September 22, 2012 (San Diego) – A local organization is accusing Congressman Brian Bilbray of being a “slum lord.” The independent expenditure group, Much Better Choices, has filmed a video revealing numerous apparent building code violations. Fox 5 aired the video on Sept. 21.
The video shows old boats, gas cans, a trash-littered weedy lot, and a dilapidated trailer with a growth resembling mold or fungus around windows--all on an unfenced lot adjacent to a school. Neighbors confirm the allegations and have said that they hope to see fines levied and the mess cleaned up.
A press release from the group on September 19 states that it has “alerted authorities to the violations which are public health and safety issues as the property is adjacent to an elementary school playground.” The group also called on Bilbray to “clean up his act.”
Public records indicate Bilbray and his brother are the landlords of the property in Imperial Beach, owned by the Clute family trust, which owns at least seven other properties in Imperial Beach, Carlsbad and Laughlin, Nevada.
John Mattes, a co-founder of Much Better Choices, told ECM that the Congressman’s brother, Bill Bilbray, threatened him when he found Mattes videotaping the violations.
“When he learned that we filed a complaint with the City of Imperial Beach, he lost his temper,” Mattes said. “He said that if I ever said the property was a hazard for kids (at playground there) I would not say anything like that again. Then he waved the yard sign at me,” Mattes wrote in an e-mail to ECM, adding that he considered the statement a death threat.
ECM ask Congressman Bilbray’s campaign for responses from the Congressman and his brother.
Patrick Howell, Congressman Bilbray’s communications director, responded with the following media statement admitting that Bilbray runs the run-down property, but offered this explanation:
“Upon the passing of Congressman Brian Bilbray's mother, which has been a very difficult time for the family, her properties were divided up into a trust for her children. During this time, a property management firm has been monitoring and managing these homes. Congressman Bilbray had hoped that the property in question would have been taken care of by now, and even though it was a political tactic on the part of Scott Peters, he appreciates this notification and will work to resolve this situation as quickly as possible."
The Peters campaign called the allegation “outrageous” and said it didn’t know about the property issues until after seeing the TV report.
Much Better Choices has never endorsed a candidate. During the June primary the group aired videos urging voters to avoid Bilbray, adding that there are “much better choices.” The primary race included multiple other Republicans as well as Democrats running for the seat. Much Better Choices similarly produced videos urging voters to avoid Carl DeMaio in the San Diego Mayoral race in a primary that included two other Republicans and a Democrat.
The group’s website states that it scours news articles, speeches, comments and social networks to reveal “truths that may not be evident to voters.” Vetting includes “looking for hypocrisy, corporate or special interest buyouts, and downright untruths. If we find something, we will reveal it using the web, social networking, and advertising.”
For more information, visit www.muchbetterchoices.com; click the photo gallery to view still photos and related property documents.