New round in long-time California political feud as wealthy Greek-Americans pick sides

Alex Spanos, whose contributions to Gov. Schwarzenegger and the governor’s
initiative committees this year total $2 million, gave $25,000 to Democratic
gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly last January. That donation continues a
long tradition of Greek-American Spanos bankrolling candidates running
against State Treasurer Phil Angelides, a fellow Greek-American who is
running for governor.

In 1998, Spanos was a top-10 contributor to every Republican statewide
candidate, donating more than $1 million in all. The biggest chunk of
Spanos’ giving however, $450,000, went to Curt Pringle, the Republican
candidate for state treasurer.

Pringle’s opponent: Phil Angelides.

Pringle had contemplated running for state controller, but, according to
Pringle, Spanos wanted a strong candidate for treasurer.

“If I do it, I need you to be my campaign chairman and help me raise money,”
Pringle recalls telling Spanos. “And he did both.”

Jude Barry, Westly’s campaign manager, says the Westly camp has not paid any
attention to Spanos, but adds that “maybe we can convince him to
re-register, to switch sides.”

Barry notes that Spanos has given to other Democrats, including Sen. Tom
Torlakson, D-Antioch, Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, and San Francisco mayor
Gavin Newsom. But none of those donations come close to the $25,000 Spanos
contributed to Westly–or the millions Spanos has given to Republicans.

At the time of the Spanos donation, Westly was not a declared candidate for
governor. In fact, he was actively campaigning with Schwarzenegger,
appearing in ads with the governor to promote Schwarzenegger’s deficit-bond
proposals, Propositions 57 and 58. Westly even gave Schwarzenegger a $200
box of cigars in 2004, according to records filed with the Fair Political
Practices Commission.

Westly and Angelides are the only two declared Democratic candidates for
governor, and will face off in a high-cost primary next June. Westly has
already raised $11.4 million, the lion’s share of which, $10 million, comes
from deposits the former eBay executive made into his own campaign account.
Angelides has raised more than $14.4 million in his campaign account.
The Angelides campaign declined to comment on the past, and possibly future
donations by Spanos to Westly.

Throughout his political career, Angelides himself has received support from
a different Greek mega-donor, Angelo Tsakopoulos, who he used to work for.
The Sacramento-based developer magnate gave Angelides $1 million in his
unsuccessful bid for state treasurer in 1994 and followed that up with
$350,000 in 1998 (with the donations divided between Tsakopoulos’ personal
and corporate giving).

Tsakopoulos’ firm, AKT Development, has donated $500,000 to a campaign
committee currently controlled by Angelides, and he, as well as two of his
daughters Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis and Katina Tsakopoulos, have each
given Angelides gubernatorial campaign $21,200.

“I haven’t seen many donations to Democrats,” Pringle says of Spanos. “But
maybe in this case he does have a preference for one over the other.”

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