InnerView with Muhammad Ali Hasan
Author: - December 22, 2010 - Updated: December 22, 2010
By Jody Hope Strogoff & Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Colorado’s most prominent Republican Muslim is switching parties, taking on a new name and is very, very happy, he wants everyone to know.
Muhammad Ali Hasan — who has twice run for state office under the GOP banner and says he grew up gazing at an autographed photo of Ronald Reagan — tells The Colorado Statesman he’s now a Democrat because his lifelong party has traded concerns about liberty for security and abandoned even the pretext of fiscal conservatism. And he plans to change his name to Muhammad Miguel Ali Hasan to acknowledge his Spanish heritage while honoring an historic figure who stood up against intolerance.
Hasan, founder of Muslims for Bush, is the scion of a wealthy Colorado-based family that made a fortune founding a health-care empire and has been one of the state’s most generous donors to conservative and Republican causes. He lost a race for House District 56 in 2008 and came up short this year in a bid to run for state treasurer, missing a spot on the primary ballot at the state GOP assembly. After that loss, he says he packed up his truck and moved to Los Angeles to devote his energies toward a nascent film career. But he’s keeping his hand in politics, unveiling an organization called Constitutionalists for Gays and Immigrants and speaking frequently.
In a lengthy, wide-ranging interview, Hasan said he wrestled with his party switch but finally decided his hard-line fiscal views would find a home with Democrats while his pro-immigrant and pro-gay positions would shut off his future with Republicans. Two key debates helped him decide, Hasan says. First was the GOP’s embrace of a harsh anti-illegal immigrant bill passed in Arizona this spring, which Hasan says “opened a Pandora’s Box of quasi-bigotry.”
The second was the debate this summer over whether developers could build a Muslim community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan, blocks from Ground Zero. Hasan took to cable news shows and online publications to combat right-wing demogoguery against the mosque and credits his arguments with helping turn public opinion. Hasan also says the mosque debate in September cost Republicans the U.S. Senate by distracting voters from what he says would have won even bigger gains for the GOP, hammering the Democrats on health care reform.
Hasan says he consulted political mentors about making the switch and got the go-ahead from anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce, father of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, a document Hasan still considers sacred. While former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer and former State Treasurer Mark Hillman advised him he was “making a big mistake” after he informed them of his plans, Hasan picked up support from another prominent Republican known to Hasan as “Uncle Buck,” recent U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. “We don’t agree on everything, but I’m very proud of you,” Hasan says Buck told him.
Hasan blames a whisper campaign among Republican state assembly delegates for derailing his campaign for state treasurer in May. Word spread quickly that he was authorized by his Muslim faith to “lie to non-Muslims in order to advance a Sharia agenda” and somehow planned to implement Sharia law with the state’s finances, a notion Hasan says is both laughable and wrong-headed. He confesses he did have a secret plan if he won the treasurer’s office, though: to use the state’s investments to somehow force the federal government to reinstitute the Glass-Steagall Act to regulate financial markets.
Hasan also lays to rest rumors the Hasan Family Foundation was out to get former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, whose gubernatorial campaign went off the rails this summer amid charges he plagiarized papers written for the foundation as part of a $300,000 fellowship on water issues.
Hasan joined Statesman editor and publisher Jody Hope Strogoff and political reporter Ernest Luning for a 90-minute interview at The Statesman offices on Dec. 16. Read more than a dozen other InnerViews with prominent Colorado political figures, at www.coloradostatesman.com/innerview.
The transcript of the conversation with Hasan has been edited for length and clarity.
Colorado Statesman (CS): I read some quotes from your mom about you switching (parties), and she’s going to stay with the Republicans?
Muhammad Ali Hasan (MAH): She’s going to stay with the Republicans because she’s very motivated to try to change them within. I’ll be very honest: My mother called me — I think this was in September or October, and I knew I was going to keep endorsing the GOP ticket, I promised. But my mother said, “If you run for office again as a Republican, I’m going to support your opponent.”
Because she just, she’s taken it a lot more — she’s always taken it seriously, but she has two grand kids now. And when they said, “We’re going to repeal the 14th Amendment,” they woke a sleeping giant (laughs). And she said, “You know, if they actually repeal this, this is just a complete targeting of brown people. This is going to be stripping away citizenship from Latinos, from Muslims.” And she said, “Who knows who’s next? Jews, Asians?” So between Arizona 1070 [a harsh anti-illegal immigration bill signed into law in Arizona in April], the mosque [a planned Muslim community center in lower Manhattan near the site of the World Trade Center that drew strong opposition] and then it was the 14th Amendment that really did it in. And that’s when my mother said, “Baby, I release you from the GOP. And, as a matter of fact, if you don’t leave, I will support your opponent if you ever run for future office.”
CS: Was it a long process for you to think about it or did you sort of just wake up one day… ?
MAH: Terribly long. Terribly, terribly. You could argue that being a Republican was deeper than any religion for me (laughs). I mean I was a little boy in Pueblo and I put up yard signs — my mother was a Republican precinct captain and I put up yard signs that said Reagan and Bush with her when I was a little boy. And to Reagan’s credit, he sent a — he autographed a picture and sent it to my mother. He did that for every precinct captain in America, saying, “Thank you for helping me get elected.” That was in 1984 and every morning I ate breakfast, I ate it under that picture of Ronald Reagan. And so, yeah, this probably ran deeper than religion.
A lot of people think that it was the (Republican) state convention where I decided to switch and that couldn’t be further from the truth. [Ed. note: Hasan failed to make the ballot in his bid to run for state treasurer at the state GOP assembly in May.] The proof is the fact that at the convention — and you guys interviewed me there and I quoted it there, I said, “I love the delegates, I love my party, I accept their decision.” And I said, “I’m going to work to help the GOP capture the state House, the state Senate and I will endorse the eventual nominee.” The night that Walker Stapleton won, I wrote him an endorsement on my website, which is still there. That was well before J.J. Ament wrote an endorsement, I gave max contribution to Walker. And I think if you look at (Colorado Secretary of State) files, I don’t think that any individual in Colorado gave more to rookie GOP House and Senate candidates in Colorado than I did.
So I kept that promise. I felt like bigotry happened at the convention but I felt like it was an aberration. What happened, though, was that, again, you know, Arizona 1070, California Prop 8 against gays, the 14th Amendment, the mosque, the moment that I really had to question whether I’d be a Republican again is — again, I don’t know for sure if I’m going to run again, but I’d like to have the option — and when I went on Fox News, as I was cinching my bolo tie, waiting to debate Laura Ingraham, it was like a lightning bolt struck me. Because I said, “I’m never going to be able to run as a Republican in my life.” I said, “In my lifetime, if you play what I’m about to say on Fox as a 30-second commercial in any Republican primary, I’m finished. There is no way I will survive that.”
So at that point, that’s when I started to say, “Well, maybe I should be an independent because I don’t think Republicans seem to care about fiscal conservatism anymore. And I’m pro-liberty — I don’t think they care about the liberty of illegal immigrants and gays.” And that’s when (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi’s people called me up and said, “We’re familiar with your work and Speaker Pelosi wants to recruit you to be a Democrat.”
CS: Was this in November?
MAH: This was in October.
CS: So before the election?
MAH: Before the election. And I kept my promise — I still endorsed the GOP ticket because I was going to keep my word, I wasn’t going to go back on my word.
CS: Did you wind up voting for Republicans this year?
MAH: In 2010?
MAH: I’m not going to answer that question (laughs). I did vote for some Republicans but I won’t disclose exactly who I voted for.
CS: Secret ballot?
MAH: Yeah. I did vote for some, though, but for the sake of it all I’m not going to disclose who it was all specifically for.
‘Speaker Pelosi, I love you like crazy’
But the meeting with Nancy Pelosi was a big turning point in my life, because this was the third most powerful person in the world. She was there, actively recruiting me to become a Democrat and I was very honest with her. I said, “Speaker Pelosi, I love you like crazy, I love that you’re always defending the minority.” And I said, “I’m not for universal health care, I’m a fiscal conservative, and would I have a place with the Democrats?” And she said, “as long as you can look me in the eye and tell me that what you’re doing is going to create opportunity for every American, no matter who they are, where they come from, then I consider you a Democrat.”
CS: That’s a good answer.
MAH: It was a great answer. And then I also talked to (U.S. Rep.) Jared Polis (D-Boulder) — he and I go way back and he was also part of the recruiting mechanism (laughs). And I said to him, because he had fought against parts of the healthcare bill too, and I said, “How do they treat you now that you fought against it?” And he said, “They don’t treat me differently at all.” And he said, “There is a movement in the Democrats right now that we need to embrace — we need to prioritize intellect, people who are well read and actively have debates in the party to make our legislation better.”
So that’s when the seed was planted, and it took me a while to come to terms with it (laughs), because I don’t like party switchers — when Arianna Huffington did it, when Arlen Specter did it, even when Ben Nighthorse Campbell did it, even though he was becoming a Republican, it upset me because it was like, do you guys not live with any convictions? But ultimately I rationalized it by saying that (the Republican Party) was no longer a pro-liberty party, this was a pro-security party. They obviously want to protect what the Founding Fathers have left us and I respect that, but their means of protecting it has been by trying to reduce the amount of Muslims who come to this country or who have positions of power, reduce the — not help illegal immigrants get a pathway towards citizenship. On the more religious side, not let gays get married. You know, neither party really welcomes fiscal conservatism as far as I’m concerned, but at least the Democrats are pro-liberty on the social side. So I started to get comfortable with that idea and I said, “You know, maybe I can go to them and convince them to become a little more fiscal conservative, and my efforts to help immigrants and gays are going to be a lot better if I’m united with this good party rather than just constantly fighting with the Republicans.”
CS: Did you talk to anyone in Colorado about your decision before you made it?
MAH: There was — actually (laughs) there was a lot of bloggers on (political website) Colorado Pols. I would say it was Pelosi, Polis and then Colorado Pols, funny enough. Because there were a lot of people in Pols who e-mailed me directly and said, “You know, we would really love to have you.” And a lot of them were very humorous and said, “Look, we’ll get over your fiscal views,” (laughs), but they said, “You know, you’re so good on the immigrant and gay views that you’d have a place here.” So there was a couple of precinct captains in Colorado that I did have close conversations with, and I just said, “You know, when you consider my past history and my fiscal views that I’m not going to give up, do you think there’s a place for me?” And they always came back saying, “Yes.”
CS: Have you talked to (Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman) Pat Waak?
MAH: I e-mailed her. I didn’t talk to her before the switch, but I have e-mailed her. I e-mailed her last week and said, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.” I haven’t heard back from her (laughs), but I reached out, I sent her an e-mail.
CS: What about (Colorado Republican Party Chairman) Dick Wadhams? Did you speak to any Republicans and say, “Hey, here’s your chance to keep me in the party?”
CS: You made up your mind that the party had left you before you felt you had to leave the party?
MAH: I think so. Well —
CS: Is that a fair way to characterize it?
MAH: You know, again, I know I’m saying it because of the 14th Amendment and Arizona 1070, but the thing is, there was no way I could speak to a Colorado Republican, and I’ll explain why.
Another big reason I switched is my mother said, “Let’s say you had won the treasurer’s race” — and it really wasn’t far fetched to think that, because our polling with David Flaherty of Magellan Strategies (showed) we were leading the Republican primary. Not by much, but we were leading it. Had we made the ballot, we would have made a pretty darn good push.
CS: Was that among delegates or among Republican voters?
MAH: Among Republican voters, the primary voters. And my mother said, “Let’s say you had won the treasurer’s race, what would you do?” And I said, “I would have tried to attain a strong leadership position with the GOP by being more right-wing on fiscal conservative issues than (former state lawmaker and author of the TABOR amendment) Douglas Bruce. And really I was the most fiscal conservative candidate of 2010. I was the only one — or other than Tancredo, the only one who supported the Big Bad 3 [three unsuccessful Colorado ballot initiatives that would have severely restricted government ability to borrow or raise revenue] and I contributed money to (pass the initiatives), so you could say I even took a step further than Tancredo.
I had the endorsement of Douglas Bruce, ardent supporter of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. And my mother said, she said, “You know, Douglas Bruce is not pro-gay, doesn’t really speak much on the immigrant issues.” And she said, “Look at how much they ostracize him.” And she said, “How do you think you would have fared if you’re telling me that you would have appealed to them through fiscal conservatism?” That felt like my soul had died (laughs), because that’s when I really realized how much fiscal conservatism doesn’t mean to the Colorado Republicans. And especially now with (state Rep.) Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) wanting to introduce a 1070 here, I mean so many Republicans are getting behind him and then the same Republicans, the only issue they united under to oppose, multilaterally, was the Big Bad 3 (laughs).
So I’m looking at this party and I’m saying, “You know, state-wise, Douglas Bruce is the finest fiscal conservative to walk this earth since Ronald Reagan. We are so lucky to have him living in this state.” If he had been a U.S. senator today, I mean he would have filibustered all this TARP and bailout business and prevented it himself. And Douglas Bruce is my mentor, he’s family and I love him, but I feel sorry for him. He made the wrong decision in picking Colorado. He should have gone to Utah, he should have left California for Nebraska. Maybe he even should have just stayed in California.
But on the other hand, you look at the national GOP too, they passed TARP, you know? A reporter from ThinkProgress said, “What would Reagan say about today’s GOP?” And I said, “Reagan would say, ‘When fiscal issues went awry in my administration and people took advantage of the system, I put people in jail. You can ask Michael Milken [a junk-bond pioneer of the 1980s who ultimately spent about two years in prison on securities fraud charges]. I put people in jail. And when immigrants had issues, I gave them amnesty.’” And I would say Reagan would look at them today and say, “Okay, you have vilified immigrants who want to become citizens and help our country and you haven’t put a single person in jail over TARP. The Federal Reserve is still printing billions to trillions of dollars, devaluing our currency. What does fiscal conservatism even mean to this party anymore?”
CS: Have you talked to Douglas Bruce lately?
MAH: I did talk to Doug before switching and I did get his opinion.
CS: Did you ask his advice?
MAH: I did.
CS: What did he tell you to do?
MAH: Doug said — and he’s very good to me — and he said, “Young man, you will definitely get a better reception with Democrats,” and he said, “I just want you to know, though,” he said, “By being a Democrat, you are going to expand that party — you are inherently going to be supporting some socialistic views.” So Doug Bruce said, “If you can sleep at night, knowing that,” he said, “That’s the only thing I would caution that you have to be comfortable with.” And he said, “On the other hand, if you stay Republican” — and this is why I love him so much, he was so honest — he said, “You’re also expanding a party that is not going to help gays and probably not going to help immigrants.” So he said, “You are at a juncture where you should make a decision on what is your priority right now.” But he did say, he said, “I think you’ll get a better reception with Democrats.”
CS: And he’s still speaking to you since you made the decision?
MAH: Oh, absolutely. For us, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights comes above party.
CS: Have you encountered any — I was going to say many, but I’ll say any — other Democrats who feel that TABOR is sacrosanct the way that you do?
MAH: No (laughs).
CS: Are there any in the whole state?
MAH: No, but — let’s put it this way — The moment you’re in a Republican primary and someone says one of three things, that you’re pro-gay, you’re pro-immigrant or you supported the mosque, you’re done. There’s no chance. The Democrats, though, I’ve seen, you look at Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, she’s very pro-gun, that didn’t stop her. I don’t see pro-gun as stopping you with the Democrats and I don’t see fiscal issues stopping you.
I was just speaking out for the DREAM Act at the Colorado Immigrant Rights press conference — I was very proud to be one of the keynote speakers there — and what I noticed from the Democrat activists who were there, because I was using constitutional principles on why this should pass, and they were just amped. Because they said, “You know, we need a Democrat with teeth. Someone who’s going to support immigrants and gays and not apologize.” So if I were to look at this from a conniving businessman aspect (laughs), I think most Democrats would forgive my fiscal views, provided that I’m still ardent on the immigrant and gay issues. Now I could never sell those short. If I sell those short there’s nothing that I offer to the Democratic Party.
CS: Have you heard from Dick Wadhams or anything from the grapevine?
MAH: Dick and I are close, and Dick’s very good to me. He’s always been very good to me, and I did e-mail him before the Huffington Post article came out and said, “I am switching,” and never heard back from him, no. Which I don’t blame him. So, he’ll always be very nice to me but I don’t think he had much more to say.
(Former U.S. Rep.) Bob Schaffer — I’m very close with Bob Schaffer — and (former State Treasurer) Mark Hillman, they wrote me very long responses in their most polite way, saying, “This is a big mistake and you’re going to regret it” (laughs). But I have a list of about 50 Republicans who have just become family to me, in running twice, and those were the ones I e-mailed prior and said, “Guys, I am going to switch.”
CS: What about (term-limited House Minority Leader) Mike May (R-Castle Rock)?
MAH: I haven’t heard from Mike May, and we are planning on having dinner some time soon, but Mike had already — I think Mike saw the writing on the wall because right after the convention, when I moved to California, I did say to Mike, I said, “I’m really concerned about the Tea Party.” I said, “I feel like we’re not a pro-liberty movement anymore.” And Mike said that he had his concerns too. He was optimistic, though, that it would get better, but he did know I was frustrated.
‘Uncle Buck’ was proud of me
I will say, the person who was the nicest was (Republican Senate candidate) Ken Buck. I was a very ardent supporter of Ken Buck, he became an uncle to me on the campaign trail, I called him Uncle Buck. (Buck’s wife) Perry Buck offered to give the nomination speech at the convention. She told my mother, and for some reason my mother didn’t tell me (laughs), it’s like, “Mom, Ken Buck’s…” (laughs).
CS: Big message not to pass on — who did give the nomination for you?
MAH: Callie Carey, a delegate out of Montrose who I’m very close with and Mike May. But we would have thrown Perry Buck on there, she was very sweet to offer — it was just an example of how close we became on the campaign trail. But Ken, when I e-mailed Ken he called me and left me a voicemail and he said, “Nephew, it’s going to take a lot more than to just switch your parties to beat away your Uncle Buck” (laughs), so… It was very sweet and he said, “I’m very proud of you.” He said, “We don’t agree on everything, but I’m very proud of you, and as long as you believe in what you’re doing then I’m proud of you and I’m behind you in whatever you want to do.”
CS: Well, great, that’s good.
MAH: Yeah, so that was sweet of him.
CS: Now you’re living out in (Los Angeles)?
MAH: I am living in L.A.
CS: And going to stay out there for a while?
MAH: The next movie — we’re going to be looking for financing for the Benazir Bhutto movie, starting next year. [Ed. note: Hasan is working on getting his screenplay based on the life of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto produced.] Starting probably in February or March. I’m thinking there’s three locations where it could get filmed — either New Mexico, California or Puerto Rico. If it gets filmed in California, I’ll probably end up staying there. If it switches to New Mexico, though, I could move to New Mexico because I really adore New Mexico, I love that state. So I do plan to be active with the Democrats in one of those two states, so by next summer I should probably know. But I’m guessing I’ll probably — I’ll be registering to vote in California in about a month or two, but I could be moving to New Mexico after that.
CS: Do you find that Democrats are different and Republicans in California, versus Colorado?
MAH: Republicans in California are more right wing.
CS: Are they?
MAH: Yeah, people are surprised by that, but —
MAH: The thing is, because it’s become a very liberal state — like one interesting thing with Republican delegates, the most liberal counties like Boulder, a few other (counties) —
MAH: Pitkin. Liberal counties, the Republican delegations tend to be more conservative and right-wing than the usual delegation because it’s almost as if they’re so sick and tired of liberals winning that they turn to conservatism even more, or right-wing fundamentals. And you look at California, because some people said to me, “Well, if you stayed in California, you could win as a liberal Republican there.” And I said, “Are you crazy?” Because (laughs), you know, when (Democratic Gov.) Gray Davis ran for re-election, (Republican) Richard Riordan was supposed to defeat him. Richard Riordan’s the mayor of Los Angeles, very popular. You could argue he was a liberal but a fiscal conservative. Bill Simon comes along who’s never run for office before and trounces him in the primary just because he’s pro-life. (Current Republican Gov. Arnold) Schwarzenegger did win, but people forget that (another Republican candidate) Tom McClintock took 20 percent of that vote, so Schwarzenegger had under 50 in order to beat (Democratic candidate) Cruz Bustamante. [Ed. note: Schwarzenegger won with 48.6 percent of the vote during a recall election aimed at Davis; Bustamante got 31.5 percent and McClintock trailed with 13.5 percent.]
So, if I run again in the future I want it to be because I’m a fiscal conservative, pro-gay, pro-immigrant candidate. So that couldn’t happen with the California Republicans (laughs). So I would say, to answer your question, the only difference is, I think some states are more right wing than others (laughs), if you can believe that. The Democrats on par, I really, I love the Latino and the gay and pro-immigrant activists. I can definitely see where my niche is being carved out with the Democrats because those are the activist who feel like, we put the Democrats in power and they don’t do a damn thing for gays or a damn thing for immigrants. So in starting this Constitutionalists for Gays & Immigrants group — if I do run again as a Democrat, that’s going to be my base, really.
CS: And you’re getting a pretty good reception?
MAH: Better than I thought, yeah (laughs), much better. Because — it makes sense —because they feel like there hasn’t been a politician with a spine who has spoken to their issues. It’s a lot like the Republican delegates who felt the same way, that we put these guys in power and then they sell us out. You know, with the exception of the DREAM Act that they’re finding now we’re trying to pass right now, I mean the Democrats had everything. They owned Congress, they owned Senate, the presidency. Nothing about gays. I mean, just now, now that they’re in lame duck, they’re trying to do the DREAM Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But they’ve turned off the gay and the pro-immigrant activists —that’s where my niche is really going to be.
CS: You recently changed your name or is that something you’re doing?
MAH: That’s the truth, that’s the truth. I’m about to go through the court system.
CS: You’ll be putting a name change ad in The Statesman, probably?
MAH: (Laughs) I could, sure. I might do that.
Changing name to Muhammad Miguel Ali Hasan
But I’m going to be changing my — my birth certificate name right now is Muhammad Ali Hasan. I’m going to be changing it to Muhammad Miguel Ali Hasan, for two reasons. One, my mother showed me genealogy records and there’s a lot of Spanish heritage, which I’m pretty proud of. I’ve been researching the Inquisition, when Muslims and Jews were kicked out of Spain, this summer. What I found is there’s actually a group called the Islamic Commission of Spain that’s working with the Spanish government and the government of Spain is this close that if you can show you have Spanish heritage, they’re going to give you citizenship. So I’m preparing an application for that, but I’m going to be writing a letter to the Islamic Commission of Spain and encouraging them that we also have to include Jews, because a lot of Jews were kicked out of Spain and nobody’s representing the Jews.
And when you look at the Inquisition, the civil rights leader who tried to stop the Inquisition was a man named Miguel de Luna, he was very vilified in Spanish history. But he single handedly tried to stop it and a lot of the Jews and Muslims — they’re called Moriscos [Spanish for “Moor-like”] — a lot of the Moriscos who were hiding, who said they’re Catholic but deep down were actually Jewish or Muslim, called themselves Miguel. And that was a “wink, wink” that, you know, I’m actually a Morisco. So in honor of them and as well as to represent the Jews and try to convince the Islamic Commission of Spain to also include Jews in their quest and not just Muslims, I’m going to add the name Miguel to my name and ask them that we should be more like our father, Miguel de Luna, and bring back not just Muslims but also Jews to Spain.
CS: Does (de Luna) have a better reputation in Spain now than he did?
MAH: I hope so. He’s not really well known and that’s part of why — you know, right after 9/11, that’s — I usually go by Ali, I don’t really go by Muhammad. But that’s why I purposely inserted Mohammed, especially on the Fox News appearances, because I want to take ownership of that name and bring a better face to it. Miguel de Luna has been very vilified in history and that’s my way of — I want to recognize my great heritage but also take ownership of that name and bring a better history to that name. People are naturally going to ask me, “Why are you adding Miguel?” (laughs) and it gives me great pride to tell people about this hero, Miguel de Luna, and I hope I can follow in his footsteps and convince the Commission to include Jews as well.
CS: In the Colorado Independent or one of the stories I read, you were talking about the whispering campaign at the state convention. Do you think it was isolated at the state convention or do you really think it’s part of the Republican Party?
MAH: That seems isolated at the state convention. Again, when I would go to a county assembly or to a Lincoln Day Dinner or a central committee meeting, in a room of 20 to 50 Republicans, it was very easy to say, “I started Muslims for Bush, I started Muslims for America, I’ve advised the CIA, helped Homeland Security.” And then it was easy for those 50 people to go home saying, “Okay, this is our kind of guy.”
The state convention, that was just one after the other of these delegates, just somebody put it out there that — and this is not in the Koran — but somebody put it out there that Muslims can lie to non-Muslims in order to advance a Sharia agenda. (laughs) I’m not kidding. And everybody said, “Well, how do I know you’re not lying? How do I not know you did all this work as a lie because you want to take over the Colorado finance system and implement Sharia law?” And I’ll actually share with you guys, the nefarious goals I had (laughs) in running for state treasurer.
The goals I had was — I’m so against the Federal Reserve overprinting money over the bailout crisis. Half of our Colorado investments are with these bailout companies. What I was hoping to do, which I did share publicly, was to divest from all those bailouts. But then, I would have gone on — I have connections with Fox News and MSNBC — I would have gone on a very strident campaign to convince every other state treasurer to also divest, because I think it’s a bipartisan issue, to divest from these funds. And I would have tried to basically hold Congress hostage and all those investment bank companies hostage by saying, “Okay, we will re-invest in bailout companies if you guys re-implement the Glass-Steagall Act and stop printing money.” So, for me, I said, I’m just good enough where I can run for state treasurer and if I can get that position, I can get the Glass-Steagall Act re-implemented. That was my nefarious, mean agenda (laughs). And the thing is, I couldn’t say that on the campaign trail because the treasurer has to have Colorado’s interests in mind first and foremost. So for me to run for the state position and say I had a federal goal in mind, that would have come off very arrogant. But that was my ultimate goal. So it wasn’t to implement Sharia finance (laughs), it was to get the Glass-Steagall Act re-implemented.
CS: Did some of the (Republican) delegates explain to you how Sharia financial reform would have looked?
MAH: No (laughs).
CS: What they were actually afraid of?
MAH: I was in such a shock, it didn’t really occur to me to really engage them. But I think when they thought of Sharia law, they just think of women getting stoned. I think that’s the first image that comes to them.
CS: And the state treasurer has… ?
MAH: I have no idea (laughs). I mean there’s a lot of rocks at the Capitol, I don’t know (laughs).
CS: Big vaults full of stones?
MAH: I mean, if you see my relationship with my mother and sisters, you could see I’m the one who gets beaten up by women, so… (laughs)
CS: I think I saw that you mentioned J.J. Ament personally. Do you really believe he was behind it, his campaign or supporters?
MAH: I can’t prove that, so I can’t say whether for sure or not. Something was behind it, so it might not have been J.J., it could have very well been a group of people who were just sympathetic to J.J. So the one criticism I would have of J.J., though, is that I criticized a Colorado law that (former state House Speaker Andrew) Romanoff authored that said that, “We’re not going to invest in entities in Sudan” — I believe it’s mostly Sudan — and I was critical of that because I’ve always said, as the Peter Peterson Institute has shown, when you sanction a country and isolate them, it empowers the dictators, so closing off economic activity is not the way to handle it. And I was trying to take a very intelligent view about this, whereas J.J. exploited that and directly, I believe, sent out a mailer, the Colorado Independent reported, and saying that I want to invest Colorado’s money in the Sudanese genocide, as well as in helping Iran build a nuclear missile. I never said that (laughs), so I think that was his attempt at playing a little loose with the facts.
Now, that said, I’m not angry at J.J. and there’s two reasons. One, I was very dirty with him too (laughs). I mean, I accused him of all sorts of things, I footnoted my data. So I wouldn’t say I’m the victim, I also threw a lot of mud and I don’t mind, that’s politics. What bothered me, though, is that people actually believed it — is that the delegates voting there actually believed that. So I’m not outraged at J.J., but I’m disappointed in the delegates.
CS: Your initial polling showed that you had 40 percent support among delegates, was that right? And you ended up with half that?
MAH: I personally called all the 3,500 voting delegates, and I probably spoke personally, somewhere between 1,000 to 1,500 of them. I was very direct — I didn’t want to do it because I’m not used to it — but it was a great practice. My campaign manager, Drew Dougherty, was very ardent about it. He said, “When you get on the phone with these folks, you’ve got to say, ‘Can I count on your support at the convention?”
Some delegates thought I was lying
So I spoke to close to about 1,500 personally, left voicemails for the rest, but 1,500 is pretty substantial. I took a vote tally, and at least on the phone they seemed honest. Some said, “Yeah, I’m in your corner,” some said, “No, I’m not in your corner,” (laughs). And David Flaherty’s an excellent pollster, I took my whole list to him and I said, “Let’s analyze this data and try to make the best prediction we can.” A lot of my support was coming from the Western Slope where I was from, J.J. was very popular on the Eastern Plains, like he should be, so it seemed to be making sense. His best county was Arapahoe, where he was from, we were splitting Jeffco, we were leading in Denver, we were doing very well in Larimer. He was taking Weld, we were doing very well in El Paso. We crunched all this data and the analysis Flaherty and I had — and Flaherty’s really good at this — he said, “Looking at this data, 40 percent should be the basement.” He said, “I don’t see how you’d get less than 40 percent if everybody’s being honest.” He said, “And certainly we have a shot at winning this at the convention.”
And the thing is, when you talk to so many delegates, and it’s like you call Bob down in Archuleta County and Bob tells you, “I’m either for you or for J.J.” So when you see Bob at the convention and he’s wearing his credential that says, ‘Bob from Archuleta,’ it’s like, I know Bob from Archuleta. I saw so many delegates who I knew in my head, said, “I’m behind you, I’m all for you,” and they were wearing a J.J. sticker. Now the few — that was very disappointing, and the few I went to to say, “Why are you…?” I felt like I was in high school, like the girl I was dating was now wearing my rival’s varsity jacket, you know? (laughs) The few I had the gumption to actually ask and say, “Why did you switch?” they said, “Well, I don’t know if you’re lying or not.” They said, “You might be trying to institute Sharia law.” It was funny because when I was on — I gave my speech — and I got to tell you, that was the best speech I’ve ever given in my life. I felt so good about that speech. So I knew — I said, “If I lose it’s not going to be because of the speech.” I said, “This was a great speech.” When I went out on the convention floor and was in a fury, just shaking hands trying to get votes, I knew I wasn’t going to make the ballot.
CS: You knew that?
MAH: I knew it. There were so many long faces, it was almost like they were apologetic. I’m a film director, I think I understand emotion (laughs), so I know when I’m being greeted as a hero, as someone who people are supporting — I wasn’t being greeted like that. And I remember I went back to our luxury box and my father said, “How’s it looking out there?” and I said, “Dad, I don’t think we’re going to make the ballot.” And I love my dad to death because I’d put my entire film career on hold, possibly even abolished it and my father said, “Okay, well…” And see, the thing is, I did that because I believed in it enough, I wanted the Glass-Steagall Act to come back. So my father said, “Okay, well big deal if you don’t make the ballot, you’re back in L.A. with palm trees and a movie career” (laughs).
CS: Not the end of the world.
MAH: And dad said, “You know, if it was up to me, I wouldn’t want to make the ballot.” And I remember I saw Flaherty too and I went to him, and it was funny, because everyone was trying to make me feel better. So my close people I was sharing this with were like, “No, no, no, people think you’re going to win, your speech was so good.” And then I saw Flaherty and I said, “Okay, well if Flaherty thinks we’re going to make the ballot then I’ll feel fine.” I went to Flaherty and I said, “How are we doing?” And he didn’t respond, and I said, “Okay, let me just say it first.” I said, “I don’t think we’re going to make the ballot,” and he said, “I’m very worried too.” And at that moment I knew it wasn’t going to happen.
CS: You said when you had communicated your concerns about the Tea Party to Mike May — what are the concerns? Because the Tea Party bills itself as being basically fiscally conservative, a bunch of Doug Bruces: stop the spending, stop the debt.
MAH: They’re far from it.
CS: What’s really going on that’s concerning you?
MAH: And I said this to ThinkProgress too. 15 years from now when the narrative is finally written about the Tea Party, it’s going to be titled “The Great American Tragedy.” Because they started out as a movement that said, “We have to stop printing all this money and devaluing our currency. We’ve got to put some of these bailout beneficiaries who took — who stole billions from the federal government and taxpayers and are now getting bonuses, that we’ve got to put some of these guys in jail, we’ve got to re-implement the Glass-Steagall Act.” And the thing is, they had built so much great political capital that that was naturally going to lead into another fiscal conservative revolution. The income tax rates were going to be brought down even more. There was a potential — at one point, when (Republican U.S. Sen.) Scott Brown won Massachusetts and (Republican Gov.) Chris Christie won New Jersey, the Tea Party had enough political capital that they could have gone to Congress and made a huge overhaul of Social Security. They could have privatized Social Security, they could have further privatized Medicaid and Medicare. They had an opportunity to really make this country even more fiscal conservative than Ronald Reagan could ever dream of. I mean, when a Republican wins Massachusetts and New Jersey, that’s the kind of political capital you’re talking about.
So then you fast forward, then this element of security comes in — anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant. They stopped talking about the money being printed and instead started idolizing (Arizona Gov.) Jan Brewer and Arizona 1070. I’m convinced the Republicans lost the U.S. Senate over the mosque issue. It sounds silly but poll after poll showed that Americans wanted to vote out the Democrats because of health care.
August and September, you could argue, are the most key months in any election season. You guys would know that better than anyone. Because absentee ballots are going to go out mid-October, so August and especially September is the time that people really tune in, do their homework and say, “Okay, which party do I want?” They spent that entire damn month just being against Muslims and a mosque when you know, there’s only 24 hours in a day and people’s attention spans are not infinite. If they had spent that time just reminding America that look, this was the guy that mandated health care, and we’re going to be the party that’s going to take away that mandate. Instead, they just focused on the mosque. I’m positive it cost them the U.S. Senate. I think they were lucky to get back the Congress, but had they spent August and September focused on health care, I think they would have won the U.S. Senate.
The Tea Party sprung up in 2009, we’re about to enter 2011. They’ve had a good year and a half, potentially two years to make their staple on America. So what’s happened? The Federal Reserve is still printing money, to the point of devaluing our dollar. Nobody’s gone to jail over TARP. The Glass-Steagall Act has still not been passed. You could argue investment banks and commercial banks can still play around in the investment markets. Credit lines still aren’t restored. And now we have legislators being lionized to pass Arizona 1070, which has been ruled unconstitutional, and not the vision of the founding fathers.
So what has the Tea Party accomplished? They went from being a movement that was going to privatize Social Security, bring in a new era of fiscal conservatism, and it’s all been squandered. They are their own worst enemy. And America will suffer for it because we are going to have higher tax rates now. We’re going to have to pay for more social programs. So — egg on their face, you know? At least the Democrats have convictions and show you their cards. These guys got played.
CS: You’ve mentioned that you admire Jared Polis, he’s a friend?
CS: What about some of the other Democrats in the state? What about (Democratic U.S. Sens.) Mark Udall and Michael Bennet?
MAH: I’m very pleased with Mark Udall and Michael Bennet for taking the stand on the DREAM Act. I wish they had done it sooner, but, you know, better late than never. So they’re working as very good U.S. senators. One person I’ve admired for a long time is State Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora). Not Terrance Carroll — I mean, Terrance is a good guy too, but Morgan really… Morgan, really, she’s very honest. You could tell she has a set of principles and convictions that she just won’t compromise. I deeply admire that. I felt very touched because the first Democratic legislator to e-mail me and welcome me to the party was Morgan Carroll (laughs).
CS: After your Huffington Post article appeared?
MAH: Yeah, yeah. Other than Jared Polis, she was the first one to e-mail me and say, “I’m so happy you’re a Democrat, welcome to the party.” And I’ve never had any interaction with her, and I mean it with all my sincerity. I’ve always admired her because she’s the only Democrat who spoke out against — because you’ve got the Cornell Group that manages some prisons, some private prisons here in Colorado and they’re giving contributions to all sorts of politicians and nobody’s willing to stop that system. And that’s the one reason we’re not going to legalize marijuana, because the Cornell Group wants to keep locking people up (laughs), because it’s their…
CS: Their livelihood?
MAH: It’s their livelihood. And she spoke out against that, so I admired that.
I’ve always admired (retiring state Sen.) Dan Gibbs. Dan Gibbs has such a connection with the people he represents, especially the people in Summit County.
CS: He was your state senator for a while?
MAH: Yes, he was. And I mean he voted against the Mill Levy freeze. There’s been junctures of fiscal conservatism where he has said, “I want to keep money in people’s pockets.” So I think he’s the ideal kind of Democrat. I think he really symbolizes what Colorado Democrats are.
Christine Scanlan was a very honorable opponent
Christine Scanlan is a good friend of mine, we ran very — we beat each other up but she was a very honorable opponent. [Ed. note: Scanlan, a Democrat, beat Hasan in his 2008 campaign for House District 56.] She never lied, she always put the facts out there. I was very proud to run against her, nothing upset me about losing to her.
CS: Some of the supporters did some campaigning that you didn’t think was entirely on the up and up, though, right?
MAH: I didn’t like it, but she did speak out against it, so at least that — you know, because you can’t always control all your supporters — at least she spoke out against it and more importantly — and I don’t want to name names but I’ve engaged in a lot of public debates now with politicians. Looking back on it, of all the people I’ve debated publicly, she was the most honest. She would never make anything up on the spot, she had all her facts there. It’s very easy to make stuff up when you’re running for even just a statewide position like treasurer. So she was always very honest. I’ve come to very much appreciate that.
CS: And now she’s going to work for Hickenlooper. [Ed. note: Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper plucked Scanlan from the Legislature last month to serve as his chief legislative lobbyist.]
MAH: I think she’s been a good state rep. I wish she would stay as the state rep, but I think it’s a good opportunity for her so I’m proud of her.
CS: Have you met Hickenlooper?
MAH: I have not met Hickenlooper.
CS: Who did you support in the governor’s race?
MAH: I’m not going to say (laughs).
CS: But before you considered switching parties?
MAH: I just don’t want to say. I said I would support the GOP ticket, and technically that’s Dan Maes, so I’m not going to go further than that. But I’m very happy that Hickenlooper was elected.
CS: So you’re glad that he’s governor?
MAH: Yes, and I can definitely guarantee that I’ll be either contributing to him or volunteering for him when he’s up for re-election in four years. I think he’s going to be a great governor. He seems like a fiscal conservative, so I have high hopes for him.
CS: Any surprises in the reaction of people you thought would (react) one way and it turned out a different way (to your decision to switch parties)?
MAH: Ken Buck, for sure (laughs). I mean most of the activists in Eagle, Lake and Summit (counties), where my home really is, they understood. They were behind me. There are some delegates who supported me — and I’ll always love that, that 20 percent we got at the Convention, I’ll always —
CS: Which is what, about 700 (delegates)?
MAH: It’s like 800. And I’ll always love those guys like crazy. But that’s the group that feels very betrayed.
CS: Have you heard from some of them since?
MAH: Oh, sure, they post on my Facebook wall all the time (laughs).
CS: Any of them want their money back?
MAH: No, none of them have asked for money back, but the e-mails I’ve gotten from them is a lot of them said, “For us you represented the future of the party. You were going to make it more fiscal conservative, and if you’re going to leave, what’s left for us?”
CS: A lot of Republicans would say that where you wanted the Republican Party to go is where the Republican Party’s going — that supporting gay marriage and saying let’s get real on immigration and immigration reform is the future of the Republican Party. Some very prominent Republicans are out front on that. And they’re not leaving the party.
MAH: I would disagree. I think the Republicans right now are more held hostage to activists and grassroots activists than they are to party principles. And that’s a victory for activists, but nonetheless — that was another thing that really turned my decision. I went to almost every Central Committee meeting in Colorado from the GOP, went to a lot of Tea Party meetings. The folks there — they don’t want to offer a pathway of citizenship for illegal immigrants, they are very anti-gay. I won’t say they’re bigoted, I don’t think they’re bigoted, but they’re very pro-security. And most of these folks are in their 40s and 50s, so they’re —
CS: They’re not changing their minds?
MAH: No, they’re not. And you know, Arizona 1070 was a big turning point, it was a huge turning point. And the reason why was, when that law was passed, that was the first time in my life where I saw people actively applauding when someone said something anti-immigrant. It was that law, it was as if it opened a Pandora’s Box of quasi-bigotry.
CS: Gave a license to be up front about that?
MAH: Yes, and now that they’ve gotten that, they’re never turning back. I think Reagan was like sitting on this box trying not to let it open, I think W. Bush was sitting on it. And now it’s just exploded.
CS: (Former Colorado Republican Gov.) Bill Owens? It’s come up before where there was potential for that to erupt and it didn’t?
MAH: Well Bill actually pandered to it. Bill Owens worked with Romanoff to pass — we were Arizona before Arizona in passing the anti-immigrant laws here.
CS: They’ll describe that as being the best, least-worst alternative to keep 1070 from happening in Colorado. That’s not your take?
MAH: No, no, because I’m totally against E-Verify. And the reason why is, you talk to small business owners, that’s another cost that they have to put upon themselves. And I’m not for any laws that say business owners should go to jail for hiring an illegal immigrant. You know what, federal government? That’s your job (laughs). It’s the small businessman (who) is supposed to provide a service to us. It’s not his job to root out illegal immigrants. So even in principle, I don’t care how efficient you make E-Verify, once you just take that step of putting the duties of law enforcement into the hands of small business owners, that’s just completely inappropriate. Again, I’m a Constitutionalist. I don’t think the Founding Fathers would go for that.
Republicans have become more right wing
The main thing, though, is when you go to those Central Committee meetings, most of the activists there are in their 40s and 50s. And you consider life expectancy in America — I mean this is how deeply I’ve thought about it (laughs) — because I said, “Maybe they won’t be around forever,” (laughs). I don’t want to feel that way but people will often say, “Oh, this is just a generational thing.” You know, “This is going to…” But the thing is, the Republicans have become more right wing, oddly enough. You know, you look at Reagan, they went from a pro-amnesty party to W. Bush who tried to get a Guest Worker Program passed, now to question mark. But I can guarantee that question mark is not supportive of the DREAM Act. So we’ve actually gotten more conservative, I would argue. Now I agree with the 7-9 month ban on abortion but Reagan couldn’t get that passed, it was W. Bush. So the trajectory is showing a more conservative zeal on the social issues. And when you look at any Central Committee meeting, again, people are mostly in their 40s and 50s, they’re going to be around.
CS: They’re not the dinosaurs?
MAH: They’re not. They’re going to be there for a good 30 to 50 years. That was very harrowing for me, because I said, “Do I want to turn 60 and look back on all this and say, ‘Why did I spend the last 30 years fighting with fellow Republicans when I could just switch parties and put my hat on a pedestal and say, yeah, I was one of the people who got to help gays get married and help immigrants become citizens?’”
CS: (State Sen.) Pat Steadman (D-Denver) is talking about introducing a bill making civil unions the law in Colorado. He’s been talking about that the last week, and there are some Republicans, he’s said, who are interested.
MAH: I applaud him for doing it. My only criticism is, why wasn’t it done sooner? That’d be my only criticism.
CS: There was some concern that the voters just voted it down four years ago [Ed. note: a state ballot initiative establishing civil unions failed in 2006], that there’s a reasonable time to wait. Two sessions ago was when they passed Designated Beneficiaries and health care for spousal equivalent for state employees. Let people see that the world didn’t come to an end and it didn’t cost the state that much, then they can point to that and say, “Look, nothing happened, now let’s —
MAH: I would say that’s a generous outlook (laughs), because I think there’s something to be said about principle. When you look at (retiring Democratic Gov.) Bill Ritter’s four years (in office), what is there to say was very transformational? I don’t think much. I think the only thing you could say about Bill Ritter is he increased labor union jobs and helped labor unions in Colorado. That’s about the only transformational thing. I think if you’re Bill Ritter and the Democrats during the Bill Ritter era, I think it would be really nice if you could say, “You know what, we legalized civil unions or we legalized gay marriage,” and they didn’t. And I think Bill Ritter will have to live with that. If they’re satisfied with his labor union policies then good for them, but the whole point of running for office is you’re trying to do something transformational. I don’t think they accomplished that.
CS: What ultimately would you like to run for?
MAH: (Laughs) It’s more about not what I want to run for, I have three goals and I outlined those in the Huffington Post too. But the first one is I spent a year and a half as a student teacher, they call it a “tyro teacher” in the Los Angeles Public School System. I think in order to solve our public school problems-and scientific studies show this — we need to start implementing cooperative learning, project-based learning, multiple intelligence identification. If we train teachers to write their curriculums based on those theories, I think the public schools become a very engaging arena. No activists, to my knowledge, or very few, at least, are fighting for that. I want to put myself in a position where I could rewrite a state’s public school system. And the charter school initiative started in Minnesota. It was just a few state legislators in Minnesota who invented it, caught like wildfire. School vouchers, I believe, started either in Michigan or Ohio. So if you can rewrite just one state’s public school system, the good things will just spread like wildfire. So I think I know a lot about public education, I want to rewrite that and bring those fundamentals into it.
The second thing is, on foreign policy, I want to stop — we often respond to dictators by sanctioning them or by closing free trade. That’s the worst thing we could do. Lifting sanctions and opening free trade creates middle classes in a lot of these poverty stricken countries and then they usually go on to topple the dictator themselves.
And you look at our defense systems, one reason we’ve had such a hard time in Iraq and Afghanistan is the men who are on the ground today, there’s been no — you compare the army soldier on the ground in Afghanistan right now, compare him to the one who was in Vietnam in the ’60s. It’s the same helmet, it’s the same shirt, it’s the same boots. We have the most technologically advanced Navy and Air Force, we have not advanced our Army. And the wars of tomorrow are going to be in caves (laughs) against these Al Qaeda guys, so I’d also like to be in a position where I can say on the foreign policy, number one, stop sanctioning, number two, open free trade and number three, let’s take our research and development and take our army into the next level. Because that’s the war we’re going to be fighting tomorrow.
And then is re-implementing the Glass-Steagall Act. I’m not giving up (laughs). I want to get that re-implemented. Maybe these goals can all be accomplished without me running for office, but I’m 30 years old right now, and I think I’m allowed to believe in myself because — the mosque debate, nobody was talking about bigotry and nobody was talking about the constitutional aspect of it. When I spent a week arguing on Fox News with Laura Ingraham and Bill O’Reilly and then writing for the Huffington Post, a week later you saw a poll come out that says 80 percent of Americans believe in the constitutional right. The “bigotry” word was inserted. So for me, that was in a nice way, an ego boost because I said, “Wow, I think I really changed the national dialogue.” And not just me, but contributed — I was a big contributor.
These are the three issues. I’m 30 years old, I’m planning on living until I’m a hundred. I mean believe me, I’ve checked the BMI (Body Mass Index) (laughs), I’ve looked at all of that. I think I can live ‘til I’m a hundred. I think 70 years is just enough time to get all three of these things accomplished in addition to helping get gay marriage legalized and the illegal immigrant issue.
CS: A full agenda?
MAH: It is a full agenda.
CS: Some of that will happen well before 70 years? In the next few years?
MAH: Absolutely. And it’ll be great if all of this gets taken care of in the next few years, then I’ll just move to the Cayman Islands and call it a day (laughs). But I love my country, I love this country, that’s what I want to improve. If I can do it without running for office, great. My movie Benazir addresses the sanctioning, free-trade issue very well. I’m very proud of that. So that’s catering to that. If I feel like I need to run for office in order to take care of this stuff, then I would.
CS: Are you planning on doing a lot of speaking?
MAH: I’m trying to stay focused on my film career. Now people are inviting me to — I’m getting invited to speak more about the Constitutionalists group. When I did the Constitutionalists for Gays and Immigrants, that wasn’t a play for me to become the speaker of both these groups. Now if I become a speaker for them, good, but when you read the website, what I’m really doing is I’m putting out arguments on there that every activists should use. So anyone who’s going to defend immigrants or gays on the radio or television, I want them to read that and start using those facts. Because if you can argue from a constitutional standpoint, that’s going to have a far greater impact on America than an emotional one. If it was up to me, I’m trying to spend eight hours a day just getting my screenplays done (laughs), because I want to do well as a filmmaker, make some money.
CS: Do you like living in L.A.?
MAH: I adore Los Angeles.
CS: What part of (L.A.) do you live in?
MAH: I actually live in Huntington Beach in Orange County. But I went to college at Occidental in Los Angeles, I went to graduate school there.
My soul just sings out in L.A.
I’ve got to be honest, it feels like home there. I mean my soul just sings out there. After I lost the treasurer’s race I took a long time to meditate and just say, “Okay, now I’m free, what do you want to do?” Within an hour I grabbed my dog, I packed up a few things and I was in my truck on my way to L.A. (laughs).
CS: What brought you back to Colorado this visit?
MAH: I wanted to visit family and just get back in touch with family. I didn’t know when this story was going to break. The University of Colorado invited me to come speak about Islam and John Tomasic from the Colorado Independent ended up being there and I told him I’m becoming a Democrat (laughs). And then once I realized that he was going to write it, that’s when I in a flurry started e-mailing all my friends. Because in a perfect world I would have done the Constitutionalists group first and then I would have published my letter on the Huffington Post. But it’s all working out and actually, I’m probably leaving back for California in mid-January, but the Arapahoe Republican Men’s Club have invited me to speak about why I’m switching.
CS: Do you have a date yet?
MAH: I’m the headline speaker on January 5th.
CS: That’s a fun group.
MAH: Yes, and everyone’s invited. I’m going to be very honest with them. I’m going to tell them they’re not a pro-liberty party, they’re a pro-security party. At least they’ve got convictions, but if you want to be a pro-liberty person today, you’re not going to do yourself any favors by being a Republican.
CS: Do you have plenty of supporters in the Arapahoe County Men’s? Will you be among friends when you’re there talking?
MAH: Yeah. That was the purpose behind the Huffington Post article I wrote, because for example when Arianna Huffington and Arlen Specter left (the Republican Party), I felt like it was like, “Screw you, GOP, I hate you.” And even though I’m criticizing them now, I’m very grateful to the Republican Party. They taught me how to run for office, they vetted me, they taught me how to knock on doors. They taught me how to fight from a constitutional standpoint. So when you read that letter you see that I say at the end of it, “I’m not leaving you as an ingrate, I’m leaving you as someone who’s grateful.” And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. So by going there it shows yeah, I’m still very comfortable with Republicans. It was funny because I was watching Keith Olbermann — now that I’m a Democrat it’s like well, I’d better —
CS: Now you have to watch Keith Olbermann?
MAH: Yeah, (laughs), so I was watching Olbermann and he keeps — one thing I want to tell the Democrats is, “Stop the class warfare stuff,” because elections are decided by independents. I don’t know a single independent voter you can go to today in America and say, “You know, every problem in the world would be solved if rich people just pay more.” So I just think this is a losing issue for Democrats. So I was watching Olbermann — and usually I would be ripping my hair out, like, “Keith, you liar!” — now it’s like I want to call him, “Keith, this could be so much better!” (laughs).
CS: That’s great. That’s a big change.
MAH: It’s a huge change.
CS: In what, just a couple of weeks.
MAH: You know, I’d be ripping my hair out over Olbermann. A huge change happened for me when Hannity and Glenn Beck and O’Reilly were so ardently against the mosque and Olbermann and (fellow MSNBC host Rachel) Maddow were for it, as well as Jon Stewart.
CS: So mid-September is when that started to kind of turn.
MAH: Yeah, and that’s when I started to say, “You know what? I think I know who cherishes me as an American.” And the Constitutionalist group — there were a lot of liberals and gays and immigrants fighting for the mosque. This is my way of owing them. I feel like I owe them.
CS: There were a lot of Democrats who demagogued on the mosque too — it might not have been part of the party platform but the Republicans didn’t have a monopoly on that?
MAH: I found the Democrat activist to be very for the mosque. And I actually think today, because of campaign finance reform and the way it’s consolidated so much money in both parties, I actually think the activists have a much bigger say over the two-party system than just the political leaders. So to me, I didn’t base it on the Democrat leaders, it was more about Democrat activists really want this mosque to get built. And that said something to me. I don’t know many Republican activists that want it to get built.
CS: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
MAH: The other change I’ve done — I’ve been talking about this — I’m inter-faith now. And I love talking about it.
CS: Please elaborate.
MAH: You know, I started following Deepak Chopra on my Twitter and I’m so impressed by Deepak Chopra and Karen Armstrong. They’re two very strong, scholarly intellectuals, they’re both inter-faith and they both have this outlook of, “We want to bring the world together. Let’s work and spend our lives to show how all these faiths have so much in common rather than trying to work to divide them.” And that’s a big reason why I want to fight for the Jews on the Islamic Commission of Spain.
I’m inter-faith, I’m all of them
So I’m inter-faith. I’m Jewish, I’m Christian, I’m Muslim, I’m Buddhist, I’m Hindu — I’m all of them. I seek wisdom from all their holy books. I do believe Jesus is the Son of God, I believe he’s a savior, but I also adore the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. I don’t think you have to say, “Jesus is the Son of God,” and that automatically invalidates Muhammad or Krishna or Shiva. So I’ve been very inspired by Deepak Chopra and Karen Armstrong and I want to be one of those change-agents now that uses religion to show commonality between us, not division.
CS: A lot of change going on.
MAH: I’m inter-faith, I’m Spanish, I’m Democrat. I mean the one thing that stays consistent is I’m still for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (laughs), so it doesn’t matter what I —
CS: In some ways it’s a long way from Muslims for Bush?
MAH: It’s actually not, because I’ll never apologize for Muslims for Bush. I’m always going to be very proud of that and the reason why is Bush was really — I know Bill Clinton was doing what he thought was best, but he put a record amount of sanctions on Muslim countries, closed off a lot of free trade. General Anthony Zinni in front of the U.N. in 1999 actually reported that the Iraq sanctions, that, previous to them, there was a force in Iraq that could topple Saddam Hussein, but because of the sanctions and the debilitating impact it had on the people, that they had wiped out any possibility of that. That’s what sanctions do. Bush was very aggressive — he lifted sanctions on a record amount of Muslim countries, opened free trade. There’s 56 Muslim countries, according to the Organized Islamic Conference. At the end of Bush’s term, 53 out of those 56 were U.S. allies, giving us data on Al Qaeda or arresting Al Qaeda terrorists. And that was all a result of Bush lifting sanctions and opening free trade with them. So I worked with the Bush Administration, and that’s what I did — I said, “I think we should lift sanctions and open free trade,” and there were a lot of other officials saying the same thing and Bush responded. He did the intelligent, the right thing and he — the history, it’s going to take 25 years but middle classes are being built in the Muslim world right now.
The polling group Terror Free Tomorrow is confirming this, the Millennium Challenge Institute is confirming this. In 25 years there is going to be no Al Qaeda, the Muslim world is going to have a burgeoning middle class, and when you ask, “What was the catalyst of this?” George W. Bush is going to be a major figure of that. History’s going to prove him to be one of the finest presidents we’ve ever had. So I’m very proud that I supported Bush. I’ll never apologize for that. But in the current Republican Party, I haven’t met a single Tea Party group that celebrates George W. Bush, they all seem to throw him under the bus.
CS: And they were the calls to declare a war on Islam, which is something you also spoke out very specifically against in the past year?
MAH: Well, you know, if you want to go to war with Islam, again, there’s 56 countries, just pick one, go (laughs). But you know, as Terror Free Tomorrow proves, I really think there’s point — not 1 percent of the Muslim world is terrorist, I think 0.1 percent is. Nonetheless, it’s 1.3 billion people. You’re talking a 100,000 to 200,000 men and women who are willing to put a bomb on their chest. That’s pretty substantial. But if we alienate that other 1.3 billion just trying to go after 200,000, we’re going to make this war a lot worse.
CS: Right. Well, you’ve had some fascinating things to say today. We really appreciate you coming by.
MAH: It’s my pleasure. I think the only other thing I can add… I told the Westword this too, I’ll tell you in more detail, but losing office — it plays with your head, it really plays with your head because it’s difficult not to feel a little, I don’t know, insecure about the whole process. Me, it really was a path of self discovery, of just figuring out — before I figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I wanted to figure out who I was. And I found out I don’t have a circadian rhythm, I’m a type O blood type. And according to the Japanese, type O blood types eat a lot more meat, they shouldn’t eat so many vegetables. The circadian rhythm thing has been groundbreaking to me because I get most of my work done at night. Coupled with Deepak Chopra — I’ve always loved my life but I’m laughing more, I’m enjoying it more.
I’ve never prioritized intellect more. I mean I bought an Amazon Kindle, I’m trying to read more often. You can always tell when you’re with another intellectual because the first thing they’ll say is, “Well, I’m not very well read compared to other people.” (laughs) The moment someone says that they’re usually really well read. I’ve been seeing — I have a pastor in California that’s Christian, I have another minister who’s inter-faith, I have a lot of Jewish friends. I seek wisdom and guidance from a lot of people. But I’m very blessed — I have great health, I’ve got a great family, I’m so blessed to have this film career. I’ve never been happier. And the last thing I’d say is I adore Nancy Pelosi. The way she recruited me — I don’t agree with universal health care but I feel so blessed that there’s a person in charge who values equality so much. I think this could have gotten a lot worse if she wasn’t the Speaker. So I’m so blessed that she’s there and —
Okay, I keep saying the last thing. This is definitely the last thing, but fighting today for the immigrants, I mean fighting for the mosque is my second greatest accomplishment. Fighting for the DREAM Act right now is my greatest accomplishment. With the mosque, I received to many vilified e-mails, but I also received e-mails for people who were very thankful and I feel like the same arrows that were shot at Malcolm X and Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez, I feel like I’m pulling those same arrows out of my back right now. And I just, I go to bed every night with a smile on my face, so I’m excited.
[Ed. note: Hasan asked The Statesman to turn off the recorder so he could pass on scuttlebutt about one of the 2010 Republican campaigns off the record. He then agreed to continue the interview to talk about his relationship with Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis. McInnis lost a primary to Dan Maes after a plagiarism scandal erupted this summer involving work McInnis had done for the Hasan Family Foundation, which is run by relatives. Hasan emphasized that he wasn’t speaking for the foundation in his remarks.]
MAH: Now I can’t speak for the Foundation, because I’m not a Foundation board member, but, that said, there’s this rumor going around that the Hasan family had it out for Scott because he didn’t endorse me for the treasurer’s race.
CS: We’ve heard that.
Never asked Scott McInnis for his endorsement
MAH: The thing is, I never asked Scott for his endorsement. You can go through any record you want, you can put my campaign manager, Drew Dougherty, on the witness stand, because even Drew said, “Do you want to ask Scott for his endorsement?” I said, “Absolutely not.” I never asked Scott for his endorsement for treasurer. The reason why was because, when I was running for State House against Christine Scanlan in ’08, we were calling GOP legislators and former legislators asking for their endorsement. My campaign manager at the time, Kaye Ferry, called Scott, Scott refused to give his endorsement to me. And this was despite the fact that (former U.S. Rep. and 2008 Republican U.S. Senate nominee) Bob Schaffer traveled the entire district with me. Bob Schaffer did everything he could to try to help me win that seat. But Scott McInnis refused to endorse me.
CS: For House District 56?
MAH: Yes, refused to.
CS: For a particular reason, or because the Foundation was involved with him? [Ed. note: After McInnis left Congress in 2005, the Hasan Family Foundation engaged McInnis as a fellow to help solve issues surrounding Colorado’s water rights, paying him $300,000 to write a series of papers and deliver talks on the subject.]
MAH: No, I mean there was nothing —
CS: It wasn’t a like, ‘Let’s not make this look like a quid pro quo’?
CS: He just didn’t step up?
MAH: And I mean Scott actually — he was the one who suggested I run for Senate District 8 against (state Sen.) Al White (R-Hayden). So we started the campaign, the mechanism got going, and then Scott called me and said, “You know what, I’ve decided I’m going to endorse Al White.” And then it was at that point that I said, “Well, if I don’t have Scott McInnis’ endorsement, I don’t think I’m going to go very far in this race.” I’d also gotten to know Al and he seemed like a pretty decent guy and I started to say, “What am I doing running in a primary against a guy who seems pretty decent?”
And that’s when Mike May and (state House Speaker-designee) Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) and (state Rep.) David Balmer (R-Centennial), but especially Mike May, got in touch with me and said, “You know, we would really love to have you in the state House.” So my running for 56 was really a result of Mike May and I give some credit as well to David Balmer and Frank McNulty and (Republican Reps.) Amy Stephens and Jerry Sonnenberg and Jim Kerr. Those guys put together a very strong delegation and just said, “We would really love to have you.” And I was honored to run for them, I was very proud to be under their wing.
But no, Scott didn’t — Kaye never told me why Scott didn’t agree to endorse me for House District 56, which I didn’t understand because there wasn’t any other Republican running (laughs). So when it came time to garner endorsements for state treasurer, I never asked Scott. What was the point of asking if he wasn’t even going to endorse me for State House?
CS: So that didn’t have anything to do with what eventually happened?
MAH: I can’t speak for the Foundation. I mean, certainly after that experience with Scott, I, personally, I was disappointed because this was a dude, he was like an uncle to me. So you know, for me it was just very — It was kind of insulting that Bob Schaffer was driving up to Leadville doing everything he could to help me. And here I had never had a relationship with Bob Schaffer, yet Scott wasn’t doing anything. And, again, that’s why I’m so indebted to Bob. I mean, it showed to me how important the Republican Party was to Bob.
So it was disappointing but it wasn’t — it was never a vendetta thing. It wasn’t like I was out to get Scott McInnis, it was just (laughs) — it was one of those things where I just said, “Okay, well I guess I can’t rely on Scott McInnis.” So if I need advice or I need help, I think I’m going to call Bob Schaffer or I’ll call Mark Hillman or I’ll call Mike May or David Balmer.
CS: Have you had any correspondence or communication with Scott since — ?
MAH: No, I mean, I stopped having correspondence with him in 2008. Once he said, “I’m not going to endorse you for state House,” that was it (laughs). I mean, that’s when I would say my relationship with him ended.
CS: Where do you go from there?
MAH: Yeah. And I can’t speak for the Foundation board — all I know is, that they were taken by total surprise by all of this. I remember when my mother was watching the 9News report and they took (Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory) Hobbs’ work and they took McInnis’ work and they matched it up, my mother excused herself and I think she went to (be sick to her stomach) because she was so disgusted by it.
And so, no, we had no idea on that and the Foundation never told Scott he could hire a research assistant, so you know… Again, when my mother saw the interview with Rolly Fischer [the water expert McInnis blamed for the plagiarism], again, she said, “Okay, I’m going to (be sick to my stomach),” (laughs).
But I will compliment Scott McInnis, he paid back the money, so he paid back the entire $300,000. It was the Foundation that requested the money. It only took, from what I recall, just a few days, and it was back in the account. So he was very honorable in that regard.
CS: All of it, not on a payment schedule or anything?
MAH: No, he paid all of it. So that was very honorable of him. I know the Foundation appreciates that, I appreciate that he paid back the money.
I have not talked to him, though. I mean, I’ve got so many other friends in the Republican Party, you know, and quite frankly, I don’t want to take a shot at Scott McInnis, but when you compare it, either I can call Douglas Bruce or I can call Scott McInnis. And to me, Douglas Bruce has been much more consequential to the conservative cause than Scott McInnis can ever dream of. I’d rather call Douglas Bruce (laughs).
CS: Okay. I hope it’s OK that we asked you about that.
MAH: Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean hopefully it clears up — none of this was a — when the Foundation wanted the money back it was not a result of Scott not endorsing me for treasurer. I never asked him for his endorsement for treasurer.
CS: Wasn’t the story out there that releasing the papers and instigating the entire investigation was some sort of vendetta against Scott?
MAH: Well, the thing is —
CS: What you’re saying is that Foundation members, they learned about it at the same time the rest of the state did?
MAH: If I recall, I think it was (media critic) Jason Salzman asked for copies of the papers, I believe, in May.
CS: I think we all got those at the same time, with the word “Draft” stamped across them?
MAH: But Jason, I think, was the first to ask for them in April or May.
CS: Yes, right.
MAH: And if I recall, the Foundation resisted giving them, because the Foundation just didn’t — under non-profit rules you don’t have to disclose those sorts of things, but the Foundation just didn’t want to get involved in politics. So that’s the other thing that boggles my mind. I mean if the Foundation was out to get Scott McInnis (laughs), you would think they would voluntarily release the papers. The reason I recall why my mother said she was going to release the papers, because Scott McInnis had announced that he was going to release the papers and my mother said, “You know what, we’d better release what he’s given us too just so that — ”
CS: Make sure they match?
MAH: Yes. So that’s when my mother made the corporate decision that OK, we’re going to release everything he gave us. Because she’s the chairman and I think at first she and the rest of the board members — and, to my knowledge there’s board members who aren’t part of the Hasan family, so there’s entities outside of the Hasan family who’ve talked about this too — but their attitude was, this is a high profile governor’s race, let’s not get involved. But once they found out that Scott McInnis’ campaign was going to release papers …
CS: They felt they —
MAH: Yeah, they felt that they should release everything. And I’m pretty sure if you read what my mother released, I think there was e-mail correspondence that she revealed, the papers. I mean, she put out everything that she had received. But again, I would just say that Scott paid back all the money, everyone’s very happy that he paid that back. The Foundation has an agreement with him that, if asked, they’re going to say that he paid it back, “We’re very happy that he paid it,” you know? We don’t want to drag him through the mud anymore, you know? He paid the money back (laughs), so we’re happy about that.