DNC Day 3: The Superdelegate and Money Man

After the Asian American caucus meeting on Wednesday morning I had the chance to speak with Democratic superdelegate-at-large Kamil Hasan (appointed by Howard Dean). Hasan is an entrepreneur from the Bay Area and a partner at HiTek Ventures. He is also a member of the IndoAmerican Council whose mission is as follows:

iForum is a non-partisan organization with a mission to:

1. Empower the Indo-American community to be more active in public service so that it can influence the future strategic direction of our country and major policies of our government.

2. Inspire and mentor aspiring young Indo-Americans to get involved in public service and run for office, and to provide them material and strategic support to ensure their success.

3. Identify and prioritize issues of major importance to the Indo-American community, develop white papers on these issues, and develop a mechanism to address them.

4. Create a forum for exchange of ideas between the community, elected officials and influential leaders on issues important to the community. [Link]

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Hasan warmed to me when I told him that I grew up in the Bay Area. Ravi and I (and several journalists here reporting for Indian newspapers) have found that the South Asian American finance folks (the top fundraisers) are pretty tightly controlled and so the press (when acting in an official capacity) is kept at arms length from them. Mr. Hasan however, was kind enough to speak with me.

Hasan raised a lot of cash for Kerry back in 2004 as a top bundler. His wife also hosted fundraisers for Hillary Clinton in their Bay Area home (with Bill in tow). Then, on June 1st of this year with Clinton’s fate sealed, Barack Obama called him up for his delegate vote. Mr. Hasan told me that he spoke to Obama for a few moments to make sure he supported the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and a few other issues of importance, especially to Indian Americans of his generation. Since then Hasan has been a top bundler for Obama, in fact, he was the one that organized and hosted the “I’m a desi” event in San Francisco a few weeks ago. We both found a lot of humor in Obama’s comments about making dal. My last question to Hasan was if he had any children and if they were as in to politics as him. Hasan has two daughters. One is an attorney in the bay area and the other is still in school as a poli-sci major. The younger one was already raising funds for California state level candidates when she was just 19. Seems like we have a dynasty in the making here.

Hasan represents the archetype of the “rich uncle” in Indian American politics (and I don’t mean that as a pejorative here). He knows what his issues are and is in a financial position to advocate vigorously for those issues. I’ve seen a lot of folks here, 2nd generation unlike Hasan, who will “be” Hasan in just a few more years. I think it is important that those young financiers allow themselves to be more vocal about what exactly their issues are, just like Hasan was.

Ravi and I, political outsiders that we are, have come to understand just what a central role money plays in politics. It is even more central when you come from a minority group as small as South Asians in America. Unless you show that you come with “resources” you don’t get access to power. I’ve been wondering to myself over the last few days if being in the thick of things makes you confuse the means with the end. Its hard not to get caught up in this world of luncheons, handshakes and bundling.

27 thoughts on “DNC Day 3: The Superdelegate and Money Man

  1. Unless you show that you come with “resources” you don’t get access to power.

    Good for you, at last, you are figuring things out.

    Not to be cynical, “resources” is the key, be it money or values connection (in case of Bobby Jindal, his catholism in South Louisiana).

    Now, start becoming rich, and connecting to hispanic population in town.

  2. Ravi and I, political outsiders that we are, have come to understand just what a central role money plays in politics.

    Or life in general. Ravi’s only 18, what’s your excuse? :)

    But seriously, I’ve enjoyed the posts from DNC, both yours and Ravi’s, and this one in particular.

    And if you can, you really should get a picture of Sidharth wearing the ‘Macaca’ T-shirt, and you wearing the Donuts T-shirt interviewing Biden.

  3. And if you can, you really should get a picture of Sidharth wearing the ‘Macaca’ T-shirt, and you wearing the Donuts T-shirt interviewing Biden.

    We met S.R. yesterday. Really tall dude and no more mohawk. Ravi and I are under the impression that he wants to put the macaca stuff behind him so we weren’t planning on pushing it.

  4. It’s interesting that the India-US nuclear deal is seen as a litmus test for getting support from the Indian community in the US. That may be true for some people, but I doubt it’s a concern for most Indian Americans who are more concerned with issues that affect all Americans (healthcare, iraq, economy, etc.). I hate for what is important to me to be defined by Hasan types who purport to (at least implicitly) speak for the Indian community in the US

  5. most Indian Americans who are more concerned with issues that affect all Americans (healthcare, iraq, economy, etc.).

    Has any poll been conducted that shows what issues most indian-americans are concerned about? Can’t be Iraq – most don’t have family members in the armed forces. Can’t be healthcare – the %age of Indian americans without insurance is miniscule. Economy is hardly dictated by a President.

    So what are the issues they are concerned about?

    M. Nam

  6. I hate for what is important to me to be defined by Hasan types who purport to (at least implicitly) speak for the Indian community in the US

    Atool ji, why don’t you put money where your mouth is …………..be a bundler, or a populist leader or whatevea. He doesn’t define anything for you (if you do not want to be part of), he has the resources and means to define what he, and people of his wavelength think is important, and he goes the distance.

    Kamil and Talat Hasan are in fact, quite accomplished, if you read their bio.

  7. Atool, Only if I had the resources to arrange for a poll, I would love to prove to you that the Nuclear deal is more important for Indian – Americans, DBD and ABD, than health care and the Iraq war.

  8. Bundlers are the real grease that make the wheels of politics turn smoothly. I came to know about the capabilities of Mr. Hasan in the last election cycle when he was organizing fundraisers for the Dem. nominee. It is good to have the powerful people listening to some Desi voices.

    It would be foolhardy to think that the nuclear deal will not help Indian-Americans. In fact Indian-Americans and maily ABDs might turn out to be the real beneficiaries of the $10 billion of contracts that are supposed to be generated out of this deal with majority going to the US based corporations.

  9. Yup, I came to this realization (money, and it’s importance) about three years ago. And, I’m much older than Ravi. My excuse is that I always thought it was other people who were supposed to give the money. Then, I looked around, and realized, 2004 was a biggie, that if money mattered, that I was going to have to be one of the ones who gave for the issues I cared about.

    Then, I started hearing stories about folks who make 30K a year giving $20 to Obama, via the internet, and I realized how much power people w/ 30K could have, if they could all be counted on to do that. So, yup, if you care about something, start sending money.

  10. 8 · Fidelis Bozo said

    I would love to prove to you that the Nuclear deal is more important for Indian – Americans, DBD and ABD, than health care and the Iraq war.

    The war The Economy The assault on reproductive freedom.

    I’m Indian American and THOSE are the issues I care about and are basing my vote on. I was born here. I was raised here. I’m going to die here. I love India and am thrilled at its victories and progress (I was scowling every time I heard someone say that India could never do what China did, with the olympics), but that doesn’t mean that my affection for a country I have almost nothing to do with trumps my real, day-to-day concerns.

    More people than you realize have friends and family in Iraq. I know, we model minority desis aren’t supposed to involve ourselves in something which lacks prestige, like the military, but there are always black (brown?) sheep who buck the norm and enlist, or go ROTC. Their lives shouldn’t be wasted in Iraq. That (and other domestic concerns) are more of a priority for me than some nuke deal.

    I can understand why DBDs are obsessed with it, but I’m not a DBD– but I’m just as Indian-American as they are.

  11. I think it’s fair to say that policy positions are different among Indian-Americans, depending on an individual’s own priorities. I’m an ABD, but I actually consider the India-US nuclear deal to be my highest priority for American foreign policy ahead of Iraq. I know some DBD’s who could care less, they are much more interested in things like universal health care and improving our economy.

    Indian-Americans are not some monolithic group and our concerns can’t be bundled together as neatly as some would have it. Overall, I would think that for most DBDs, the nuclear deal is probably of high importance but overall a bit less so for ABDs.

    Regardless, Atool’s and Fidelis’ comments are misplaced. If supporting the nuclear deal has become a litmus test, it’s only because so many of the Indo-Americans who donate money have made it their top priority. If you don’t really care about that, you could either create your own group or donate money to groups that support your policy positions.

    But it seems rather strange to require that Indian-Americans groups specifically concern themselves with issues that the mainstream political parties and PACs already address. One would think the entire purpose of an Indian-American political organization would be to raise awareness and concern about issues that are particularly of interest to Indian-Americans but don’t get much play in mainstream political debates (i.e. guest worker visas, the nuclear deal)

  12. 4 · atool said

    I hate for what is important to me to be defined by Hasan types who purport to (at least implicitly) speak for the Indian community in the US

    ‘Hasan types’ work on making what’s important to them matter to policy makers. Your type just spews out lazy ass comments on a random blog. Guess who ends up representing the Indian community in the US?

  13. Was this covered by the Sepiateam?

    The growing clout of Indian Americans in the American political arena is reflected in the record number of Indian American delegates and other participants at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, said speakers at a reception hosted by the Indian American Leadership Initiative at the Denver Athletic Club Aug. 25.

    From: Indian Americans Flex Muscle at Democratic Convention

  14. 5 · MoorNam

    Has any poll been conducted that shows what issues most indian-americans are concerned about? Can’t be Iraq – most don’t have family members in the armed forces. Can’t be healthcare – the %age of Indian americans without insurance is miniscule. Economy is hardly dictated by a President. So what are the issues they are concerned about? M. Nam

    From AALDEF / SAALT/ others 2006 exit poll mostly in the Northeast:

    South Asian-Americans: 75% Democrat, 4% Republican, 16% not enrolled, remainder “Other” Asian-Americans, most important issue to be addressed in 2008 Presidential Race: 26% Economy/Jobs; 19% Health Care; 19% War in Iraq; 14% Education; 9% Terrorism/Security; 9% Immigration

    From SAALT backgrounder on AALDEF / SAALT / others 2004 exit poll, mostly in the Northeast:

    Top 3 issues Indian-Americans: Civil Liberties (24%), Hate Crimes, Immigration Backlogs Bangladeshi-Americans: Civil Liberties (41%), Hate Crimes, Immigration Backlogs Pakistani-Americans: Civil Liberties (32%), Legalizaton, Hate Crimes Indo-Caribbean: Worker Rights, Civil Liberties (15%), Legalization 90% of South Asian voters voted for Kerry

  15. South Asian-Americans: 75% Democrat, 4% Republican

    And to think my mommy blames herself for not being able to find me a legitimate wife–I’ll pass this along so she feel less guilty! ;-)

  16. 13 · Budugu said

    Your type just spews out lazy ass comments on a random blog.

    Not so random that you’d ignore it?

    Guess who ends up representing the Indian community in the US?

    We do.

    Any other lazy ass comments you want to make? His opinion is just as valid as yours (and his was more civil).

  17. 8 · Fidelis Bozo said I would love to prove to you that the Nuclear deal is more important for Indian – Americans, DBD and ABD, than health care and the Iraq war. The war The Economy The assault on reproductive freedom. I’m Indian American and THOSE are the issues I care about and are basing my vote on. I was born here. I was raised here. I’m going to die here. I love India and am thrilled at its victories and progress (I was scowling every time I heard someone say that India could never do what China did, with the olympics), but that doesn’t mean that my affection for a country I have almost nothing to do with trumps my real, day-to-day concerns.

    Well, CR, in that case you should be pleased that this guy is footing the bill for your candidate and party, in xchange of support for an issue you don’t care so much about. He obviously likes democrats, and might even agree with all the issues you raise. Its a bit much to ask that everyone who supports Obama should support him for exactly the reasons you have. Whatever happened to bringing people together, reaching across the aisle, wagerah, wagerah.

  18. 18 · sakshi said

    Its a bit much to ask that everyone who supports Obama should support him for exactly the reasons you have.

    And when did I ask for that? I was responding to a previous commenters (in my opinion, erroneous) assertion about “my” priorities as an ABD/Indian American. But I like your latent hostility, even if it’s wholly undeserved.

  19. 18 · sakshi said Its a bit much to ask that everyone who supports Obama should support him for exactly the reasons you have. And when did I ask for that? I was responding to a previous commenters (in my opinion, erroneous) assertion about “my” priorities as an ABD/Indian American. But I like your latent hostility, even if it’s wholly undeserved.

    Well yeah, you said DBDs were obsessed with it, and that pissed me off. I admit I should have read what you were responding to more carefully.

  20. And to think my mommy blames herself for not being able to find me a legitimate wife–I’ll pass this along so she feel less guilty! ;-)

    wow! not to make too much light of it because i’m pretty familiar with the family/self conflict, but it’s comments like these that make me wish i had formal training in therapy :)

  21. To the extent that normal Indians and Indian Americans don’t care about the impending energy crisis in the normal day to day life, the US-India deal doesn’t matter to either of those communities since there is enough of dirty coal, gasoline and natural gas to bing upon in the next 100 yrs for both countries. But comments above do raise an interesting question as to what exactly are the unique policy issues that affects Indian-Americans if ethniticy/race based categorization is the basis for getting political support from any party ? Neverthless why should Indian issues matter so much for Indian-Americans voting in American elections ? And even if Indian/South-Asian issues do come into the discussion then what are the unique policy issues relevant to Indian-Americans ?

  22. 22 · Vicy Cristina Barcelona said

    But comments above do raise an interesting question as to what exactly are the unique policy issues that affects Indian-Americans if ethniticy/race based categorization is the basis for getting political support from any party ? Neverthless why should Indian issues matter so much for Indian-Americans voting in American elections ? And even if Indian/South-Asian issues do come into the discussion then what are the unique policy issues relevant to Indian-Americans ?

    If Indian-Americans consider themselves Americans then it is natural that they should enthusiastically support policies that lead to stronger ties between USA and India. This is a list of a few things where America can benefit from with stronger ties with India.

    o India is one of the few countries where America enjoys a favorable image, this in spite of strong American support for Pakistan and its military. o India is a growing economy and potential market for American goods. o India is a sovereign democratic republic that has cultivated good relations with countries which current American administration deems ‘rogue’ – like Iran. USA can learn a lot from India on how to manage these relations better.
    o From the military perspective India one of the largest military – Indians soldiers have been deployed all over the world as UN peace keepers. Americans can learn a LOT from Indian military on how to manage peace [ When American Marines were kicking arse in Ethiopia - right before the infamous 'back hawk down' episode, Indian Armed forces (apart from peace keeping) were providing vaccinations and general health care for civilians. ]

    Check the map of South Asia and find a country which is a democracy, secular, multilingual, multiethnic and a stable nation state.

  23. Check the map of South Asia and find a country which is a democracy, secular, multilingual, multiethnic and a stable nation state.

    If you find one, let me know ;) Unless you’re trying to describe the one that can’t send its army to 15-20% of its territory because its controlled by Maoists or other rebels, the one that has two major parties both of whom are implicated in communal pogroms in the last 25 years, and the one that is about to enter a period of major upheaval whose outcome is anything but certain.

    Would recommend to people actually seriously interested in these issues Ayesha Jalal’s Democracy and Authoritarianism in Comparative Context to understand the similarities and differences among India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

  24. Hurray! Nothing like giving nuclear technology (much of which will not be monitored) to a nation that refuses to sign the NPT, has close foreign relations with Iran and Russia, has seven states with laws outlawing conversion to any religion but Hinduism, and which routinely slaughters its minority populations and/or harbors (a la Modi) those state officials who do.

  25. 23 · Sulabh said

    o India is a growing economy and potential market for American goods.

    What American goods besides the Old El Paso taco shells that are all the rage at kitty parties do you speak of? Subsidized agricultural commodities?