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The Rainmakers: California's top political donors, 2001-2011

Lavishing their largesse on legislators and political committees alike, the largest donors to California politics spent $1.25 billion from 2001 through 2011. The group — 50 special interests and 50 wealthy individuals — spans the Golden State's social order. They are corporate leaders and venture capitalists, real estate developers and Hollywood scions. They are energy and tobacco companies, labor unions and tribal governments. Collectively, they shelled out a third of all the money given to campaigns in the state during the 11-year period. This data includes only contributions to candidates and ballot measure committees, not independent expenditure groups.

Sacramento Bee

Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, Sacramento, CA

AKT Development


Win/loss percentage

93 percent

$563,516 to winners, $41,650 to losers

Angelo Tsakopoulos is the wealthy patriarch of a California family that has been generous to Democratic Party causes over the years. Tsakopoulos’ donations to former President Bill Clinton were rewarded with a night in the prestigious Lincoln Bedroom. Born in Rizes, Greece, Tsakopoulos came to the U.S. in his teens. He founded AKT Development, which has been one of the leading developers in the Sacramento region for years. His daughter, Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, was named President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Hungary. Tsakopoulos is a former business partner of Phil Angelides, who unsuccessfully ran for governor of California in 2006. The Tsakopoulos family provided Angelides with about $5 million in campaign contributions for that election.

Total contributions: $4,421,316

70 donations: 59 to candidates, 3 to ballot measures and 8 to parties

List of contributions

Source: Contribution data from National Institute on Money in State Politics

Credits: Interactive by Michael Corey, Coulter Jones and Chase Davis. Reporting by Coulter Jones. Badge design by Thomas Guffey. Additional reporting by Stanford University students enrolled in a Communications Department investigative reporting class under the direction of California Watch Editorial Director Mark Katches. The project began in January 2011. Students participating were: Devin Banerjee, Daniel Bohm, Kathleen Chaykowski, Tom Corrigan, Cassandra Feliciano, Jamie Hansen, Amy Harris, Josh Hicks, Ellen Huet, Julia James, Paul Jones, Ryan Mac, Valentina Nesci, Dean Schaffer, Elizabeth Titus and Kareem Yasin. Bohm, Hansen, Huet, Harris and Titus continued to work on the project as California Watch interns under the direction of Associate Editor Denise Zapata.


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