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Envoy had business ties to Pelosi’s hubby
Question of the Day
Mrs. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis declined to comment. She and her husband, Markos Kounalakis, former president of Washington Monthly, have donated $438,880 to federal candidates and committees since 1989 with 95 percent going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). Most of the donations were in her name.
Mrs. Pelosi’s House financial disclosure statements show that since 1991, Mr. Pelosi has invested in at least four real estate deals with AKT Development. He held interest in two AKT partnerships at the end of 2008, according to the financial disclosure forms.
The CRP, a research group based in Washington, D.C., that tracks money in politics and the effect of money and lobbying activity on elections and public policy, ranked Mrs. Pelosi as the 13th wealthiest member of the House in 2008, thanks in large part to her husband’s investments. CRP put the couple’s net worth at $31.3 million.
President Obama nominated Mrs. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis as ambassador to Hungary in October, with the White House describing her in a statement as a “businesswoman, civic leader and philanthropist,” saying she had “spearheaded major projects that are now home to thousands of families.” The statement said she had “worked tirelessly on public policy issues both locally and nationally.”
Like his predecessors, Mr. Obama has rewarded major political fundraisers with ambassadorships - nearly all of whom raised significant amounts of money for his presidential campaign.
But the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis nomination was an unusual choice in that she was not an Obama fundraiser, but a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign bundler in the 2008 presidential race, who pledged to raise at least $100,000. She has raised more than $1 million for Mrs. Clinton since the former first lady’s race for the U.S. Senate in 2000.
A November CRP study said Mr. Obama appointed 26 bundlers from the 2008 campaign to ambassadorships - 24 of whom had raised money for him. Only two raised money for others - Mrs. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, now ambassador to China, who raised at least $100,000 for Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate.
Mrs. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis became an Obama supporter after Mrs. Clinton left the 2008 race, donating $4,600 to his campaign.
In January, Mrs. Pelosi and Angelo Tsakopoulos stood next to the new ambassador as she was sworn in by Mrs. Clinton, now secretary of state. Her confirmation was never in doubt, having received endorsements at the November hearing from both of California’s Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with her fellow Greek-American, Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Mrs. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis was confirmed by the Senate on Dec. 24 and sworn in on Jan. 7.
Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi, said the speaker “did support” Mrs. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis in her bid to become ambassador, noting that “recommendations are made to the administration by a variety of people for positions within the administration.”
“And,” he said, “it is not unusual for members to testify on behalf of nominees.” He noted that the two families “have known each other for years, going back before the speaker was in office.”
Mr. Elshami said Mrs. Pelosi complied with House rules and that her husband’s investments with the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis business were listed on her annual personal financial disclosure statements.
The White House declined to comment for the story, choosing not to answer questions about the nomination and what role, if any, Mrs. Pelosi played in the selection
A State Department spokesman said only that ambassadors, whether political appointees or career diplomats, are named by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, and serve “at the pleasure of the president.
About the Author
By Matt Kibbe
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