Capitol Alert

Ex-ambassador pushed for ‘Chipotle-type moment in Sacramento’ for Hillary Clinton

Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, on Jan. 15, 2008.
Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, on Jan. 15, 2008. Sacramento Bee File

Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, preparing to host a fundraiser last fall for Hillary Clinton, mulled the way she could draw attention to her native Sacramento.

A former ambassador to Hungary who now lives in San Francisco, Kounalakis knew she wanted a splashy event that could attract attention from media.

In a newly-surfaced email sent to Josh Schwerin, national spokesman for Clinton, she suggested a coffee shop visit that might stir up a frenzy similar to the Democratic presidential candidate’s April 2015 lunch stop at a Chipotle in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. Clinton was barely recognized at the time, but the lunch later went viral.

“This is a HUGE deal for Sacramento,” Kounalakis wrote before holding the fundraiser at the home of her father, the developer and mega-donor Angelo K. Tsakopoulos. “Every news outlet will be out in front of the venue gate, and the evening news will be full of images of her motorcade coming in and out of our family’s large home.”

“This could be a great opportunity for a Sacramento ‘Chipotle’ moment, but probably better if it’s a cafe,” she added. “There are several cafes between the airport and the house, and she could stop in and pick up a coffee.”

Kounalakis’ plans were buried in the mountain of hacked correspondence posted online by Wikileaks. It was one of several emails sent by Kounalakis to Clinton officials, including campaign chairman John Podesta, in which she discussed organizing fundraisers involving California U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris and ex-Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, and talked about wanting an official role on the Clinton campaign.

Ahead of the Sacramento fundraiser, Kounalakis offered to accompany Clinton on her proposed stop, reasoning that “this is my home town too, and I’m the ONLY US Ambassador ever appointed from Sacramento.” If Clinton’s team wasn’t interested in a cafe, she floated another, more complex possibility.

Because the motorcade was to pass over the American River, which was low due to the drought, Kounalakis said it could be interesting to “pull over at one of the viewing points (again, on the way to or from the venue), to see the river.”

Neither stop became a reality, Kounalakis confirmed by phone Thursday. “Unfortunately there just wasn’t enough time,” she said. But Kounalakis, a member of a Clinton-organized committee on Europe and Russia, said she was just glad to be in position to shine a spotlight on her hometown.

“I am all for promoting Sacramento,” Kounalakis said. “I love Sacramento.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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