Saturday, November 1, 2008

God Bless Vanessa Niekamp

Throughout America's history, there have been all kinds of patriots who have drawn a thin line in the sand and stood their ground against the on-rush of tyranny -- from the farmers and blacksmiths of the American Revolution to the flight attendants and businessmen of Flight 93. Yes, from time to time, they even come in the form of TV news anchors. I think it's time to christen a new category of patriot: the mid-level government bureaucrat.


Yep, you read that right. Meet Vanessa Niekamp.

See, Ms. Niekamp is the person who actually ran the nefarious records check on "Joe the Plumber" on orders from her boss (Asst. Deputy Director of Child Support) at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Then, a week later, her boss' boss (Deputy Director of Child Support) "'literally demanded' that she write an e-mail to the agency's chief privacy officer stating she checked the case for child-support purposes." In ordering this after-the-fact CYA email, this 'crat told Patriot Niekamp that his boss -- ODJFS Director Helen Jones-Kelley -- said the snooping of "Joe the Plumber" was warranted because "Wurzelbacher might buy a plumbing business and could owe support."

So what makes Vanessa Niekamp a new breed of patriot, you ask?

She's speaking out. Not only is she naming the names of her bosses who tasked HER with the actual snooping, unwittingly done. She's even contradicting the party line given by the Director Jones-Kelley herself:

Director Helen Jones-Kelley said her agency checks people who are "thrust into the public spotlight," amid suggestions they may have come into money, to see if they owe support or are receiving undeserved public assistance.

Niekamp told The Dispatch she is unfamiliar with the practice of checking on the newly famous. "I've never done that before, I don't know of anybody in my office who does that and I don't remember anyone ever doing that," she said today.

That's no small thing given the white-hot national spotlight now shining on this woman's previously anonymous workplace. Imagine the group pressure being exerted on all of the ODJFS employees to stick together. Imagine the fear of losing her nice-but-hardly-lucrative $69,000/year job and health care. Imagine the fear of getting "vetted" (Wurzelbach'ed?) herself, given that she's a Republican pulling the curtain back on her Democratic superior.

Am I guilty of a bit of hyperbole putting Niekamp in the class of Revere, Washington, Glick and Beamer?

Maybe, but I don't think so. Given the purely political motivation for this brazen violation of public trust and personal privacy, and the deafening silence from the privacy watchdogs who claim to be the last line of defense between the citizenry and Big Brother Tyranny, Inc., I find this whole episode frightening. It seems to me that the groupthink of Orwell's 1984 doesn't happen unless all the mid-level bureaucrats agree to play along.

Vanessa Niekamp isn't playing along. That makes her a patriot of the first order in my book.[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full post.]

[Ed. Note] Don't worry, Lance. Your "below the fold" has been fixed.

[Update] In the comments.
Anonymous said...
My family members found your post and forwarded it to me. Thank you very much for your inspirational words. - Vanessa Niekamp

There's no way to know if this is true but we ARE #5 on Google for Vanessa Niekamp.


  1. Ok, so I don't know how to do the above the fold/below the fold stuff for main page aesthetics. Some instruction may be in order.

    BTW, thanks for the seat at the table, D4.

  2. Welcome Lance!
    And an excellent first post. I haven't seen this anywhere else.
    This whole episode is scary and would probaby yield a new verb (like Borked) but "Joed" doesn't work and "plumbed" is just... wrong.

  3. The story is still unfolding, but I can comment on what we know so far. It takes guts for anyone in Niekamp's position to blow the whistle. Having read some of Solzhenitsyn's works, I understand that this is EXACTLY how the Stalinists kept in power, intimidating the hell out of anyone using their own records. Let me get this straight. The liberals are all up in arms accusing the Bush administration of invading privacy. But who are the real invaders? David Kernell. Helen Jones-Kelley. Who are the people getting their privacy violated? Sarah Palin. Joe the Plumber. Welcome to Archipelago Obama.

  4. Lance, I took care of your "below the fold"; I'll teach you how it works. For now, your ideas are way more important than knowing how to use our heavily-customized template.

  5. Well expressed, Lance. I saw this on FR, but it wasn't nearly as nicely written. You are absolutely correct in asserting that a person daring to speak out against the bureaucracy is a hero. I know from my own job that it is nigh impossible to "rat" on a colleague when one's own job isn't affected, let alone to do so when one might become the next target.

    Of course, America's Orwellian nightmare will only be possible through the Libs--despite the caterwauling of the Left over the past 8 years, Big Brother has been keeping his eyes straight ahead. Sometimes, as with Obama and his campaign contributions, BB is strangely blind.

    Come visit at the Queendom!

  6. My family members found your post and forwarded it to me. Thank you very much for your inspirational words. - Vanessa Niekamp

  7. How cool is that, if it's true?
    I hope it is and God bless you, Vanessa.

  8. Vanessa: the honor of having you stop by is all ours.

  9. I just want to thank you all for supposrting my older sisters situation on this. It's glad to see someone understands.

    Clayton Houston


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