When last we heard from Helen Jones-Kelley, the director of Ohio’s Job and Family Services Division insisted that she has everyone who gets public attention checked to see if they owe family support. Now, with more details about the searches performed on Joe Wurzelbacher becoming public, Jones-Kelley acknowledges she didn’t quite tell the entire truth at first. Her department also ran checks on taxes and welfare payments to see if they could catch Joe the Plumber cheating the system:
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.
The entire episode seems rather Orwellian. Joe the Plumber has the temerity to ask a question of Barack Obama, only after Obama approached Joe. For this crime of sudden notoriety — and because Obama gave an embarrassing answer that has plagued him for weeks — Jones-Kelley ran several checks to see whether she could have him arrested. Jones-Kelley, it should be noted, has given the maximum donation to Obama for this election.
Big Brother is watching. Harris is right, and he’s not buying Jones-Kelley’s explanation even in the abstract. Do JFS employees routinely flip through newspapers and watch television all day and then run the names of all Ohioans who appear? If so, they must not have much time to get any other work done.
On the other hand, it sounds like a perfect job for a blogger — sit around all day reading the newspapers and watching TV, and then wasting the rest of the day running pointless searches through government systems just on the off chance of finding something sensational.
Where do I sign up?
The real message this sends Ohioans is one of intimidation. Don’t ask questions of public officials, Jones-Kelley’s actions say, or else watch your reputation get shredded. Be quiet. Don’t rock the boat. We know where you live, and we know what you’ve done.
This, apparently, is Hope and Change for Ohio. Want to bet that’s a 57-state strategy as well?
Update: Added the link; sorry for that oversight.