Statement: Pension bonds have “been off the table since the voters voted on Prop. B,” Bob Filner, a mayoral candidate, told NBC 7 San Diego in an interview Oct. 8.

Determination: Huckster Propaganda

Analysis: Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio and his supporters held a press conference Monday to attack his opponent Bob Filner for supporting borrowing money to pay down the city’s pension debt. This financing is known as pension obligation bonds. DeMaio highlighted the risks of bonds, and compared them to “taking out another credit card.”

Filner’s rebuttal: DeMaio’s facts are outdated — Filner says he did support the bonds during the primary, but he abandoned his support once voters passed the Proposition B pension initiative in June.

Here’s Filner in an interview with our media partners NBC 7 San Diego:

Pension obligation bonds was an idea which I talked about before the primary. That was before Prop. B was voted on. I have to implement it. These bonds are off the table … They’ve been off the table since the voters voted on Prop. B. I wish Rip Van Winkle of Republican politics will go back to sleep. (emphasis added)

But that’s not true. Filner has supported pension bonds since the primary.

We obtained and reviewed full video of an Aug. 7 Kiwanis Club meeting where Filner spoke.

Filner responded to a question about city workers and Social Security. About five minutes into his answer he said:

One last thing. I suggested and, you know, some people made fun of it, but I have enough guts to bring it to you. If you have an 8 percent mortgage on your home and you know there’s 3.5 now or 4 percent mortgage rates available. Lowest in our history. Even though there are costs, closing costs involved, you would be, you would take advantage of refinancing, right? If it’s a big enough interest gap, you could make it up in so many years, you would do it. Right now we are paying the equivalent of an 8 percent, almost 8 percent interest rate on our pension debt. We have the lowest interest rates in history. You can get a bond for 5 percent. Why don’t you do it? (emphasis added)

Filner did use the past tense when referring to pension bonds. But later in his response, Filner said, “I think we’d be silly not to do it” and “I think we oughta do it.”

Filner also reiterated his support for the bonds in an earlier instance — close to eight weeks after the primary.

It was during a July interview, when Filner and I spoke about pension bonds for more than three minutes. Not once did he say they were off the table.

I asked Filner directly whether he still supported pension bonds, which are also known as POBs:

LD: Do you still support the POB concept?

BF: Oh, yeah.

LD: OK.

BF: Yeah. By the way, I still don’t understand. It’s so common-sense to me that if you have, I’ll just say, an 8 percent mortgage and you can get a 4 percent mortgage you don’t do it.

Though Filner now argues that he was speaking conceptually in that instance — I did ask him if he supports “the POB concept” — he re-upped his support for the bonds later in the same interview.

“I haven’t given that up,” he said, “but I wouldn’t do it unless we had a full discussion by experts.”

Only hours after that interview did Filner’s campaign release a statement saying the bonds were “no longer relevant” in light of his pledge to implement Prop. B. That statement marked the first time, to our knowledge, Filner had said pension bonds were off the table.

It is clear from his comments this week that Filner doesn’t want to pursue pension bonds and will implement Prop. B instead. But Filner told multiple media outlets Monday that he abandoned his proposal to issue pension obligation bonds as soon as Prop. B passed in the June primary. The overwhelming evidence, however, shows that on at least two occasions since the primary, Filner has repeated his desire to use them.

Our definition of Huckster Propaganda is a statement that is not only wrong, but it’s reasonable to expect the person making the statement said it anyway to gain an advantage. It fits here.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to factcheck@voiceofsandiego.org. What claim should we explore next?

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects.

Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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