Election 2014: Tsakopoulos, building interests donate in El Dorado auditor race

Prominent Sacramento developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos and building interests are throwing financial support behind El Dorado auditor-controller Joe Harn in his heated bid for a sixth term.

According to recent campaign finance reports, Tsakopoulos has donated $22,000 and three other development groups – El Dorado Land Ventures, East Ridge Holdings and Valley View Realty Investments – have provided another $5,000 to Harn’s re-election effort.

The veteran auditor-controller, who has not faced an election challenge since 1994, has raised $82,479, including more than $35,000 in personal loans to his campaign, according to his May 17 election filing statement.

Harn is facing an election challenge from Mike Owen, a local winery owner and former chief financial officer of the county’s health services agency. Owen so far has raised $17,129, including $2,550 in personal loans, and spent $20,456.

The race has become a symbol of El Dorado County’s political polarization as Harn has accused Owen of being a “puppet” candidate of embattled supervisor Ray Nutting, who was recently acquitted of three felony counts of political malfeasance for failing to properly declare state grant income for brush clearing work on his family ranch in Somerset.

Nutting supporters have blamed Harn for alerting District Attorney Vern Pierson to the paperwork irregularities that led to the supervisor’s prosecution. Owen and others have also publicly assailed Harn as a bullying figure in county government.

Tsakopoulos is a partner in a major home development in western El Dorado County. Originally, known as Valley View, the half-completed Blackstone El Dorado Community will bring 2,800 homes to an area south of U.S. Highway 50 in El Dorado Hills. Tsakopoulos also owns vast undeveloped acreage just west of the county border.

The county’s District 4 supervisorial race, in which eight candidates have sparred over traffic and growth issues in the west county, is also drawing money from building interests.

Region Builders PAC, a Sacramento group of commercial builders, architects and engineers, has donated $22,250 to candidate Scott McNeil, a member of the Cameron Park Community Services District and a retired air traffic controller. McNeil, who has raised nearly $55,000 to date, also received $1,000 from the Livermore-based Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.

Howard Penn, a owner of the Sierra Nevada House hotel in Coloma, had raised $32,731, the second-highest amount in the recent reports. Penn, who has campaigned against developer influence, received more than $6,000 from local whitewater rafting companies and $500 from Sage Sweetwood, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League.

Penn is a co-sponsor of a growth-restricting measure, “Fix High 50 First/Keep Us Rural,” proposed for the November ballot. Region Builders PAC is supporting a rival measure, “The Control Growth to Fix Our Local Roads Initiative.”

District 4 candidate Michael Ranalli, a retired Intel executive and Lotus wine grower, had raised $29,732 and spent $37,140 by May 17. He has lent nearly $13,000 to his campaign and picked up contributions in amounts of $1,000 or less from tourism, ranching and real estate interests.

Among other top fundraising candidates in the supervisorial race, Lori Parlin raised $18,752, Michael Pettibone $16,415 and Tim Palmer $12,674, according to campaign reports.