In the latest scandal involving New York state government, Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned from office following his arrest on federal corruption charges.
Benjamin’s resignation creates problems for the New York Democrat Party and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) just seven months into her tenure as Governor.
Hochul was the Lt. Governor of now-disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Benjamin, also a Democrat, is accused of soliciting campaign contributions for favors to a real estate developer.
BREAKING: New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has been arrested in a federal corruption investigation, U.S. prosecutors say.
Benjamin faces charges of bribery, wire fraud and falsification of records. https://t.co/HTU3F2k9vv
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 12, 2022
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Getting His Day In Court
On Tuesday, Brian Benjamin pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan courtroom on charges of bribery, fraud, conspiracy, and falsification of records, and was released on $250,000 bond.
Lawyers for Benjamin stated denied the charges and said a grant in question in the investigation was used for school supplies.
“There was nothing inappropriate about this grant. He will focus his energies on explaining in court why his actions were laudable — not criminal. He looks forward to when this case is finished so he can rededicate himself to public service.”
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The FBI’s Assistant Director of the New York field office said of the case, “Exploiting one’s official authority by allocating state funds as part of a bribe to procure donations to a political campaign and engaging in activity to cover up the bribe is illegal. As we allege today, Benjamin’s conduct in this scheme directly circumvents those procedures put in place to keep our systems fair.”
Why did NY Gov. Hochul just say she’s “sick and tired of reading headlines about crime” — is it because today her Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin was arrested for bribery?
— Paul A. Szypula (@Bubblebathgirl) April 12, 2022
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A Dilemma For NY Democrats
Gov. Hochul also issued a statement that read,
“I have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately. While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as Lieutenant Governor. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”
Hochul, who was herself Lieutenant Governor, assumed the office of Governor after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned after allegations of sexual harassment. Hochul picked then-State Senator Benjamin to be Lt. Gov. upon assuming office.
The problem is, the election for the next term as the Empire state’s governor is in November, and Benjamin is on the ballot for the June 28 Democrat Primary.
Manhattan election law attorney Sarah Steiner says, “Right now, we’re looking at a situation where even if he resigns, he would be on the ballot and it would be very difficult but not impossible to get him off.”
New York is Vulnerable:
Not only was NY’s Lt. Gov., Brian Benjamin, arrested for bribery, but he resigned from office.
NY’s governor (Hochul) is an unelected tyrant & her former second-in-command is an alleged criminal.
You can change that this November by voting Republican.
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) April 13, 2022
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The Thing About New York Governors
Brian Benjamin is just the latest New York politician to be accused of being a crook, something of a tradition in that deep blue state. The most recent being Cuomo, but preceding Cuomo was the other “luv guv,” Eliot Spitzer, who resigned amid a prostitution and money laundering scandal.
Then David Paterson, who headed for the governor’s mansion exits due to allegations of witness tampering in the domestic abuse case of an employee, and improper solicitations of gifts.
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver resigned in 2015 after his arrest on federal corruption charges, and Republican State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was convicted on extortion, wire fraud, and bribery charges.
Fellow Lieutenant Governor candidate Ana Maria Archila said of the most recent scandal that, ‘Albany politicians have traded “favors for money” for too long.’
Kathy Hochul should’ve never made Brian Benjamin LG in the first place. Last week, when asked about all of his reported misdeeds, Hochul went all in to cover for him. The Hochul-Benjamin team has been face planting straight out of the gate. This is no way at all to lead a state.
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) April 13, 2022