Is 'Joe The Plumber' A Plumber? That's Debatable

Joe the Plumber's story sprang a few leaks Thursday. Turns out that the man who was held up by John McCain as the typical, hard-working American taxpayer isn't really a licensed plumber. And court documents show he owes nearly $1,200 in back taxes.

"Joe," whose name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, was cited repeatedly in Wednesday night's final presidential debate by McCain for questioning Barack Obama's tax policy.

Wurzelbacher instantly became a media celebrity, fielding calls during the debate and facing reporters outside his home near Toledo on Thursday morning for an impromptu nationally televised news conference.

The burly, bald man acknowledged he doesn't have a plumber's license, but said he didn't need one because he works for someone else at a company that does residential work.

But Wurzelbacher still would need to be a licensed apprentice or journeyman to work in Toledo, and he's not, said David Golis, manager and residential building official for the Toledo Division of Building Inspection.

State and local records show Wurzelbacher has no license, although his employer does. Golis said there are no records of inspectors citing Wurzelbacher for unlicensed work in Toledo.

And then there was the matter of his taxes.

Wurzelbacher owes the state of Ohio $1,182.98 in personal income tax, according to Lucas County Court of Common Pleas records.

In January 2007, Ohio's Department of Taxation filed a claim on his property until he pays the debt, according to the records. The lien remains active.

At the debate, McCain cited Wurzelbacher as an example of someone who wants to buy a plumbing business but would be hurt by Obama's tax plans.

Wurzelbacher, a self-described conservative, had spoken to Obama at a rally Sunday near his home and asked him whether his tax plan would keep him from buying the business that currently employs him, which earns more than $250,000 a year.

"Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" Wurzelbacher asked.

Obama said that under his proposal taxes on any revenue from $250,000 on down would stay the same, but that amounts above that level would be subject to a 39 percent tax, instead of the current 36 percent rate.

McCain said Obama's plan would stop entrepreneurs such as Wurzelbacher from investing in new small businesses and keep existing ones from growing.

The McCain campaign posted a Web ad featuring the exchange between Wurzelbacher and Obama.

During an afternoon taping of "Late Show with David Letterman," McCain said he had not yet spoken to Wurzelbacher, and apologized for the press attention he had received.

"Joe, if you're watching, I'm sorry," McCain said.

Wurzelbacher had to deal with a clog of two dozen reporters outside his home on a narrow street lined with ranch- and split-level homes Thursday morning. No detail about the divorced father of a 13-year-old boy was too small: Was he a registered voter? Did he have a plumbing license? Whom will he vote for?

Leaning against his black Dodge Durango SUV, Wurzelbacher at first was amused by it all, then overwhelmed and finally a little annoyed.

"I don't have a lot of pull. It's not like I'm Matt Damon," he said "I just hope I'm not making too much of a fool of myself."

He indicated he was a fan of the military and McCain but wouldn't say who will get his vote. He is registered as a Republican, the county elections board said, because he voted in the GOP primary in March.

Wurzelbacher said a McCain campaign official contacted him several days before the debate to ask him to appear with the candidate at a Toledo rally scheduled for Sunday.

He told reporters he's unsure if he'll attend, since he's now scheduled to be in New York for TV interviews.

On Thursday in New Hampshire, Obama said McCain was misleading voters by proposing tax plans that favor the rich while criticizing an Obama tax plan that would raise taxes only on people making more than $250,000 a year, just 5 percent of all taxpayers.

"He's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he's fighting for," Obama said. "How many plumbers you know that are making a quarter-million dollars a year?"

Wurzelbacher said he felt a bit overwhelmed by all the attention.

"I'm kind of like Britney Spears having a headache. Everybody wants to know about it," he joked.


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  • by Windy on Oct 17, 2008 at 03:38 PM
    Joe the Plumber was generated to try and take the Democrats minds off McCain but it is not working. McCain you need to get better at this. You are to old to be running any way. Go home play with your greatgrand kids.
  • by Nana Location: Southern Pitt on Oct 17, 2008 at 11:31 AM
    This is a doggone shame that Joe is now the subject of a media blitz. The very fact that he owes back taxes further evidences the sad state our economic system is in. He might be a good, hardworking individual who like the rest of us is just doing the best he can, and the taxes probably had to step aside for a little bit so the light bill (or the house payment) could be paid or groceries bought. They ought to leave the poor fellow alone.
  • by Red State Location: Washington co. on Oct 17, 2008 at 11:07 AM
    You're right Snake Oil. Joe spoke to Obama and by the next day, he was all over the news, doing interviews, under investigation, being discredited by the liberal MSM and the subject of their scorn. Yet, 20 months have gone by and no investigation of BHO's alliance with the domestic terrorists Bill Ayers, former PLO member Rashid Kalidi, former advisor of the Black Panther Party from Saudi Arabia Kalid al-Mansour (who reportedly helped finance Obama's Harvard education and whose first name is of all things - Obama!). Look at that - took me 10 minutes and I'm not even a "journalist".
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Oct 17, 2008 at 08:19 AM
    Red State, they even took this far enough to do and "investigation" to discredit this guy anyway they can? You had got to be kidding. A conspiracy, oh yea, API is in the tanks. I know even witn doesn't like it but that is the way it is in syndicated media. Fox news said that this story would come based on past liberal activities. So what is the real story here? Discredit McCain of course. The real news that is not mentioned yet are the polls of likely voters now has McCain a couple of points behind. Kerry was 8 point ahead and he didn't make it. So, looking back to past red state elections, it all looks like McCain is in. Yet the liberals will cry with all their efforts of ACORN and money they spent and still loose. I have posted that liberal don't get elected, this one is not different. I will be glad when the election is over, stock comes back, economy will come back and gas prices will go down.
  • by Red State Location: Washington Co. on Oct 17, 2008 at 07:29 AM
    I knew it was just a matter of time before the attack dogs went after "Joe". Why even write the article with the headline stating that he's not licensed specifically intending to discredit him, when the fact is that he doesn't need his own license to be a plumber. They think that because their assumptions were wrong that means he lied to them. No, they just don't like what he has to say about America, John McCain, and especially the fact that he dared to question The One! So typical. Trying to redirect the attention away from Obama saying that he wants to "spread the wealth around" and pick on some regular Joe who wants to work for a living and keep what he earns.
  • by Jimmy on Oct 17, 2008 at 06:41 AM
    According to Reuters, they quoted an official with the plumbers union who said: "without a license, Wurzelbacher cannot practice in the city of Toledo but can work for someone with a master's license or in outlying areas that do not require a license". Oh yeah, it's the liberal media that's making this stuff up...along with the liberal unions. WRONG!
  • by Phillip Location: Greenville on Oct 17, 2008 at 06:19 AM
    Oh gee here we go again with the media trying to get Obama in the office it has been a conspiracy from the very beginning. He is nothing without his written speeches and a TelePrompTer. Obama is the reason the stock market is crashing in Lou he is get in office. Just wait and see how bad this country will hurt if he makes it.
  • by Ron Location: Merritt on Oct 17, 2008 at 06:06 AM
    Take it from a retired Code Enforcement Officer, Joe the Plumber DOES NOT need a license if he works for a licensed plumbing contractor. He can perform all plumbing work and call himself a plumber as long as he works under the owner's license. More lies from the left-wing media!!
  • by Dianne Location: Greenville on Oct 17, 2008 at 05:46 AM
    This man was obviously a plant by the Republican Party. Looks like it might backfire on them. Gee, I hate that.
  • by Chris Location: Greenville on Oct 17, 2008 at 04:47 AM
    *as I look into the crystal ball I see that a bald headed man will soon be paying his personal taxes and having a bigger headache from the 250,000 dollars that he will make from this whole ordeal*
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