New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin was arrested and indicted for bribery and other offenses.
Update: 04/12/2022 6:53 PM
New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin resigned in the wake of his arrest in a federal corruption investigation, creating a political crisis for Governor Kathy Hochul seven months after she selected him as her number 2 and upcoming running mate in the 2022 elections.
Original: 04/12/2022 3:36 PM
New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin was indicted for being part of a scheme to get campaign contributions in exchange for a $50,000 state grant. He surrendered on Tuesday morning to face charges of bribery, conspiracy, honest services wire fraud, and falsification of records dating back to his time as a state senator.
According to the indictment, from 2019 through 2021, he carried out the scheme while he was a state senator and a candidate for state comptroller. During that time, he allegedly solicited campaign donations from and to be raised by a real estate developer, in exchange for appropriating state funds for the developer’s non-profit organization.
Governor Kathy Hochul chose Benjamin as her running mate for this year’s election.
During a press conference about the shooting incident in New York on Tuesday afternoon, Hochul was asked about the issue.
“We’ll have a statement out there. I have not had a chance to speak to him. I was doing media interviews this morning. But this is not the place but I will be addressing it very shortly,” Hochul said.
He is alleged to have falsified campaign donor forms, and in 2021 he falsely stated that he had never “directly exercised” his authority as an official “concerning a matter of a donor [he] directly solicited” while being vetted for the lieutenant governor position.
During a press conference, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams labeled Benjamin’s actions “a simple story of corruption.”
“Benjamin allegedly directed a $50,000 state grant to a nonprofit organization … and in exchange, Benjamin received tens of thousands of dollars,” he said.
“Those contributions were directed both to Benjamin’s state Senate campaign committee and to Benjamin’s New York City comptroller campaign,” Williams explained. “Taxpayer money for campaign contributions – quid pro quo – this, for that — that’s bribery, plain and simple.”
The federal court indictment released on Tuesday detailed a two-year effort by Benjamin to obtain campaign contributions from an unnamed real estate developer in exchange for the then-state senator arranging for them to receive a $50,000 grant from tax funds to be paid to a non-profit controlled by the firm.
“The CFB’s audit reviews identified potentially fraudulent contributions prior to issuing any public funds payments,” the CFB said. “Those contributions were not matched with public funds, nor did they factor into the campaign qualifying for public funds payments.”
He is also accused of being “engaged in a series of lies and deceptions” to “cover up his scheme” — including filing fraudulent campaign finance reports, misleading the city’s Campaign Finance Board, and lying to Hochul’s staff as he was vetted before she selected him to be her lieutenant governor.
“We’ve also alleged that Benjamin repeatedly lied to cover up the bribery scheme, including by falsifying campaign forms, and misleading city regulators,” Williams said. “And we alleged that Benjamin repeatedly lied on the vetting forms that he filled out before he was appointed lieutenant governor. That’s a cover up.”
“Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin’s arrest today on federal corruption charges is another stain on New York State Government and calls into question Governor Hochul’s judgment. Over the past few days and weeks, Kathy Hochul and the Majorities in Albany have reinforced their support for Brian Benjamin despite news of federal investigations. Governor Hochul said herself this morning that she’s “changed the culture of Albany,” Senator Rob Ortt, the Senate Minority leader, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, it looks like business as usual in our state Capitol. Kathy Hochul and Senate Democrats might tolerate this corruption, but New Yorkers don’t, and neither do I,” he added. “I’m calling on Governor Hochul and Senate Democrats to stop hiding from the truth and join me in demanding Brian Benjamin’s resignation.”
“The news regarding the arrest of Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin is very disappointing for the people of New York state,” said Assembly Minority Will Barclay. “Albany has a persistent and pervasive corruption problem and today’s federal indictment is a disturbing indication that [the] problem is still a major obstacle hampering the People’s Business. He must resign immediately.”
He added, “While the legal process plays out, we must endeavor to move past this distraction and get back to doing the important work of our state government.”
“In her first major decision as governor, Kathy Hochul chose a dirty politician to serve as her partner in government and running mate,” New York GOP Chair said. “Brian Benjamin’s shady dealings and corruption were well-documented, but Hochul turned a blind eye and put him a heartbeat away from the governorship. This decision was not just dangerous incompetence, it is proof that her tolerance for corruption runs deep in her veins, which is no surprise given she dutifully served with Andrew Cuomo for seven years.”
He pleaded not guilty Tuesday at an initial appearance in Manhattan federal court and was released. Bail was set at $250,000.
The corruption in the Democratic party runs deep.
Andrew Cuomo stepped down from office after multiple sexual assault allegations, but not before he could doom the elderly of New York during the pandemic.
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was ousted and sent to prison on corruption charges.
CNBC put together a list of other corrupt New York politicians.
It is past time to vote out the corruption that is plaguing our country.