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Jr tried to 'buy' Obama's seat

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Jr named as man who tried to 'buy' Obama's seat

A senior campaign adviser to Barack Obama has been implicated in the corruption scandal enveloping Chicago politics

By Toby Harnden in Washington Last Updated: 10:33PM GMT 10 Dec 2008

Jr, the son of the civil rights campaigner, was yesterday named as the mysterious "Candidate 5" at the centre of the investigation.

The alleged involvement of the congressman - who denies he is 'candidate 5' - in the allegations against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich threatens to drag Mr Obama into the corruption inquiry.

Mr , 43, was a key member of Mr Obama's presidential campaign team and Mr Obama's wife has close personal links to the family.

Mr Blagojevich stands accused of attempting to 'sell' Mr Obama's vacant Senate seat in return for a cabinet position, ambassadorship, well-paid union job or a place on a lucrative company board for his wife.

After initially saying it would be "inappropriate" for him to comment fully on the scandal, Mr Obama, who built the foundations of his successful White House run in Chicago, called on Mr Blagojevich to resign.

Gibbs, Mr Obama's spokesman, said that "under the current circumstances, it was difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois".

The danger for Mr Obama, who built the foundations of his successful White House run in Chicago, is that the scandal could trigger investigations on the scale of the Whitewater probes about an Arkansas land deal, which dogged President Bill Clinton and his aides for years.

Republicans made the most of the opportunity to increase the pressure on Mr Obama, whose popularity ratings had been soaring after he won praise for his cabinet appointments and smooth transition planning.

They highlighted Mr Obama's pledge for greater transparency in government as they called for him to detail all contacts with Mr Blagojevich and emailed past quotations from him speaking supportively of the now disgraced governor.

Mike Duncan, Republican National Committee chairman, said in a statement: "President-elect Barack Obama's carefully parsed and vague statements regarding his own contact and that of his team with Governor Rod Blagojevich are unacceptable."

In a Tuesday interview with the Chicago Tribune, Mr Obama declined to answer a question about whether he was aware of any conversations between his advised and Mr Blagojevich, including the new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who took over his seat in Congress in 2003.

"It's an ongoing investigation," Mr Obama said. "I think it would be inappropriate for me to ... remark on the situation beyond the facts that I know."

Federal law enforcement sources allegedly told ABC News that Mr , who was a national co-chairman of Mr Obama's campaign and openly lobbied to replace him in the Senate, was the "Candidate 5" named in a 76-page complaint against Mr Blagojevich.

According to the complaint, Mr Blagojevich, who was released on bail after being charged following his dawn arrest, "stated he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided" the governor with something "tangible up front."

Candidate 5 is the only one of the five referred to in the complaint whom the authorities believe may have considered giving Mr Blagojevich, whom Mr visited two days before his arrest, a favour in return for the Senate seat.

Mr , a prominent ally of Mr Obama's during the presidential campaign, told Chicago reporters that he did not know if he was Candidate 5 and had been told that "I am not a target of this investigation".

He had, however, been asked "to come in and share with them my insights and thoughts about the selection process", something he would do "as quickly as possible" after consulting a lawyer.

Fitzgerald, the US attorney overseeing the Blagojevich investigation, said prosecutors "make no allegations that he [Mr Obama] was aware of anything".

In taped conversations, Mr Blagojevich described Mr Obama as a "m---------er", lamenting that his aides were "not willing to give me anything except appreciation" even if he did appoint a candidate of the president-elect's choice.

But Representative Cantor of Virginia, a Republican leader in the House of Representatives, insisted: "The serious nature of the crimes listed by federal prosecutors raises questions about the interaction with Governor Blagojevich, President-Elect Obama and other high ranking officials who will be working for the future president."

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