Shortly after the third debate, there were several suspicious searches in Ohio government databases for records pertaining to Joe the Plumber. If not conducted for some legitimate reason, which the timing makes extremely unlikely, this would be an illegal invasion of privacy.
One of the culprits is now known: she is Helen Jones-Kelley, the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Service. Ace notes that she is a $2300 contributor (the maximum) to the Obama campaign. She claims that she did not conduct the check for political reasons, but her explanation is even worse:
Helen Jones-Kelly, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, confirmed today that she OK’d the check on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher following the Oct. 15 presidential debate.
She said there were no political reasons for the check on the sudden presidential campaign fixture though the Support Enforcement Tracking System.
Amid questions from the media and others about “Joe the Plumber,” Jones-Kelley said she approved a check to determine if he was current on any ordered child-support payments.
Such information was not and cannot be publicly shared, she said. It is unclear if Wurzelbacher is involved in a child-support case. Reports state that he lives alone with a 13-year-old son.
“Our practice is when someone is thrust quickly into the public spotlight, we often take a look” at them, Jones-Kelley said, citing a case where a lottery winner was found to owe past-due child support. “Our practice is to basically look at what is coming our way.”
(Via Hot Air.)
Jones-Kelley is claiming that the mere fact that someone has become famous is grounds for a government investigation! She’s probably lying, but if she’s not, there’s something seriously wrong at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. I’d actually prefer it if this were purely political.
ASIDE: Note the journalistic weasel-speak: “It is unclear if Wurzelbacher is involved in a child-support case.” Translation: we don’t know, but we want to insinuate that he might be.
For what it’s worth, Ohio’s Democratic Governor Ted Strickland would rather have you believe that the Ohio government routinely invades people’s privacy for no reason at all, than that they do it for political purposes:
Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland is satisfied that there are no political overtures to the check on Wurzelbacher, a spokesman said.
“Based on what we know to this point, we don’t have any reason to believe the information was improperly accessed or disclosed by a state employee,” said Keith Dailey, Strickland’s press secretary.
In any case, Strickland is certainly wrong, because we also know another of the culprits:
Toledo Police have confirmed that a TPD records clerk is accused of performing an illegal search of information related to ‘Joe the Plumber.’
Julie McConnell, has been charged with Gross Misconduct for allegedly making an improper inquiry into a state database in search of information pertaining to Samuel Wurzelbacher on Oct. 16.
She did so in response to a request from the press:
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner admitted yesterday that a member of the media made the request of the Toledo Police Department for Joe ‘the Plumber’ Wurzelbacher’s records, NewsTalk 1370 WSPD is reporting. The comments were made in response to questions during an unrelated press conference.
Finkbeiner did not say which news outlet, nor which reporter, made the request. He also did not identify the individual who ran the report.
That’s two of the four searches discovered by the Columbus Dispatch. The culprits behind searches at the Attorney General’s office and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles have not yet been identified.