State employee checks on Joe extensive

Columbus Dispatch:

A state agency has revealed that its checks of computer systems for potential information on "Joe the Plumber" were more extensive than it first acknowledged.

Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, disclosed today that computer inquiries on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher were not restricted to a child-support system.

The agency also checked Wurzelbacher in its computer systems to determine whether he was receiving welfare assistance or owed unemployment compensation taxes, she wrote.

Jones-Kelley made the revelations in a letter to Ohio Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, who demanded answers on why state officials checked out Wurzelbacher.

Harris called the multiple records checks "questionable" and said he awaits more answers. "It's kind of like Big Brother is looking in your pocket," he said.

...

Republicans have painted the checks on Wurzelbacher as a politically motivated bid by Democrats to dig up dirt and discredit the McCain ally. The Obama campaign has said it has no ties to the checks and supports investigations.

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.

...

Is there any question that the checks were run in order to look for information to discredit Joe the Plumber? Is there any question that if they had revealed such information that it would have been used to help the Obama campaign and Democrats in their bid to hurt Joe the Plumber?

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