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Chilling: Government Computers Used to Go After A Private Citizen who Questioned A Presidential Candidate

Truth Partisan's picture

Government computers used to find information on Joe the Plumber

Investigators trying to determine whether access was illegal

Friday, October 24, 2008 8:57 PM
By Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch

"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."

"...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."

The article goes on to say that none of these offices have any official investigations open on Joe the Plumber. The Attorney General's office access was unauthorized.

Paul Lindsay, McCain's Ohio spokesperson: "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."

Charges of desperation? The info is coming from the state government. Obama allies, including most of the MSM, have researched, released and published all kinds of private information about Joe the Plumber.

Both Obama and Biden have spoken about Joe the Plumber since Obama bungled the answer to Joe's question, Biden in particular casting doubt on Joe's ability to earn $250,000 as a plumber.

Have some Obama allies learned the privacy invasion lessons of some of the Bush Administration and its allies too well?

Whether we agree with the politics of the questioner or not, we need to support the ability and the right of all kinds of private citizens to question public officials and candidates for these offices. It used to be a point of honor amongst some liberals--and some conservatives--to make sure that those with whom they disagreed were heard. Whether the new Administration agrees with our views, or not, we need to preserve the rights of all citizens to question the powerful people who represent us--without risking their own personal and public destruction.

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Submitted by lambert on

Right?

But I'm sure our tribunes of the people are right on this! Let me take a quick tour.... Not. Can anybody find an A lister who mentions this?

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

If you're going to use a moniker that includes "truth," you might try and get your fucking facts straight.

You just couldn't wait, could you, to see if there is any reason, (it's called actual evidence) to accept the McCain spin on this story?

The "charges" that you point out are coming from the state government of Ohio are not charges that Obama supporters were involved in accessing the information. That was the McCain spin. That was what the Obama campaign was referring to - McCain's desperate charge that an Obama supporter, and by implication the campaign itself was the culprit here.

Note also that in its statement the Obama campaign denied any knowledge or connection to a search of "Joe's" records, but in addition, the Obama campaign agreed that invasions of the privacy of a private citizen by government agencies are not to be "tolerated" and deserve to be investigated. Look at McCain's response; it's only about fingering Obama; nothing about the larger issue.

You then claim that Obama allies have released information about "Joe," and then you cite Politico. It's one thing to claim that the MSM is biased toward Obama; it's quite another to take that assertion, and then fold it into some concept of Obama 'allies," any and all actions of which, can be charged to the Obama campaign itself.

Please note that the computer access took place after the debate in which it was McCain who brought up Joe, the Plumber, again and again and again. The incident in which Joe asked Obama a question on that rope line took place on the previous Sunday, and there is no evidence that the Obama campaign was the least bit concerned about the incident, probably because from their perspective Obama committed no faux pas in answering Joe's question.

Have you seen the tape of that encounter? I'm betting you haven't. If you have seen it and could still write this pathetic post, then there is no hope for you. Please note, that last sentence has nothing to do with whether or not you will or will not vote for Obama. I couldn't care less who you vote for. It isn't even about your view of Obama. It's about the quality of analysis you bring to any discussion of Obama, or his campaign or McCain and his.

From Obama's perspective he by no means "bungled" the answer to Joe's question; Obama treated it with respect and took a full six minutes, which is an eternity on a busy rope line, to give a serious and respectful answer. It was Joe who called the answer "tap dancing" and mentioned Sammy Davis Jr., and I'm sure we shouldn't read anything into the fact that it wasn't Gene Kelly or Donald O'Conner, or Fred Astaire who lept to Joe's mind when he thought about tap dancing.

The tape also shows that Joe doesn't appear to undersatnd the difference between gross and net income and that if his gros receipts as owner of a plumbing company were 250,000, his business expenses would all be deductible and thus his net income would fall below the 250,000 demarcation that would raise is tax rate, just for the amount above 250,000 BTW.

Obama and Biden have had much less to say about Joe than the McCain campaign. Also, "Joe" has not exactly been shy about the limelight. He went on Rush's show, and he didn't hesitate to give interviews. It's been the MSM who've looked into his background and his assertions, and though I don't think they ought to be using government sources illegally, I'm not sure that it isn't appropriate for reporters to do some actual reporting about someone who is being used so prominently in the campaign, by choice, let us remember. I do think the willingness of certain reporters to imply that Joe was lying about his background were unfair. From the evidence on the tape, Joe didn't directly claim his income was 250,000 or that he was actually planning to buy such a business, although anyone who got that impression could be forgiven, but it could as easily have been that he was using some of the circumstances of his life, like what if I were to want to buy the business I work for, upon which to base his question.

As it happens, Joe doesn't make 225,000 and I don't think there was anything wrong with either Biden or Obama pointing out that an income that high isn't the norm for most plumbers.

For purposes of comparison, Truth Partisan, here is a sample of McCain's latest robocall:

Democrats attempt to cut off crucial troop funding," goes the script. "They accuse our troops of war crimes. And Senator Biden predicts Senator Obama will be tested. A weak president will indeed be tested. Obama and Democrat's politics endanger American lives. They are not qualified to lead our military and our country. When you vote, vote for the team that puts leadership, character and country first. John McCain."

Here's a link to the actual video of Obama answering "Joe's" question; I'd be interested to know, Truth Parisan, specifically how Obama "bungled" his answer.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

all dead on
but how did those records get to be public?
note - Ted Strickland, gov of Ohio, while supporting Obama, supported Clinton in the primaries and I can't imagine would be hot to discredit someone who posed no political threat to any Democrat.

still, how did the records get to be public?

Submitted by lambert on

The key point, as indicated by the headline. I mean, suppose we replaced "butchered" with "brilliant," wouldn't the essential point of the post be exactly the same?*

And if the key question was an easy one to answer, I'd expect the answer to be all over the A list already; instead, TPM (for example) is still all Ashley, all the time.

I think the more interesting issue is the second question, which grows out of the first:

Have some Obama allies learned the privacy invasion lessons of some of the Bush Administration and its allies too well?

Hardly McCain spin, I would say. And also entirely justified, given the Democrat Party's vote on FISA [cough] reform.

NOTE * This is why I started putting up those "No comment" posts. I discovered that was the only way to even have a chance of keeping the discussion on track; if there was a hint of comment on Obama, that's what the threads turned into a discussion of. I expect this behavior only to intensify after the election; the endless horse race.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

L: I discovered that was the only way to even have a chance of keeping the discussion on track; if there was a hint of comment on Obama, that’s what the threads turned into a discussion of.

So let’s see now; how many times does TruthPartisan mention Obama? Six, by my count. Guess that sets the upper bound for Obama-mentions before a commentor can fairly bring up Obama themselves. Good to know.

But how then does it happen that a post mentioning Obama just once, obliquely and only as an example of someone who did not need to be considered in the topic under discussion, drew Five Comments blaming Obama for not doing enough about one thing or another including the very first one entitled What's Obama doing about it? Hmmm. Perhaps that Obama-mention hint limit is situational.

Any clarification of this apparent disparity would be greatly appreciated.

Submitted by lambert on

(although sometimes actually less than zero, as when Obama supporters construe the mere mention of the word June as calling for Obama's assassination, parodied by Obama Golf).

But here's a tip that my help you get beyond the simple-minded counting of words: Check the subject line! Often, though not always, that will provide a helpful hint as to the subject of the post. Here, it is "Chilling: Government Computers Used To Go After A Private Citizen Who Questioned A Presidential Candidate." See how easy?

* * *

Funny how nobody ever wants to answer the questions I pose. I wonder why that is? They are:

"Still, How Did The Records Get To Be Public?"

and

Have some Obama allies learned the privacy invasion lessons of some of the Bush Administration and its allies too well?

Here, for your comfort and convenience, is the comment in which the questions are raised.

Of course, I can see how -- and here I will mention Obama -- it's hard to talk about Obama's concern for privacy, and legality, with a straight face, given his vote on FISA [cough] reform and retroactive immunity for the telcos, but some have proven capable of rising to the challenge!

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

LB,

All the stuff I saw about JTP was public and available on public websites. Now, should cheeto-land have been cyberstalking him and giving him a Jeff Gannon makeover? I don't think so.

but if you would like linkees I can point you to them.

Lucas County voter registration available online.
Lucas county (and state?) licensing for plumbers.
Also the clerk of courts online, even county speeding tickets. And his divorce filings online. County Auditor page is online and lists property records. Heck the corporation filings available at Secretary of State website.

I'm sure some people used official computer searches, but everything I saw was found by internet sleuthing. I didn't see any info being tossed around that I couldn't find myself "in my pajamas".

Were there volunteer campaign workers who also work at AG's office? I dunno, but I hope they investigate it.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Like Biden said, we need our "betters" to use their influence. I said they aren't trying to hide it anymore, and its only getting more and more obvious. And they also have a few other weapons: Demonization of McCain/Palin and knee-jerk "you're just Obama haters".

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

TruthPartisan, nothing personal here OK? Most all of your work I enjoy; this post, however, has some deep flaws and, well, I think they need to be exposed. This is just about the writing.

-----

Lambert: Still, how did the records get to be public? The key point, as indicated by the headline.

There are, rather, a large number of key points within this post and I’ll get to them in a moment but first, let’s deal with this one. TruthPartisan writes

Obama allies, including most of the MSM, have researched, released and published all kinds of private information about Joe the Plumber.

Which would be alarming, if it were true. The link goes to Ben Smith’s giant head caricature at Politico, wherein I see no evidence whatsoever that any private information about JoeTP (The Plumber) has been accessed by anyone, including any Obama “allies.” Unless there is evidence elsewhere then this “key point” is an unsupported allegation – and likely a falsehood. So far as I know, no actual private information has been exposed on JoeTP; everything I’ve seen came from public records searches and nothing in this post or any link provided shows otherwise.

Lambert again: I think the more interesting issue is the second question, which grows out of the first:

”Have some Obama allies learned the privacy invasion lessons of some of the Bush Administration and its allies too well?”

Fruit of a poisonous tree aside, this tumorous growth is yet another unfounded allegation in the form of a question for which no answer is provided. No answer, because again there is no evidence to support the allegation. Unless evidence to support it can be found elsewhere, this is another probable falsehood.

One step further, is there any evidence at all that “the government” was doing the accessing? It is possible that the entire state government of Ohio is in the bag for Obama and engaged in a huge undercover examination of JoeTP while lying not only about that but also about a sham investigation into who did the digging. Seems a stretch, and it surely can’t be true because if it were we’d all have to be waaay more impressed with Obama’s reach and influence than any of us want to be.

Is there any other explanation, perhaps something less sinister? Like maybe a couple of unconnected state employees watched the debate and heard McCain mention JoeTP oh what twenty times and when they got to work they used the office computer to take a look and see who the hell this guy is. That would fit the available evidence, be within the realm of possible and actually be consistent with typical human behavior – lots of people are uncontrollably curious.

If – repeat if – there was any violation of the law, it was by low-level workers whose “crime” was unauthorized use of government equipment; the information accessed, voter records, drivers license and vehicle registration, are all public records. Not as exciting as a massive Obama-led conspiracy to invade the privacy of JoeTP, but at least as likely – maybe even more so.

Then there’s this: Whether we agree with the politics of the questioner or not, we need to support the ability and the right of all kinds of private citizens to question public officials and candidates for these offices.
Again, the insinuated allegation. Is there any evidence presented in this post that there has been any attempt by anyone to silence JoeTP? He's been pretty outspoken for someone being silenced. Is there any evidence to support this charge anywhere? If not, then it is yet another likely falsehood.

And: It used to be a point of honor amongst some liberals—and some conservatives—to make sure that those with whom they disagreed were heard.
Why the past tense? Is there any evidence in this post to show that there has been a change for the worse in the level of honor amongst “some” liberals and “some” conservatives regarding free speech? Is there any evidence anywhere to support this insinuation, or is this still another falsehood?

And again: Whether the new Administration agrees with our views, or not, we need to preserve the rights of all citizens to question the powerful people who represent us—without risking their own personal and public destruction.
Spot on as a principle, no question, but again the backhanded implication is that someone or some group of someones is acting against the right of citizens to question powerful people, somehow connected to JoeTP and Obama or his allies. Is there any evidence that this is so? Not, certainly, from anything in this post, nor anywhere else.

JoeTP was able to question Obama directly, face to face, and got a thorough and accurate response considering he asked a sketchy hypothetical. Since then he's been on the radio and television, and had the choice of talking with a great many newspaper reporters. JoeTP has gotten plenty of opportunity to ask questions and voice his opinion.

Submitted by lambert on

I was going to refute bringiton's comment in detail, because it is a beautifully cut little gem of its genre, but there's no point wasting my time on it, and I have better things to so; readers can well sort out the blogorrhea for themselves -- though I advise doing so with a long stick. I have bookmarked it, though, for the tactics on display, which I hope to return to.

UPDATE I can now be sure where issues of privacy and legality rank, in comparison with "winning," for Obama. Of course, I knew that already after Obama's FISA vote, so the cue from the top was already given, but it's interesting to see that play out on the ground.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Well, I will await your views with interest.

But please, don't be shy about addressing the substance along with the tactics. Shame to let the truth itself be obscured by a takedown of my insidious tactical ploy of insistence on the truth.

UPDATE Has there been a post or comment here from Obama?

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

other than "gotchas" against the OFB rank, compared to putting down Obama and all Obama supporters -- indeed, all Democrats not hip enough to be completely disillusioned and bitterly opposed to the party as it is presently constituted.

JTP should've either used a pseudonym or not lied to begin with. If he wasn't aware that Michelle Malkin could subject him to the same standards she put Graeme Frost and his family through, he should have been.

McCain's constant reference to him in the debate served him poorly, and exposed him to ... investigation.

Who is this guy, Joe the Plumber? not having cared may mark me as unique among posters in the left blogosphere (tm Skippy the Kangaroo).

Was I surprised to learn he didn't have a license? Nope.
Was I surprised to learn he had a history? Nope.
Here's the deal: everybody has a history.
Some are better than others when exposed to public scrutiny.
Some are blanker than others when exposed to public scrutiny.
Do I think what happened to JTP is fair? No, but I don't think what happened to Graeme Foster and his family was fair either.
On the other hand, what happened to that campaign worker who made up a story about being mugged was not unfair. It was, actually, a local story picked up and flogged for public consumption by McCain, and that it blew up in their faces is newsworthy -- once.

NONE of this stuff ought to be dominating the news.
That it is makes me think we've lost sight -- just like the M$M -- of what news ought to be.

That the young Little Rock newswoman who played Anne Coulter in the film "W" has died of her injuries is more newsworthy, to me, than all JTP's antics.

But then again ... the person(s) who attacked Anne Pressly haven't been caught yet, and may be a danger to others.

Policy advocacy -- like the single-payer articles often seen here at Corrente -- is a far better use of everyone's time IMO.

To that end bringiton's post about what can be done to stop Prop 8 in California deserves more attention, I think. More action, less "gotcha."

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

"Checks on 'Joe' more extensive than first acknowledged
Tax, welfare info also sought on McCain ally "-- http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/loc...

"... The administration of Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has said the information was not improperly shared and that there were no political motives behind the checks.

The Dispatch has uncovered four uses of state computer systems to access personal information on Wurzelbacher, including the child-support check authorized by Jones-Kelley.

She said on Monday that her department frequently runs checks for any unpaid child support obligations "when someone is thrust quickly into the public spotlight."

Republican legislators have challenged Jones-Kelley's reason for checking on Wurzelbacher as "frightening" and flimsy.

Jones-Kelly also has denied any connections between the computer checks on Wurzelbacher and her support for Obama. She donated the maximum $2,500 this year to the Obama campaign.

Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles is investigating whether the child-support check on Wurzelbacher was legal."

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