alum, he was chair of the Board of Trustees from 2018 to 2022 and donated over $25 million to the Keck School of Medicine to endow the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology. The USC Catholic Center also has his name, after his family donated the lead gift to build the center and Our Savior Parish Church.
Longtime Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, a USC political science professor and head of the Center for Political Future who worked on eight presidential campaigns, emphasized that a politician’s wealth does not determine their success.
“Being very wealthy is not disqualifying for political candidates,” Shrum said.
Shrum noted that both Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy both came from wealthy families and enjoyed both political success and massive popularity.
“Voters thought [FDR and the Kennedys] cared about them and they understood their problems, and that they would deal with those problems,” Shrum said.
For the Caruso-Bass race, Shrum believes policies on homelessness and crime will ultimately swing voters, not personal wealth.
“They’re at the top of the agenda and [voters] will make a judgment about that,” he said.
Despite his commitment to the Invictus hunt, Rodman said he doesn’t expect it to change any votes and he’s “not under any illusion that this will affect the outcome of the mayoral race.”
“I am not saying anything about Rick Caruso’s character,” said Rodman, who according to Open Secrets, has donated to progressive candidates. “I am not saying anything about him personally. Really what I’m saying, and no more, no less, is that there’s a guy running for mayor of Los Angeles who has a $100 million, 215 foot yacht. Period.”
Election Day is November 8.
This story has been updated with additional context.