A Democratic house divided

Times Staff Writer

For the better part of two decades, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton have counted on the support and money of the Tsakopoulos clan of the Sacramento Valley.

Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis is one of Sen. Clinton’s most active fundraisers, having hosted numerous Northern California galas for her Democratic presidential campaign. Patriarch Angelo Tsakopoulos, a major Sacramento developer and one of the former president’s early California backers, supports the New York senator as well.

But on Monday, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, Angelo’s son and Eleni’s brother, said he was backing Democrat Barack Obama.


The lawyer and developer said he would fly to Chicago today to confer with Obama’s campaign about how he could best help. He is offering to raise money for the Illinois senator.

Obama “will restore our credibility internationally,” he said, adding that he came to the conclusion after this month’s Los Angeles debate. He said California First Lady Maria Shriver’s endorsement of Obama inspired him.

Tsakopoulos, 38, went out of his way to say the decision did not reflect any family schism. He called his father his “hero in business and public affairs.” But he added that his father also taught him to follow his conscience.

“I love Hillary Clinton; she is a great public servant,” the younger Tsakopoulos said. “This is not a choice about good and bad candidates. It is a choice of conscience. Barack Obama has moved me.”

Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, 41, declined to comment. Her father could not be reached.

The family has donated and raised millions of dollars for Democrats in California and across the country.


They poured $10 million into an independent campaign in a failed attempt to help former state Treasurer Phil Angelides become governor in 2006.

Kyriakos Tsakopoulos has donated $225,000 to federal candidates and campaigns over the last decade, including $4,600 to Clinton’s presidential campaign at the end of 2007, Federal Election Commission records show. He has spent at least $700,000 more on California politics since 2000, much of it going to Placer County, where he has development interests.

He was appointed to the California State University’s Board of Trustees by then-Gov. Gray Davis -- a post he still holds. Tsakopoulos and his father, now 71, joined Davis in 1999 on a trade mission to Greece.

The elder Tsakopoulos was one of the major Democratic donors who slept in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House during the Clinton administration. He told the Washington Post that the stay “was the proudest day of my life.”