Were Background Checks on "Joe the Plumber" Illegal?

The Columbus Dispatch reports that state officials are investigating whether state employees illegally accessed the BMV records of Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber."

Public records requested by The Dispatch disclose that information on Wurzelbacher's driver's license or his sport-utility vehicle was pulled from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles database three times shortly after the debate.

Information on Wurzelbacher was accessed through accounts assigned to the office of Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department.

It has not been determined who checked on Wurzelbacher, or why. Direct access to driver's license and vehicle registration information from BMV computers is restricted to legitimate law-enforcement and government business. . . .

The attorney general's office is investigating whether the access of Wurzelbacher's BMV information through the office's Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway computer system was unauthorized, spokeswoman Jennifer Brindisi said.

"We're trying to pinpoint where it came from," she said. The investigation could become "criminal in nature," she said. Brindisi would not identify the account that pulled the information on Oct. 16.