Interview: Ali Hasan says that as state Treasurer, he’d invest in more Colorado-based companies
Ali Hasan, the owner of a small Avon-based film production company, RABIA LLC, and a Republican candidate for state Treasurer, wants to put Colorado’s $6.3 billion bond portfolio to work financing Colorado-based companies and companies that have significant operations in the state rather than in what he calls “bailout companies.”
Bailout companies received and were
forced to take TARP money from the Bush and Obama administrations at the height of the financial crisis, which began more than two years ago.
Hasan is a skilled presenter and campaigner. It’s clear that he’s done his homework. He is attending and speaking to as many of the 160 Republican groups in the state that meet regularly as he can. If he’s not the featured speaker, he generally is given a few minutes to introduce himself and make his pitch with a white board that he carries with him. “If you can’t tell your story in under six minutes, you shouldn’t be in politics,” he said in an interview in Colorado Springs last week. Drew Dougherty is Hasan’s full time campaign manager and frequently travels to events with him.
Asked about his qualifications for the Treasurer’s job, Hasan says that while he doesn’t have formal training in accounting or finance, he has run his small company, has been investing for a few years and helps manage his family’s stock portfolio.
Hasan is running against J. J. Ament and Walker Stapleton for the Republican nomination for Treasurer. A Democrat incumbent, Cary Kennedy, is running for a second term. His advantage over the other candidates, he says, is that he’s a fiscal conservative.
One of the biggest jobs of the state treasurer is to manage Colorado’s investments in bonds for five different portfolios. The treasurer isn’t allowed to invest in equities. Under state law, the treasurer invests its money that require the investments be legal, safe, liquid and good deals, Hasan said. He wouldn’t ask for changes in the law. The treasurer makes investments with the advice of a deputy treasurer and three in-house financial advisers, but he or she doesn’t have to follow their advice, according to Hasan, a Pueblo native.
Asked how he would go about selling debt securities issued by bailout companies, Hasan said, “I’d only sell as long as we’d get a good price back. If I can sell for a good price before maturity, I’ll sell them. Otherwise, I’ll wait until maturity.”
Commenting on Kennedy’s investments in bonds issued by “bailout companies,” Hasan said, “There is a chance that those companies could have gone to zero. She was really holding us hostage. These companies have proven incompetence and corruption. That she was invested in them shows bad judgment.”
The treasury cash portfolio holds debt securities that mature in a year or less. In the other four portfolios, maturities run up to five years. The shorter the maturities, the less risk and, generally, the lower returns. In 2008, under Kennedy, the state earned about a 3% return in a low-interest rate market, Hasan said. He made no promises to improve the returns or reduce risks. No one can predict interest rates, and the state law ensures that risks are minimized.
Another major part of the job, now held by Treasurer Cary Kennedy who is seeking re-election, is to sit on PERA’s 16-person board of directors. PERA is in deep financial trouble because it lost about 30% of its equity in the 2008 crash. It reportedly had about an 18% gain in 2009. Hasan was not critical of Kennedy’s performance as a director of PERA.
“I would increase the retirement age [for PERA beneficiaries) to at least 60 from 50,” Hasan said, adding, “The General Assembly or PERA can make that decision. Around 400,000 Coloradans collect PERA benefits. A lot of politicians are afraid to anger that big voting block.”
The state treasurer also borrows about $1 billion a year and lends a major portion of it to school districts at a zero interest rate. Hasan said that he would be tougher on the school districts than Kennedy has been. The only power the treasurer has over the districts is to take their property if they get into financial trouble. Former Treasurer Mike Coffman took over a couple of school districts.
If he becomes treasurer, Hasan said, fewer districts would seek the interest-free loans because they’d know he would be more likely to take them over if they got in financial trouble than they and he think Kennedy would.
Hasan said that if elected, he would work with Colorado-based companies to strengthen their credit ratings so that he could invest in them. He also would work to strengthen TABOR and make it “the most permanent part of our state constitution.”
The treasurer has to loan to districts that submit fully and accurately prepared applications for loans, Hasan said. Asked if he would help districts complete their applications accurately, Hasan replied, that he would not because he wants school districts to cut their spending.
Hasan thinks he can raise more than $250,000 of the $300,000 to $400,000 it will take to run a campaign through the general election in November. If he isn’t nominated at the Republican’s state assembly, he said, he will not petition to get on the ballot.
Colorado • Interviews, Audience Questions, Answers • Politics •
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