New York Democratic Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin stepped down Tuesday after being arrested and indicted on federal charges involving seeking and receiving illegal campaign contributions.
Benjamin, 45, entered a not guilty plea and was released on a $250,000 bond, and Gov. Kathy Hochul said he resigned afterwards. The now-former politician faces multiple charges of bribery and falsification of records stemming from his securing a $50,000 state grant in 2019 for real estate developer Gerald Migdol.
The developer then, according to the indictment, contributed $25,000 to Benjamin’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign for New York City Comptroller. Prosecutors allege the developer continued to secure funds for Benjamin’s political career, funds he sought to have matched by the state.
Just last week, Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared her “utmost confidence” in Benjamin while declaring the investigation related to “other people.” Tuesday, however, Hochul tweeted that “it is clear to both of us” that Benjamin had to resign.
Benjamin, who is from Harlem, is a former state senator who was appointed as lieutenant governor last August by Hoschul, who replaced disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo. Two months after Benjamin’s appointment, Migdol was indicted by federal prosecutors on multiple wire fraud charges over the campaign donations.
Reports now say subpoenas were issued to Benjamin prior to being selected as lieutenant governor. Hoschul faces increasing criticism for her choice, which continues a long line of state officials in Albany resigning or being indicted — or both. Prosecutors allege that Benjamin lied on his official background check and was otherwise dishonest in the vetting process.
Benjamin’s attorneys issued a statement following his resignation that the indicted official’s actions are “laudable, not criminal.” They added that it’s the first federal case of its kind in U.S. history, and their client looks forward to being able to “rededicate himself to public service.”
The arrogance of the New York Democratic political establishment is as embarrassing as it is predictable. Andrew Cuomo is barely gone when yet another high-profile state leader is forced to get out of town. Hoschul’s much-publicized “change of culture” at the state Capitol now appears to be anything but.