"It would be unfortunate if public officials were unable to promote, or even provide factual comments concerning those successes," Gainer told the ethics agency in his letter.
The auditor also noted that the Citibank provides the Visa cards under a $432 million contact with the state. Gainer's office manages the program.
Gainer said Citibank, not his office, selected Visa as the P-card provider.
"I participated in Visa's Currency of Progress website with the knowledge that Visa does not advertise or solicit business from any purchasing card program," Gainer said in his letter. "I'm not aware of any decision by the Ethics Commission defining 'advertising' to encompass this scenario."
In one video, Gainer remarks, "Visa's been an outstanding business partner ... working with us to better meet the needs of our vendors."
The online spots include shots of the state Capitol, West Virginia state flag, the auditor's office and Gainer campaign buttons that say, "Elect Gainer Auditor."
On Monday, Gainer's office said the campaign buttons were used by his late father, former Auditor Glen Gainer Jr., who served from 1977 to 1993.
"When you run for public office - and I am elected -- the one thing people like to say is, 'We need to run government more like a business,'" Gainer says in the Visa video. "If anything, we try to do it better than they do in the private sector."
In the same video, Gainer later remarks, "If we tried to take the cards away, I'd be run out of office."
The other West Virginia officials who appeared in the promotional videos were Mike Dorsey, the Department of Environmental Protection's chief of homeland security and emergency response; Jim Calvert, DEP's administrative services manager; state Division of Highways Deputy Secretary Keith Chapman; and Cindy Marn, associate director of purchasing services at West Virginia University.
West Virginia agencies have issued about 7,000 Visa purchasing cards, with plans to distribute 10,000 more, according to Visa's website. Authorized employees receive the Visa cards, which act much like a credit card.
The state averages 56,000 transactions totaling $36 million each month. The cards are used for small-dollar transactions, as well as major contract payments.
Visa's marketing campaign, which began in October 2009, also has featured the governments of Pakistan and the Dominican Republic to show how purchasing card programs save taxpayer dollars.Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.