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TOP OF THE TICKET

The social event of Obama's season

Oprah's fundraiser will be a don't-miss for Democrats.

July 22, 2007|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM | Excerpted from The Times' political blog Top of the Ticket, at www.latimes.com/ topoftheticket. Staff writer Scott Martelle contributed to this report.

Invitations have gone out for what promises to be a must-

attend event for much of California's Democratic elite, particularly those in the entertainment industry: a Sept. 8 fundraiser for Barack Obama at Oprah Winfrey's Santa Barbara-area home.

In the best tradition of Hollywood, the e-mail touting the afternoon gathering doesn't mince words, promoting it as no less than "the most exciting Barack Obama event of the year anywhere." And the invite urges haste in responding, saying: "Please get back to us soon before it sells out."

Getting in the door costs $2,300 -- the maximum individual contribution for the primary season. But, as is usually the case at such high-profile shindigs, there are incentives to gain a little extra face time with the candidate.

Those who tap friends and relatives for contributions to Obama's campaign that total at least $25,000 get a VIP reception; those who gather $50,000 make the cut for dinner.

The workers at the Santa Barbara airport best rest up before the fundraiser; we're guessing that the tarmac is going to be packed with private jets. (And tables selling carbon offsets?)

NOW Condi Rice tells us!

OK, we're being more than a bit facetious. But we couldn't help but think of the situation in a certain nation in the Middle East where U.S. troops have been stationed for more than four years when we read this portion of a Q&A that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did with Business Week.

Asked about her future, whether she would consider "a position in business or on Wall Street," Rice responds: "I don't know what I'll do long-term. I'm a terrible long-term planner."

Not them either

An overwhelming majority of Americans are not running for vice president -- not that we remember asking. But now Connecticut's Chris Dodd and New Mexico's Bill Richardson have added themselves to the list of non-vice-presidential candidates.

Both men, of course, are currently seeking the top spot on the 2008 Democratic ticket and not doing very well, lagging far behind in polls and money to front-runners Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Richardson, whose resume includes congressman, ambassador and Cabinet secretary, says he already has the best job in the world, governor of New Mexico. This doesn't explain his multimillion-dollar drive to not be governor of New Mexico and become president -- but who expects consistency in a presidential race?

Americans in modern times have shown a definite proclivity to choose executives as president over senators. The last eight presidents have come most directly from a governor's or vice president's office. John F. Kennedy, a sitting senator, was the lone legislator exception since World War II. And he was preceded by Dwight Eisenhower, a general, and Harry Truman, another vice president. So on the surface things look tough for Sen. Dodd.

As to who will take the vice-presidential slot, things could look a whole lot different by next summer. If memory serves, during the 2004 political season, a senator named John Edwards proclaimed his distinct lack of interest in that spot on the ticket -- until he accepted it.

Manilow's new buddy

We noted previously that the latest campaign contribution filings at the Federal Election Commission showed Republican Ron Paul getting a check from crooner Barry Manilow. We're relieved we weren't the only ones struck by that; consider this exchange Tuesday night between MSNBC's Tucker Carlson and the presidential candidate himself.

Carlson: "We saw these FEC reports, including those from your campaign, and were amazed to learn that Barry Manilow has given to your campaign.... Do you know Barry Manilow?"

Paul: "No, I do not. I was very pleased to find that out."

Asked if he was a fan of Manilow's music, Paul said: "I really like it now, I will tell you that."

We checked, and if Paul would like to connect personally with his high-profile benefactor (Manilow gave the max allowed: $2,300), the entertainer will be performing most of the rest of July at the Las Vegas Hilton.

The Times' Dan Morain dug into the FEC records and found that the singer, who lists his home as Woodland Hills, in February gave $2,300 checks to Democrats Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton. In April, he kicked in another $2,300 to another Democrat, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Paul and Manilow could chat about their affinity for third parties. In 1988, Paul ran as the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate. In 2000, Manilow gave $1,000 to the Natural Law Party of America. That group preached transcendental meditation as a means of lowering social stress and curing the nation's ills.

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