Joe Wurzelbacher, the now famous Joe the Plumber, was exercising one of his most basic rights as an American when he questioned Barack Obama about the Democrat’s tax plan and spoke out against. It was political speech specifically protected by the Constitution.

That exchange brought him a lot of attention, some welcome, some not so welcome and some frankly sinister. He became practically the third person on the stage at the last presidential debate, being invoked 23 times by the candidate. He has appeared at a Sarah Palin rally.

It also turned out that he was an unlicensed plumber and that he was in arrears on some tax and hospital bills.

The sinister attention came from the state of the Ohio where. According to the Columbus Dispatch, a state agency, the Department of Job and Family Services, pried extensively into his background, using state computer systems to check for whether he was paying child support, receiving welfare assistance or behind on unemployment compensation taxes.

Wurzelbacher had told Obama that he hoped to buy out his boss’s plumbing business for $250,000, also a very American thing to do, wanting to own a small business. Supposedly it was the money that attracted the agency’s attention.

Its head, Helen Jones-Kelley wrote, "Given our understanding that Mr. Wurzelbacher had publicly indicated that he had the means to purchase a substantial business enterprise, ODJFS, consistent with past departmental practice, checked confidential databases."

The wise Ohio entrepreneur now knows not to discuss his business aspirations within earshot of the state government unless he wants to be run through those "confidential databases."

The state denies any political motivation in the computer search, but, the Dispatch notes, Jones-Kelly is an Obama supporter and donor.

If the highly screened sleuths at the National Security Agency can snoop on Americans’ calls and e-mails for their private amusement, it’s probably too much to expect state employees to resist the same temptation to snoop. But it’s still wrong.

As for Joe, he’s signed with a Nashville personal management company with a view towards a possible career in inspirational speaking and country music. Watch what you say, Joe. You never know who’s paying attention.

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