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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Government Computers in Ohio Used to Dig Up Information on "Joe the Plumber"

There's probably not time between now and November 4 for this to go anywhere, but an investigation is underway in Ohio to find out who used government computers there to dig up information on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher , otherwise known as "Joe the Plumber." He had the audacity to ask Barack Obama a tough question face-to-face about Obama's tax plans. Obama, in a rare moment of candor, told Joe he wanted to "spread the wealth around," a catch-phrase of Socialist economics. We'll probably never know if Obama operatives had a hand in the dirt-digging on Joe, or if it was just Obama followers who worked in that state office.

"State and local officials are investigating if state and law-enforcement computer systems were illegally accessed when they were tapped for personal information about "Joe the Plumber."

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher became part of the national political lexicon Oct. 15 when Republican presidential candidate John McCain mentioned him frequently during his final debate with Democrat Barack Obama.

The 34-year-old from the Toledo suburb of Holland is held out by McCain as an example of an American who would be harmed by Obama's tax proposals.

Public records requested by The Dispatch disclose that information on Wurzelbacher's driver's license or his sport-utility vehicle was pulled from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles database three times shortly after the debate.

Information on Wurzelbacher was accessed by accounts assigned to the office of Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department.

It has not been determined who checked on Wurzelbacher, or why. Direct access to driver's license and vehicle registration information from BMV computers is restricted to legitimate law enforcement and government business.

Paul Lindsay, Ohio spokesman for the McCain campaign, attempted to portray the inquiries as politically motivated. "It's outrageous to see how quickly Barack Obama's allies would abuse government power in an attempt to smear a private citizen who dared to ask a legitimate question," he said.

Isaac Baker, Obama's Ohio spokesman, denounced Lindsay's statement as charges of desperation from a campaign running out of time. "Invasions of privacy should not be tolerated. If these records were accessed inappropriately, it had nothing to do with our campaign and should be investigated fully," he said.

The attorney general's office is investigating if the access of Wuzelbacher's BMV information through the office's Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway computer system was unauthorized, said spokeswoman Jennifer Brindisi.

"We're trying to pinpoint where it came from," she said. The investigation could become "criminal in nature," she said. Brindisi would not identify the account that pulled the information on Oct. 16.

Records show it was a "test account" assigned to the information technology section of the attorney general's office, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Thomas Hunter.

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