"Joe the Plumber" Investigated

Makes sense to me.

Now, it seems to me that some folks on the right are screaming about this invasion of privacy. Which would be fine if they had some kind of history of championing the rights of privacy, but it seems to me their love of individual privacy is newly minted.

It also seems to me that there are a number of folks that are typically screaming about issues of individual privacy who are strangely quiet on this case, which I take to mean they like the concept in general but are reluctant to defend Joe.

I personally see nothing wrong with, when a name comes to light, checking your agency records to see what might pop up – if nothing else, you’ll be better prepared for the media inquiry which might well ensue if THEY find out something’s amiss. And I don’t have any heartburn whatsoever with the notion that if you happen to be thrust into the limelight, there’s going to be attention on your life.

Anyone here see it differently?

How was his privacy violated? Somebody took a look at public records. So what? How is that comparable to warrentless wiretapping?

Listen, Diogenes, if we’re discussing uncomfortable winter weather and you immediately jump to the 1922 Knickerbocker Storm, you’re kind of missing the point.

Plenty of privacy advocates have had things to say about street cameras, merging of informational databases, and discount cards for grocery stores. It is in analogy with these more subdued area that I thought perhaps those privacy advocates’ views might be contrasted with the current situation.

I admit that I am more than vaguely uncomfortable with this. I also do not have a clear idea of what information this computer system contains. If the agency were looking to see if they had any open judgments, cases, etc, then I am comfortable. These systems can’t crosstab newfound celebrity status.

If these files contained other possibly sensitive data, then either there is a policy that governs when these data can be accessed or there better be one PDQ.

This particular system had records of child support payments, and the check was to determine whether single dad Wurzelbacher (Joe’s real name) owed any child support.

That’s a worthy goal in general, and I would be completely comfortable in extending that to a check on unpaid taxes, parking tickets, or occupational licenses.

Ok, well, I don’t have a problem with the public cameras or the merging of data bases., etc.

I’m no fan of Joe the Plumber, but I hate the idea of a government agency subjecting a citizen to extra scrutiny because of a political event.

I’m unclear who the check was released to…

Obviously, the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services needs the ability to check accounts for back child support. And if the process is that they do this whenever someone comes to their attention, then she followed the process. I’d think finding out the guy owed back taxes would probably be a flag to check. If they check and he owes nothing, no harm. If they check and he owes something, steps can be taken to make sure he meets his legal obligations.

Now, if they check and find something and then release that information to the newspapers, that might be problematic unless they normally report individuals in arrears on child support to the newspapers.

If the laws are being followed, I guess I don’t have a problem with it, but I don’t know what the relevant laws are.

What are the laws regulating the Child Support Agency’s ability to look up a sudden celebrity’s child-support history?

What are the laws regulating the Alaska governor’s husband looking into state trooper files?

What are the laws regulating the ability of people to pry into the passports of Obama, H. Clinton, A.N. Smith, McCain, etc?

The thing is… if you do owe back taxes, or are behind on child support… you’re not really entitled to complain about being called to account for that, regardless of what made the authorities take notice of you.

I’m pretty much with this.

If the government was following policy I guess it is fine. If we do not like the policy we can try to get it changed but otherwise business as usual. If the government used this as a pretext with the underlying reason being as a political shot then I am not ok with it.

So to the OP I guess I am undecided till I learn more of how things normally operate there.

Bricker, this smells suspiciously like one of your infamous “gotchas.” Are you trying to lure people into agreeing with the investigation, with the intent of drawing a devastating parallel to something once the bait is consumed? Or do you really believe your statement above?


If they check the records of everyone that gets interviewed on the news, I wouldn’t have a big problem with it from a privacy standpoint. From a waste of time standpoint, this goes to 11.

True…and in an ideal world they’d get everyone who was avoiding their legal obligations.

I am just not cool with the underlying purpose being political as a reason to go out of their way (if indeed they did look when they otherwise wouldn’t have) to see if there some dirt on the guy. Particularly since (I think) he was unwillingly thrust into the spotlight of a political campaign.

Vaguely uneasy too about un-sought fame bringing extra scrutiny on you. If I save a little old lady from a mugger and am the hero of the day will the government go double-check all my records and hit me up for a handful of unpaid parking tickets?

I absolutely believe in the statement I made.

And it’s only a “gotcha” to the extent that you fall into the two categories I mentioned earlier: an ardent privacy-rights person now curiously silent because “Joe” is inimicial to your political view… or an ardent government powers person now curiously vocal because “Joe” supports your political view.

I’m uncomfortable with the idea. It seem pretty arbitrary to check on anyone who comes into the limelight. I’d hate to think that if I dared to speak up on the news, or make a public appearance, that some agency is going to try to find something to nail me for. That goes even if I have nothing to hide.

Accessing the records of a citizen because he/she asked a question is abuse of power. The logic of the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services made no sense. What does “look at what is coming our way” mean and how do they define it?

“Our practice is when someone is thrust quickly into the public spotlight, we often take a look” at them". So now that Helen Jones-Kelly is in the public spotlight should she be investigated by other state agencies? I’d start with phone records to political operatives to see if any connections can be made.

There is no legitimate reason for her to access data on someone because they ask a political question. Without a legitimate reason it becomes an abuse of power and should be investigated as such to ensure private records are not being used for political gain.

I’m not sure I see the difference between this:

“Joe is a celebrity. Celebrity has no provable correlation with child-support delinquency, but let’s investigate him because he is, and if he’s behind on his payments, he has no right to complain.”

and this:

“Joe is Hispanic. Being Hispanic has no provable correlation with marijuana use, but let’s pull him over because he’s Hispanic, and if there’s pot in his car, he has no right to complain.”

I suppose there’s a technical difference, in that celebrity is not a protected class, but still, while I’m all for criminals getting their comeuppance, I’m not comfortable with this type of invasion of privacy.

See, I agree with this. If somebody goes on national TV claiming an income of $X, but reporters investigate and discover he has an income much less than $X, he should expect an audit. He would have nobody to blame but himself. I don’t know the law, but in my mind that’d be probable cause to investigate.

Checking up on the stats of every Joe Schmoe whose name appears in the newspaper? Not so much.

I think its human nature to dig a little in a circumstance such as this. The press is certainly entitled to do so. Whether a public functionary should release any information they find is questionable.

Act on it in regard to their function yes, report it, no.

I look people up in data bases available to me all the time. It’s fun.