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Nevertheless, as Ali toured the district, he grew determined that he could represent it better. He hadn't lived in Beaver Creek long enough to earn a reputation on pressing issues like water, oil revenue or education, but he was certain that White had gone about fixing them all wrong. It was time to take the Western Slope's interests back, he told people he met along the campaign trail. And time to take the Republican Party back for the people and not the politicians.
He would do this, he promised, even if it meant using his personal investment fund to bankroll himself into a bloody primary with White.
That night, Ali was in high spirits. The Young Republicans event had gone well, even though it had turned out to be more Republican than young. A small group knocked back beers and pizzas, laughing that conservatives do too know how to have fun. Ali doesn't drink in public, saying that alcohol incites him to anger, so he hung out in the corner, practicing his swing dance moves for an upcoming Republican party in Denver. Late in the evening, he drove home through the pavilion-like checkpoint that separates Beaver Creek's mansions from the townhomes and apartments in Avon.
Originally from Pueblo, Ali began spending time in Beaver Creek at the age of eleven, when his multimillionaire father, Malik, a partially retired HMO executive, and his mother, Seeme, a longtime Republican activist, bought the 28,000-square-foot home. The ship-like mansion was commissioned by a Mexican gangster with a taste for ivory, and some of the Asian artwork he owned still graces the halls. The home boasts eighteen bathrooms and eleven bedrooms, a dungeon-like wine cellar, a pool and a sauna, a dining room with a gold chandelier and a painted-cloud ceiling, a gazebo, and two bronze greyhounds flanking the front door. A more impressive residence than their Pueblo abode, the Hasan family took to reuniting there when Ali and his sister Asma returned from boarding school near Boston for the holidays. Seeme and Malik traveled between homes in Colorado, Las Vegas and Southern California.
When Ali moved back for good last May, he first dove into a series of real-estate ventures with his mother and a friend. But as he got to know people in the area, he realized it might be time to act on his long-held desire to run for office. "I said, 'Why am I biding my time?' If it works out, it does. But if it doesn't, at least I'm not coming home at night feeling like I could do more with my life."
His mother urged him to take on White, who she felt had abandoned some of her conservative principles, and in mid-October, Ali filed paperwork. Like Seeme, Ali is moderate on social issues but considers himself a staunch fiscal Republican, imploring the party to return to its Reagan-esque roots of small government and accountability. Over the past fourteen years, the Hasans have become some of the United States' most prolific Republican donors, personally giving more than $725,000 to Republican candidates and causes, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks political donations. The family also vigorously raised money for President Bush, a man they say has done more Muslim outreach than any recent leader. In 2004, Malik attained Pioneer status, a label reserved for those who have raised at least $100,000. Today the family is still close with the president, and Ali considers him an "uncle" figure. Their mansion is spotted with photos of Seeme and Bush outside of his Crawford, Texas, ranch.
In spite of the family's monetary contributions, Malik contends that Seeme and Ali's activism — in particular with Muslims for Bush — has earned them a special connection with the president. "When Bush sees Seeme and Ali, he gets animated," he says. "Both want to work for him, not just with their money, but with their hearts." Ali even beseeched the president for advice on his state Senate run during a recent trip to Washington. "I told him, 'Mr. President, this campaign stuff is hard.' He looked at me and said, 'Yeah. You have to have a sense of humor.'"
As Ali continued on the campaign trail — at times facing questions about his inexperience from White supporters — Seeme and Malik were quick to remind him why they left Pakistan for America. There, they said, rampant cronyism would have prevented a newcomer from running for office. But in America, Ali was free to give it a shot, no matter what the Republican kingmakers, as Ali calls them, thought of him.
Malik grew up in India as part of a wealthy family and later moved to Pakistan to attend medical school. But he realized that "society there wasn't merit-based," and he decided to move to the United States with Seeme and their young daughter Aliya. The family went to Chicago in 1971, then relocated to Pueblo, when a medical firm recruited Malik, a neurologist, for his expertise.
Over the next couple of decades, the Hasans became increasingly well known, and their influence expanded with their finances.
In 1985, shortly after the advent of managed care in the United States, Malik started his own Pueblo-based HMO called QualMed. He urged his friends and colleagues to invest in the venture, and those who did eventually made millions. The operation, in downtown Pueblo, grew as it acquired ailing HMOs around the country, and so did Malik's wealth. In 1991, QualMed went public, and Malik's investments soared to a market value of $67 million, according to Health Against Wealth, George Anders's book on managed care. A few years later, QualMed merged with a California company to create Health Systems International, Inc. Yet another merger earned Malik a spot on Forbes magazine's 1998 list of top paid executives; he had gleaned $28.6 million over a five-year period. (Ali won't disclose how much he or his family is now worth, saying he doesn't want to jeopardize their safety.) But in 1999, Malik and other executives sold QualMed, laying off employees in Pueblo and closing the downtown building,