in Houston, Texas
Who gets the credit card points -- used for free stays and cheap flights -- accrued during a political campaign?
Thursday, Aug 09, 2012, 12:40PM CST
By Steve Miller
creditcard

Who gets the hospitality points accrued during the course of a political campaign, when hotels, car rentals and flights help the cardholder amass end rewards such as free stays and cheap flights?

It’s a question posed to the Texas Ethics Commission in a letter, which also notes that some candidates, “especially challengers, may not have a campaign-related credit history that would allow obtaining an independent card that stands on its own credit.”

As such, the candidate may roll up points as he or she uses a card tied to awards programs, like the Citibank cards for Hilton and American Airlines. Such cards tie points to expenditures.

The letter's author, whose identity can be kept secret by state law, poses this question: “If a candidate or officeholder established campaign credit cards based on his or her personal credit history and pays the fees from personal funds, can he or she use for personal purposes the rewards points earned by those cards? If the points have been earned over several years and cannot be separated by card, how can this situation be resolved?”

Private companies routinely allow employees to use the points when using their personal cards for business, as well as permitting the accrual of points earned while flying on business.

In some cases, public employees are allowed to keep the points for personal use, which can be controversial. In Palm Beach County in Florida last month, the county’s ethics division reversed itself and ruled that employees can have the points.

There is a patent on a system that allows the contribution of hospitality points to a political campaign in the form of a donation. And you can donate to a campaign with a points-earning credit card.

But there is no definitive rule on the question posed to the Ethics Commission; a ruling is expected later this year.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of credit card by flickr user Images_of_Money, used via a Creative Commons license.

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