Several months ago, I was reading the Election Law Enforcement Commission’s (ELEC’s) “Compliance Manual for Candidates” (available here) and learned how critically important ELEC claims it is for candidates, on their “R-1” or “C-1” form filings, to report the “occupations” of those contributors who donate more than $300 to their campaigns. According to page 22 of ELEC’s manual:

When reporting occupation information, a description of the contributor’s source of income must be provided, such as “florist,” “attorney,” “doctor,” “custodian,” or “electrician.” Descriptions such as “self-employed,” “owner,” or “sole proprietor” do not identify occupation and are insufficient. If the contributor does not have a source of livelihood, a description such as “retired,” “student,” or “none” shall be reported, but in all cases some written description shall be provided and the information shall not be left blank. (Emphasis in original)

I starting perusing candidate filings looking to see if they complied with this requirement.  It didn’t take me long to find that a Cumberland County Freeholder candidate, the Rev. James Dunkins, on his November 28, 2011 Form R-1 filing, just left the “occupation” field blank.  So, like any good citizen who wants ELEC’s rules to be scrupulously followed, I faxed ELEC a formal letter of complaint against Dunkins and requested that he and/or his campaign treasurer be fined for this infraction.

In late February, a little more than a month after I faxed ELEC my complaint, an ELEC representative called me and told me that my complaint letter wasn’t sufficient and that I must submit my complaint on ELEC’s official form and return by regular mail so that ELEC would have my “original signature.”  So, I dutifully filled out the form and mailed it to ELEC with my original complaint letter attached.

By letter dated May 2, 2012, Shreve E. Marshall, Jr., ELEC’s Director of Review & Investigation, informed me–without giving a reason why–that “at its meeting on April 10, 2012, the Commission determined not to open a review for compliance with the provisions of the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act.” (Emphasis in Marshall’s letter.) My complaint and Director Marshall’s letter are on-line here.

All I can conclude is that despite the explicit directions on page 22 of its Manual, ELEC really doesn’t care whether or not candidates complete their reporting forms correctly. 

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]