N.Y. lieutenant governor resigns after being charged with corruption
New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was arrested and indicted Tuesday in connection with a campaign finance scheme on charges including bribery and falsification of records.
“This is a simple story of corruption,” said Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who filed the indictment.
The indictment accuses Benjamin of striking a corrupt bargain with a real estate developer in 2019, alleging he directed a $50,000 state grant to a nonprofit organization controlled by that real estate developer. In exchange, prosecutors allege Benjamin receieved tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the developer. Those contributions were directed to both Benjmain’s state Senate campaign committee and campaign for New York City comptroller.
“Taxpayer money for campaign contributions. Quid pro quo. This for that. That’s bribery, plain and simple,” Williams said at a press conference Tuesday.
Williams alleges Benjamin also repeatedly lied to cover up the alleged scheme, including by falsifying campaign forms, misleading city regulators and lying on vetting forms he filled out before he was selected as lieutenant governor last year.
“That’s a coverup,” Williams said.
“Benjamin’s conduct directly circumvents those procedures put in place to keep our system fair. And for those reasons, he’s facing federal charges today,” said New York FBI Director Michael Driscoll.
The indictment has prompted calls for Benjmain’s resignation, including from the two Republican minority leaders of the state Legislature.
Benjamin was picked by Gov. Kathy Hochul as her running mate as she pursues a full term as governor. Hochul has been standing by Benjamin despite reports of the investigation.
Hochul said earlier Tuesday she hadn’t had a chance to speak to Benjmain, and said she would make a statement later in the day.
As recently as Friday, Hochul told Spectrum News 1 in an exclusive interview that Benjamin’s “voice is very important to me and he is going to stay with me on the ticket.”
Removing Benjamin from the ticket would not be an easy process, according to the state Board of Elections. He cannot decline the nomination for lieutenant governor, as his last chance to do so would’ve been at the Democratic Pary’s state convention in February. He faces a primary contest just two months from now. In New York, the governor and lieutenant governor run on separate tickets in primary races.