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Nov-18-2008 10:03printcomments

Joe the Plumber, Meet Elliot Spitzer

A writer based in Miami, Michael R. Caputo worked on the Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and George H.W. Bush Republican presidential campaigns.

Elliot Spitzer
Elliot Spitzer

(MIAMI, Fla.) - Last week, Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles revealed his office is investigating six state agencies that accessed confidential records on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, a small-town plumber and accidental everyman.

With this announcement, Joe the Plumber is officially a problem for Ohio Democrats.

October 12, four days before the final presidential debate, Democrat nominee Sen. Barack Obama campaigned door-to-door in a northwest Ohio suburb. Approached by the passing candidate, Wurzelbacher remarked, "Oh, you don't want to talk to me." Perhaps intrigued by the chilly response, Obama stopped to talk with Wurzelbacher, who was playing football with his son in his front yard.

He just asked a smart question. The rest became history when Obama replied he wanted to "spread the wealth." As a result, Obama and Sen. John McCain mentioned Wurzelbacher - Joe the Plumber - more than 15 times in that final debate. He instantly became a symbol for middle-class America and the poster child for McCain's last gasp victory strategy.

In fact, he had played a walk-on part in Obama's most serious campaign slip up. By sunup the next day, the official powers of the State of Ohio were looking to discredit Wurzelbacher.

Obama backers in state government, including appointees of Gov. Ted Strickland, conducted database searches at the Department of Job and Family Services and the Ohio Department of Taxation, digging up information about the Toledo-area tradesman. The office of acting Attorney General Nancy Rogers, a Democrat, is at the center of the growing scandal.

Columbus wags say Rogers was just appointed a few months ago by Strickland to replace a disgraced predecessor and not a likely culprit. She did not run for her own office in the November election and is a stickler for legality. Some say Strickland, an avid Hillary Clinton supporter, also isn't likely to have bent the rules for Obama.

Still, the Governor campaigned tirelessly to deliver Ohio for the Democrat nominee. More importantly, his close adviser Aaron Pickrell served as Obama's Ohio campaign manager.

Presidential campaign experts I know say any rush for confidential sources the morning after the debate would have likely involved Pickrell, and maybe Obama headquarters. But if New York State is any example, partisan abuse of state resources won't be properly investigated and Democrat state officials may huddle and hide.

In 2007, revelations of New York Governor Elliott Spitzer's use of State Police resources to discredit his State Senate Republican enemy. Caught red handed in the conspiracy, Spitzer aides lost their jobs and state investigators worked to play down Spitzer's own involvement.

The game played out all over Albany; Spitzer cronies worked hard to hide the truth. His handpicked inspector general faked a bogus review, the New York State Public Integrity Commission - a group run by Spitzer appointees - whitewashed his involvement while his close political ally, Albany District Attorney David Soares, punted two investigations into the matter.

In contrast, Democrat Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a damning report on Troopergate. His investigation was hobbled, however, as the governor refused to give his party rival the authority to issue subpoenas in the matter.

Following Spitzer's March 2008 resignation for hiring prostitutes, his Integrity Commission cleared him of Troopergate. Transcripts showed Spitzer to be positively Clintonesque, arguing he merely "permitted" the abuse of state resources, but did not "direct" it. His appointees bought it, but Albany veterans find his claim incredible.

With Troopergate bungled and buried, cynical New Yorkers shrugged last week when U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia announced he would not pursue criminal charges against Spitzer for buying women in prostitution. Their sentiment: Where's the surprise? New York's wealthy and powerful are above the law.

Will Ohioans hear the same hubris: senior Democrat official X "permitted" but did not "direct" the abuse of state resources? Maybe not. Columbus insiders say Inspector General Charles is a thorough and nonpartisan investigator. First appointed as Ohio's top watchdog by Republican governor George Voinovich in 1998, he was reappointed by Democrat Strickland. Hunting corruption, he has bagged a Democrat attorney general, a Republican governor and his wealthy backer, high-ranking appointees, free-spending bureaucrats and more.

What did Gov. Strickland and his appointees know, and when did they know it? With his trademark zeal for the truth, Charles might well uncover what really happened the morning after the final debate - and who decided it was fine to abuse state resources and violate Joe the Plumber's rights to elect Barack Obama.

I'm a 25-year veteran of campaign politics and I've worked on three US Republican presidential campaigns. While I still work in politics, I now write full time in Miami, Florida. My articles have appeared on the oped pages of The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Pravda, and many more leading news publications.

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PS November 23, 2008 9:23 am (Pacific time)

"Muchtruth" : Disgraced former NY governor's (Spitzer) analysis and interpretation leaves out much of what really happened as I expect an individual would do if it was their main point to promulgate a biased perspective. It is just as easy, and historically accurate, to provide an accounting of who started the ball rolling to begin issuing sub-prime loans (1999 was the main starting period), and the pressure that was put on lending authorities to ignore basic fiduciary responsibilities in their lending practices to stockholders by cabinet and various congressional officials. Bill Clinton himself acknowledged that it was his administration that began this process and as we now no it snowballed into one big financial mess. It seems all the experts out there have different views on how to fix it, but it will mitigate itself if left to the open market to mitigate/ameliorate if we have minimum government oversight. Loan programs are fine, but no more free money, grants or otherwise. The states of Utah and Indiana via lower taxes, cutting government spending have created surpluses. Raising taxes at this time will just prolong the misery, in my opinion. It's time for some hardball choices to be made and hopefully the unions associated with the auto industry realize that they need to re-assess their role in these matters, in fact they are the real key players when it comes to the auto industry recovering.

muchtruth November 21, 2008 3:42 pm (Pacific time)

By Eliot Spitzer Thursday, February 14, 2008; Page A25 Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive "teaser" rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets. Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers. Predatory lending was widely understood to present a looming national crisis. This threat was so clear that as New York attorney general, I joined with colleagues in the other 49 states in attempting to fill the void left by the federal government. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York's, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices. ad_icon What did the Bush administration do in response? Did it reverse course and decide to take action to halt this burgeoning scourge? As Americans are now painfully aware, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and our markets reeling, the answer is a resounding no. Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye. Let me explain: The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC has been in existence since the Civil War. Its mission is to ensure the fiscal soundness of national banks. For 140 years, the OCC examined the books of national banks to make sure they were balanced, an important but uncontroversial function. But a few years ago, for the first time in its history, the OCC was used as a tool against consumers. In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government's actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules. But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, when my office opened an investigation of possible discrimination in mortgage lending by a number of banks, the OCC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the investigation. Throughout our battles with the OCC and the banks, the mantra of the banks and their defenders was that efforts to curb predatory lending would deny access to credit to the very consumers the states were trying to protect. But the curbs we sought on predatory and unfair lending would have in no way jeopardized access to the legitimate credit market for appropriately priced loans. Instead, they would have stopped the scourge of predatory lending practices that have resulted in countless thousands of consumers losing their homes and put our economy in a precarious position. When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners, the Bush administration will not be judged favorably. The tale is still unfolding, but when the dust settles, it will be judged as a willing accomplice to the lenders who went to any lengths in their quest for profits. So willing, in fact, that it used the power of the federal government in an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general and anyone else on the side of consumers. The writer is governor of New York.

PS November 21, 2008 12:15 pm (Pacific time)

Let's not lose sight of the main issue here, it was Ohio democratic government officals who unlawfully violated a citizens' privacy rights. An Orwellian act, a dangerous act. This behavior will be resonated throughout the country and if the Ohio governor does not terminate those involved he will be held politically liable. I have heard that other examples of privacy intrusions are coming down the pike, we shall see. Note: Liberal domination of the msm is a reality and has been scientifically measured (both quanitatively and qualitatively). Sometime back I provided sources for those measurements. Even the Washington Post last week admitted through their ombudsman that they were unfairly doing more negative stories on conservatives than rad. liberals. My main concern is the issue of privacy intrusion, so that's where my money will be heading to help expose those who unlawfully engage in it. People should not allow themselves to be distracted from this outrageous act.

Henry Ruark November 21, 2008 10:43 am (Pacific time)

ps et al: You wrote: "Had this been a republican who engaged in this behavior it would be an "above the fold" headline and prudent objective people know that." That is unadulterated personal feeling stated as if literal truth based on solid factual realities. It reflects by purposeful intention the outmoded myth of "liberal" domination of all press and even broadcast channels. Reality is our diversified press is far more influenced by corporate ownership, heavily GOP, than by any other factor, simply by corporate pressures felt in every newsroom via the pay-check. That's reality, and it doth protect the GOP-side much more, naturally and obviously, than it does any others, including "independent" and "dissenter" and "activist" as well as "Democrat". That brute realistic fact is documented by many more both professional media and other nonpartrsan studies than any one other reality in the media world today. SO much for your allegation. My referene to "alligator{ is from oft-repeated words by my Dad, who was investigative reporter at Baltimore SUN, Mencken's daily, and always insisted on "denying the allegation and defying the alligator" --and he did NOT misspell that last word.

PS November 21, 2008 8:45 am (Pacific time)

This is all about violation of citizen privacy by a government offical/agency. Regardless of who the individual is, this unlawful intrusion was done for "ideological purposes." Had this been a republican who engaged in this behavior it would be an "above the fold" headline and prudent objective people know that. The "privacy issue violation" is the "alligator" in this Orwellian swamp and it is eating our "privacy rights." What's next on the menu?

Henry Ruark November 21, 2008 8:31 am (Pacific time)

Rich et al: Here's "see with own eyes" link to story re Abramoff corruption in D.C. Note it reports guilt of GOP aide: Ex-Aide to Sen. Kit Bond Pleads Guilty in Abramoff Lobbying Scandal Posted: 20 Nov 2008 Trevor L. Blackann, 34, a former aide to Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., pleaded guilty Thursday to making a false statement on his 2003 tax returns by failing to report thousands of dollars in illegal gifts he received from people connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to Matthew Friedrich, the Department of Justice's acting assistant attorney general. Blackann entered a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts in Washington. According to court documents, Blackann, who was Bond's legislative assistant in 2003, was responsible for advising and counseling the senator on legislative issues and epresented Bond in communications with other congressional offices and staff, and in the White House. -------------------- We COULD emphasize all-such we find, rather than ethically report corruption widespread on both sides of aisle. That's p-pander approach we see demonstrated in those for which we offer rebuttal. SO --which do you prefer, as conscientious American citizen facing complex choices ? We think most rational readers are seeking open, honest and ethical approach to realities, rather than simple support for already-inbuilt political bias perpetrated for fifty years by GOP "noise machine" and offset efforts by Dem-gang. Hola ! for honest effort -keep buying our paper, even at its distressing current cost in honest, open attention to kill dangerous, damaging apathy so evident and demonstrated by many.

Henry Ruark November 21, 2008 8:09 am (Pacific time)

Rich et al: You still miss the main point of our question re Comment here originating this dialog. It is NOT whether ol' Joe was hurt, damaged, even only discouraged, by unwise and probably illegal actions taken against him. McC. acknowledged his inhuman use of human being openly on national tv-news show, and apologized "on air". SO continued emphasis on Joe now, even if legal action is underway, simply emphasizes, accentuates, further damages poor old Joe. It was, is, and continues to be the one-sided, political pandering usage to which the originator stooped, carrying on similar points elsewhere here and proving without doubt that good faith dialog was not in his sights. (Even after McC. apology was openly cited here.) We owe readership here that ongoing responsibility, even regardless of own feelings re any such point. Failure to see and appreciate that clear demand for our own accountability is surely sure symptom of similar failure to recognize good faith demanded here for continued sharing and learning in open, honest, democratic channel costly in time, effort, funds and server provision for patient editors Tim and Bon. If NOT, we need only publish each, every pander-comment conceived and perpetrated, and forego each and every "informed opinion" from every source open to us. That surely alters S-N role unacceptably to owners and staff members. Stop and think, even if only briefly, before continuing the extremely damaging "Win By ANY Means !" confrontational acts which have brought our nation to the very brink of the final demise of democracy.Any such here simply repeats the same damaging pattern which so conclusively drove that very strong national-mandage event of Nov. 4. Dissent is demanded essential of democracy. Distortion/perversion to serve personal political points has long been universally recognized as major tool for political sabotage and shows intentional choice for that purpose, by emphasis on past event often easily coupled with precisely similar actions from the other side --as we have supplied here, with both checkable link and admonition to "use own mind" to evaluate.

Rich November 20, 2008 12:21 pm (Pacific time)

Here's latest on "Joe the Plumber" This is a very serious breach of public trust: Inspector general says Joe the Plumber's files searched improperly Thursday, November 20, 2008 12:47 PM Updated: Thursday, November 20, 2008 03:06 PM By Randy Ludlow THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH A state agency director improperly authorized checks of state computer systems for confidential information on "Joe the Plumber," according to a report released this afternoon by Ohio's inspector general. Helen Jones-Kelley, the suspended director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, "had no legitimate agency function or purpose to support her decision" to check on the newly minted political figure, the report states. The investigation by the office of Inspector General Thomas P. Charles found that the reasons Jones-Kelley offered for the checks "were not credible" and failed to "promote trust and confidence" about her decision. During the course of this investigation, we also received information that Director Jones-Kelley may have used state resources to engage in political activity. Jones-Kelley had asked Charles Huston, ODJFS’ network service technician, to synchronize her personal Blackberry with the ODJFS email system. As a result, all emails sent from her Blackberry went through the ODJFS email system. Among the emails that went through the ODJFS system were four in which Jones- Kelley provided lists of names of potential contributors to the Obama campaign. One of those emails included Jones-Kelley’s offer of a $2,500 contribution to the campaign. On all four occasions the emails were either sent from, or received at, Jones-Kelley’s state email address. This use of the ODJFS system violates the Governor’s policy on political activity and constitutes an inappropriate use of state resources. Consequently, we also find reasonable cause to believe that Jones-Kelley committed a wrongful act in this instance.

Henry Ruark November 20, 2008 11:03 am (Pacific time)

To all: No question dialog-sharing here facilitates learning for all. Point re Joe's license not the issue, only his image as distorted for political smear purposes. Difference in states simply shows democratic decision as made by each state in our democratic governance plan. No question re illegal action by any administrator, simply need to add similar data from both perpetrator-gangs --which is real point of dialog shared here. Re Spitzer-edit learning, why not send link for "see with own eyes",per our S-N pattern. Re "time will tell", not always true; but here watch also for next steps such as arraignment in Texas for both Cheney and Gonzales --surely much more meaningful than poor ol' Joe and his hurt-image. Unavoidable fact remains of constant, continuing, contemptuous attack on real opportunity for honest, open dialog here, for obvious now-passe political pander purposes, with incidents used in no way relevant to strong national effort now demanded to support President who received historic and very huge mandate in transformative election --which is where we all started !!! Thanks to all as participation makes the channel useful, and good faith makes it valuable, with damage to all concerned when departures decimate and may deny us all the ongoing opportunity demonstrated here and now.

Henry Ruark November 20, 2008 8:01 am (Pacific time)

Sanchez: You wrote: "Joe's" working background is not an issue, unless for distraction purposes?" First you choose to highlight the Joe-suit,obviusly a distraction after "the vote", then you tell us his working background NOT an issue ? What ELSE is suit based on, if NOT damage-done to him precisely because of that background ? Why else did he become symbol --negative by far in long run !-- for McC. campaign ? Again, sir, you distort with obvious contempt for S-N readers, who can apply own minds to evaluate this incident without your obvious sretch-strain to make it more political/pander pretense. As military officer,you surely owe ANY President undivided and immaculate support, right? SO why constant attack after the fact of O's huge-mandate succession to honorably serve as President ? And, again, how do you stand on impeachment of perpetrators who initiated, facilitated, plotted, schemed, and acted to place nation in the perilous situation currently obvious to millions --those who voted the overwhelming O-mandate. Dissent always welcome here but we do work to preserve, protect, project and guide honest, open, democratic dialog to learn and share on relevant issues. Constant, continued,peculiarly convulsive reaction to what YOU consider relevant from the past simply wastes reader time and S-N Comment-space, at cost to Tim/Bon who must cope with such inanity so long as their patience doth allow.

muchtruth November 19, 2008 8:26 pm (Pacific time)

I see no backup to this article.. but whatever.. How about an editorial that Spitzer wrote in Feb 2008, just about a week before his phone was illegally tapped and the big boys brought him down. Read carefully, ya might learn something.

Lucas County Ohio Resident November 19, 2008 8:25 pm (Pacific time)

Just wanted to point out that it is legal to work as a plumber in Lucas County without a license. (There are certain municipalities in this county that require a license, but none of the townships require one.) Joe the Plumber has never been accused of working as a plumber illegally (to the best of my knowledge...and the local media has been dragging out everything lately!). Those of you who are fixating on the license issue are wasting your time - you don't need a license to work here.

Sanchez November 19, 2008 6:45 pm (Pacific time)

HR it's pretty clear whose using distortion in this matter. The government violated this citizens privacy for political reasons and it appears the Governor of Ohio felt this way also by suspending a department head who used government facilities/equipment for political partisan purposes. Time will tell.

Henry Ruark November 19, 2008 10:08 am (Pacific time)

Sancez: Au contraire, friend S,AGAIN ! Joe chose to place himself as a licensed professional, in his first contact with O. That role as honest working man was what made him the symbol he became. Yours to disinvest him of his ONLY claim to fame shows your own intentional distortion of obvious fact. Joe told O of plan to purchase $250,000 business far beyond his honest possibilities, which surely reflects on his character. Do you really think he would ever have been noticed if he had admitted to status truth ? Your continued naivete also shows in repetitition re the "investigations" underway; happens allatime in political conflict, as you surely do know. Invasion of privacy pales considerably vs political;y motivated attack on Attorney Generals at national level. (That's "naivete" example.) Perhaps you spent too much learning time in armed force service ? That tends to rigidize approach to anything democratic, many will agree. What counts is grand jury indictments; see today's news for Texas' start re Cheney, Gonzales, others, with some 15 counts vs them for conflict of interest and other serious criminal offenses. FYI, those in Texas only first in line by other jurisdictions too. Then, too, there is the huge and rapidly growing demand for full national-level action vs the perpetrators of the most evil attack in our history on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, now firmly on the public record via evaluative statement from leading skilled historians. (Who are surely NOT naive and untrained !)

Sanchez November 19, 2008 9:11 am (Pacific time)

There is a criminal investigation going on about the "gross violations of a citizen's privacy", aka Joe the Plumber by the states AG. One department head has been suspended. For those of you who hate that Patriot Act (Obama voted for it), these privacy violations should outrage you. "Joe's" working background is not an issue, unless for distraction purposes?!

Henry Ruark November 18, 2008 6:10 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Interesting to see how this writer would handle the same kind of ongoing investigation of the U.S. Justice Dept. and its political/revenge enforced resignations for key Attorney Generals who refused the word from on high re attacking political targets of the Bush cabal. He makes Joe/T/P. appear as innocent "Everyman" when in fact he discredited himself by fact of non-license in his own claimed profession. Obama's honest, open reference to "spreading the wealth" was in fact not by any means a vulnerable statement, but referred to open political actions already on the record, and in fact also supported by the huge majority of voters as events of Nov. 4 surely have proven since. In fact, it was fully justified by national reporting very rapidly, after initial distortion by the McC. campaign. I can understand why his stuff appeared in Pravda; and will venture that anything else was clearly political, so titled and openly received in other publications --the only way their professional editors would ever have given it any white space. That's easily checkable by anyone wishing to waste work time on it. But responsible, accountable and professional journalism this simply ain't, as any discerning reader can evaluate with own mind, not needing the usual "see with own eyes" sample from elsewhere. But then, no surprise: Just look at the three political campaigns he assisted, if that is the proper word for what he delivered for them. For full reason to discredit anyone so connected, 30 years later, check out current Op Ed which is fully documented by the historical record easily accessed via Internet sources.

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