Joe the Plumber: The Criminal Investigation?!

Oh, Joe, you’re never going to leave our lives. In the latest twist to the “Joe the Plumber” saga, state officials in Ohio are now trying to figure out if someone illegally used government computers to research the now ubiquitous campaign character.

The Columbus Dispatch discovered that three users pulled up Joe Wurzelbacher’s information from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles database in the days following the October 15 debate. The accounts used were tied to the office of Ohio’s attorney general, the county’s Child Support Enforcement Agency, and the Toledo Police Department, the paper reports.

Here’s the problem: Those records are supposed to be directly accessed only for “legitimate law enforcement and government business.” While it’s not clear specifically who used the accounts and for what purpose, it seems unlikely that there were three separate legit reasons why Joe Wurzelbacher’s records needed to be accessed in that short window of time. The fingers are already pointing. An Ohio McCain spokesman has placed the blame on the Obama campaign — a charge the Democratic team firmly denies.

Whoever did the digging did appear to try to cover their tracks. The Dispatch says at least one of the accounts was a “test account” not tied to a specific person. Could it have just been some random cubicle zombie’s curiosity? Or was there some political motivation, either by a Republican or a Democrat? Certainly, if that does prove to be the case, it’s still quite possible the culprit was acting on their own accord and has no direct affiliation with either campaign.

In any event, we’re likely to hear more before long. The investigation could turn “criminal in nature,” a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office indicates.