By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
COLORADO SPRINGS — Republican Ali Hasan entered the race for the Republican nomination for state treasurer while firing a round of ammo at his GOP opponents, J.J. Ament and Walker Stapleton. Armed with huge “wanted” posters of his opponents, Hasan accused them of being fiscal liberals.
“This is the capital of Republican politics not just in Colorado, but in the nation …. This is the home of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights!” declared Hasan at El Paso County Republican Party headquarters. “It’s great to be in the Republican capital of the world!”
After offering a brief silent meditation for the soldiers serving in the Middle East and a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, Hasan introduced himself as a lifelong Republican, filmmaker, former teacher and Muslim.
Hasan introduced House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, whom he described as a father figure and mentor.
“What this young man is made of is determination, courage and principles,” said May, who added that Hasan is not a candidate who will say something dishonest to get elected.
“He’s straightforward. He’s refreshingly, refreshingly honest … and sometimes that can get you into trouble,” said May with a chuckle. “It does.”
Much of Hasan’s biographical information and the speech that followed his announcement are detailed in a 24-page booklet that Hasan distributed to the 30 or so people attending his campaign launch. The booklet contrasts Hasan to Republican candidates Ament and Stapleton and to Democratic incumbent Treasurer Cary Kennedy.
Breaking with conventional wisdom, Hasan not only spoke the names of his Republican rivals, he also displayed posters with their photos and sprayed criticism like buckshot.
“J.J. Ament has a history of undermining the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights,” alleged Hasan.
Beneath Ament’s photo was a blowup of the title page of a report created in 2006 by Ament and Jon Mollenberg, who were directors at Citigroup Corporate & Investment Banking in Denver.
Hasan opened a copy of the report and read an excerpt about the pros and cons of Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs). The report suggests that the state can issue the bonds without a statewide election because TABOR doesn’t apply to an unfunded pension liability that resulted from a benefit package in 1992.
“When it comes to the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights,’ I am more right than Doug Bruce,” Hasan declared.
In contrast to Ament, Hasan vowed to be a state treasurer “who will empower the Taxpayer Bill of Rights by closing loopholes, not looking for them.”
Ament was stunned to hear those comments. Earlier, he had issued a press release welcoming Hasan to the race.
“I’m sorry that he’s starting his campaign with negative attacks,” said Ament.
As for TABOR, Ament said, “I don’t know what he’s talking about. I not only support TABOR, I am the only candidate running in this race who actually voted for TABOR.”
Ament recalled being criticized by Stapleton early in the race.
“I think it’s because I’m the only candidate with a background in finance. If elected, I’d be the first state treasurer in more 40 years with a financial background,” he said.
“We’ve got a ton of momentum and we’re going to stay positive and focused on the issues.”
Hasan also placed a poster featuring Stapleton’s picture and a boldface quote onto an easel. Hasan read aloud the quote, which he attributed to Stapleton’s campaign Web site.
“At best, PERA’s future is questionable. And the risk extends beyond government workers to every taxpayer in the state, since any unfunded liability in state pension funds will ultimately have to be borne by a Colorado-taxpayer-funded bailout.”
Hasan deemed Stapleton a “fiscal liberal” who will use taxpayers’ money to bail out PERA.
“I feel that Walker Stapleton will use the bully pulpit of the state treasurer’s office to help PERA — not the Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” said Hasan. “Over my dead body would a bailout of PERA take place by increasing taxes on every Coloradan.”
Stapleton said Hasan had distorted a quote on his campaign Web site.
“He creatively paraphrased a quote from my Web site about PERA,” said Stapleton, who added more to the quote to avoid future misinterpretations.
“I’d never advocate a bailout of PERA by taxpayers,” said Stapleton, adding that he supports TABOR.
Stapleton said he encourages voters to look collectively and critically at the candidates for state treasurer — including their backgrounds and positions — to make informed decisions. He said it’s particularly important in this uncertain economic climate.
“Hasan is certainly spicing things up!” said Stapleton with a laugh.
Hasan also produced a photo of Kennedy and criticized her for working to repeal parts of TABOR and working to pass Referendum C. The referendum, which was supported by Republican Gov. Bill Owens, allotted a five-year period to relax some of the requirements of TABOR in order to recover from the last recession.
Holding up charts of state investment funds, Hasan slammed Kennedy for not investing enough money in Colorado businesses, and for investing too much with financial institutions that either requested or received federal bailouts.
Hasan vowed to change those practices.
Kennedy said that Colorado, unlike other states, has not only had safe investments over the past three years, but has achieved positive earnings — even during the current recession.
“Our taxpayers have made money throughout the downturn,” declared Kennedy.
When the state treasurer took office in 2007, she said that her first priority was to protect taxpayers’ money with prudent investment policies. She also made investment records transparent for citizens by posting them on a Web site, which is updated daily.
After Hasan’s campaign kickoff in Colorado Springs, he planned to make announcements in several other cities, including Pueblo, Fort Collins and Grand Junction.
In 2008, Hasan ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Rep. Christine Scanlon in House District 56.