• Delta Rolls Out Platinum Upgrades For Top Republicans

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    ATLANTA - A Whistleblower 2 investigation has found that Delta Air Lines gave some of Georgia's most powerful political figures campaign contributions that lesser flyers would love to have -- upgrades to platinum or gold frequent flyer status.

    PDF: Delta Air Lines Campaign Contributions

    Channel 2's Richard Belcher looked into whether Delta grossly undervalued the contributions.

    Channel 2 consumer advisor Clark Howard said a platinum upgrade is worth $10-15,000 a year, which is far more than Delta's valuation.

    Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and five top legislators were on the receiving end for either platinum or gold upgrades, plus one legislator who's no longer in office. "Platinum medallion! No, way!" said Howard.

    Howard knows those free medallion upgrades are a huge bonus for anyone who's had to put up with air travel's long lines, security checks and add-on fees.

    "You go through a special security line at the airport and many other airports around the country. You get automatic upgrades to first class for free if seats are available. You get huge bonus frequent flyer miles every time you fly," said Howard.

    Belcher found the names of the recipients on the state ethics commission's website, where contributors and political candidates have to disclose what they give and receive. All of the top political figures enjoying the benefits from Delta are republicans.

    Delta valued the gold medallions at just under $1,600 and gave them to Rep. Jay Roberts, chairman of the house transportation committee; Sen. Ronnie Chance, chairman of the economic development committee; and house majority leader Larry O'Neal.

    Receiving platinum medallions valued at just under $2400 were Lt. Governor Casey Cagle; house speaker pro tem Jan Jones; senate president pro tem Tommie Williams; and former house majority leader Jerry Keen, who got his medallion after deciding not to run last year.

    It was a campaign contribution to someone without a campaign. Howard said Delta's values for the medallions are too low.

    "Well, if you ask very frequent flyers, they would tell you that being platinum medallion probably has a value to them of somewhere in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 per year," said Howard.

    Delta sent Channel 2 a statement saying it supports elected leaders with campaign contributions, but did not offer a detailed explanation of the way it valued the medallions.

    But a government watchdog group is going beyond Clark's question about the value. Tuesday at 6 p.m., Belcher investigates whether the frequent flyer medallions should be treated as gifts instead of campaign contributions.

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