Officials in Ohio swiftly launched a witch hunt against Joe the plumber in an apparent effort to dig up dirt on the John McCain supporter.
Joe Wurzelbacher became a household name when McCain referred to “Joe the plumber” frequently during the Oct. 15 presidential debate with Barack Obama. Officials reportedly began to dig into Joe’s records the very next day.
Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), admitted that she approved a check on Wurzelbacher’s child support papers. Joe maintains he is not involved in a child support case.
The agency “also checked Wurzelbacher in its computer systems to determine whether he was receiving welfare assistance or owed unemployment compensation taxes,” the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Jones-Kelley is an Obama supporter and contributed the maximum amount to his presidential campaign.
She made the admissions in a letter to Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, a Republican, who demanded an explanation of the record checks.
Jones-Kelley wrote: “Given our understanding that Mr. Wurzelbacher had publicly indicated that he had the means to purchase a substantial business enterprise, ODJFS, consistent with past departmental practice, checked confidential databases.”
The reference was to a plumbing business Wurzelbacher said he was considering purchasing.
“Not surprisingly,” Jones-Kelley also wrote, “when a person behind in child support payments or receiving public assistance is receiving media attention which suggests that the person appears to have available financial resources, the Department risks justifiable criticism if it fails to take note and respond.”
Harris called the checks “questionable.” And columnist Michelle Malkin termed them “outrageous invasions of his privacy.”
In addition to Jones-Kelley, investigators have found other suspicious uses of state computer resources to access information on Wurzelbacher.
Toledo police records clerk Julie McConnell has been charged with gross misconduct for accessing the Law Enforcement Automated Date System to retrieve Wurzelbacher’s address as a favor to a reporter, according to Malkin.
Officials in Ohio also say the Cuyahoga County social service office was compromised and an outside contractor with access to data belonging to the state attorney general “similarly searched Wurzelbacher’s data,” Malkin noted.
“Moreover, his driver’ license and vehicle registration information were obtained from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.”
Harris said of the checks on Wurzelbacher: “It’s kind of like Big Brother is looking in your pocket.”
The Dispatch reports that Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles is investigating whether the child support check on Wurzelbacher was legal.
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