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Fundraising Season Begins in The Hamptons

By Reid Epstein

Forget about Republican John McCain's attack ad deriding Barack Obama as "the biggest celebrity in the world." The Hamptons fundraising season has taken off, with the famous and the near-famous leading the way in raking in dough for the Democrat.

Star Jones, the formerly fat co-host on "The View" -- she lost 160 pounds after gastric bypass surgery and then was fired by Barbara Walters from the daytime TV gig -- is hosting an Obama shindig at her Hamptons home Saturday that's dubbed "Under Star's Tuscan Sun."

But Jones, who filed for divorce in March and has been spotted this summer with NBA star Dwyane Wade, looks like a C-lister compared to the roster of boldfaced names hosting a brunch Aug. 17.

Billy Joel, Alec Baldwin, Russell Simmons, Barry Sonnenfeld and Gwyneth Paltrow are among 40 co-hosts for the Sagaponack event that features Caroline Kennedy as the star attraction. (Also listed: painter Ross Bleckner, Nassau public-relations guru Robert Zimmerman).

Obama won't be at either event -- nor will he be at a Fire Island brunch next Sunday with Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean. But the fundraisers are talking of a hefty haul.

Reid blogs regularly for Newsday's Spin Cycle blog