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EBay removes offers of Obama inauguration tickets

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Caving to pressure from the federal inaugural committee, EBay Inc. on Thursday removed tickets to the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Barack Obama from its websites.

EBay's StubHub subsidiary, which as of Wednesday had tickets to the ceremony listed from a low of $1,950 to a high of $7,500, also removed the items.

The tickets, which are supposed to be free of charge and will not be issued until a few days before the event, are generally distributed by members of Congress.

In a short statement, EBay said that after meeting Wednesday evening with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the online auctioneer agreed to stop offering tickets on all its sites "in the best interest of all concerned."

Company spokeswoman Nichola Sharpe said the main issues discussed at the meeting in Washington were "the distribution method and the monetary value" of the tickets, but she would not give specifics.

The online offers had raised the ire of the committee's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said this week that she would introduce a bill in the lame-duck Congress to make selling inaugural tickets a misdemeanor. The senator wasn't present at the meeting, which was between committee officials and members of EBay's government relations team.

Federal and state officials had expressed concern that some of the offers could be scams. Wednesday on EBay, a pair of tickets with bidding prices starting at $5,000 apiece supposedly came "from a source in Congress that will not be able to attend," according to the listing.

The seller, known as Honjarlan, said payment would have to be made immediately after the close of the one-day auction and that the tickets would be mailed later. Honjarlan didn't respond to e-mails from The Times asking for details.

The inaugural committee will issue about 240,000 tickets to the ceremony, which will take place on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Members of Congress, who generally each get several hundred tickets, will be told next week how many they will be getting for distribution. Demand for the tickets will probably be high.

In addition to Congress, Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be given a sizable number of tickets for distribution.

Colker is a Times staff writer.

david.colker@latimes.com

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