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Sarah Palin to star at California fundraising bash

September 10, 2008 |  4:30 am

Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Siebel, John McCain, creationism, evolution, religion

A Silicon Valley billionaire is playing Oprah to Sarah Palin's Obama, hosting the Alaska governor at what will likely be a must-attend fundraiser for Republicans later this month. And as was true when Oprah Winfey feted Barack Obama at her 42-acre estate in Montecito last September, getting in to software magnate Thomas Siebel's shindig on the 25th won't be cheap.

The Associated Press is reporting that for $50,000, contributors become co-chairs of the event, with access to a reception for six people, a couple of seats at the nominee's table, a table for 10 at a lunch and a photo op with Palin. Mere mortals who are invited can cough up $1,000 for a ticket. (Actually this is cheaper than the Obama affair; admission to Oprah's retreat, which she calls "The Promised Land" came with a $2,300 campaign contribution).

When it comes to sheer star power, however, it's hard to imagine the Republican event attracting half the Hollywood dazzle that flocked to Obama's. Stevie Wonder played, Cindy Crawford and Halle Berry, Will Smith, and Sydney Poitier mingled with bundlers and big donors. 

But Siebel is no slouch. He's not as rich as Oprah--last year she was #165 on the Forbes 400, with $2.5 billion, and he was #261, with $1.9 billion--but he's incredibly well connected. Siebel is chairman of First Virtual Group, a diversified holding group with a long reach: real estate, agribusiness, global investment management and more. His philanthropy has been on behalf of the homeless, methamphetamine addiction prevention, alternative energy and education.

Also, according to the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation web site, in 2002 the couple gave $2 million to the Museum of the Rockies for its new dinosaur wing, to be known as the Siebel Dinosaur Complex. The museum has one of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the U.S. and has links on its site to explanations about evolution and lesson plans for educators.

Uh oh. Doesn't the Republican vice presidential candidate believe creationism should be taught along with evolution in schools?  We can only presume that the Siebels won't chat with Palin about the Mesozoic Media Center they've funded -- the Mesozoic era lasted 250 to 65 million years ago, and the public record isn't clear on whether Palin is a Young Earth creationist or an Old Earth creationist. Young Earthers believe the planet is between 6,000 to 10,000 years old. Old Earthers accept geological findings that date Earth to 4-to-5 billion years, but they reject evolution. 

On the whole, it might be better if the subject didn't come up. That way the Siebels, who give generously on behalf of science education, can focus on Palin's conservative tax ideology without pesky pangs of conscience.

The AP photos of Thomas Siebel, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey were taken by Dan Krauss, Carolyn Kaster, Chris Carlson and Lefteris Pitarakis, respectively.

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