Yet another high-ranking New York politician has left office after getting in trouble with the law.
On April 12, 2022, Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin was arrested in connection with a federal bribery case. Following his arrest, Lt. Gov. Benjamin resigned from office. According to NBC New York, Lt. Gov. Benjamin is charged with fraud, conspiracy, bribery, and falsification of records. Lt. Gov. Benjamin is alleged to have participated in a fraudulent conspiracy in which he agreed to solicit state funding for a nonprofit organization in exchange for campaign donations from a real estate developer. The alleged conspiracy was connected to Lt. Gov. Benjamin’s failed 2021 campaign for New York City Comptroller. According to The New York Times, the federal government further alleges that Lt. Gov. Benjamin attempted to cover up his alleged crimes by “falsifying campaign donation forms, misleading New York City authorities and giving false information as part of a background check to become lieutenant governor last year.” Lt. Gov. Benjamin has pleaded not guilty and is free on $250,000 bail.
The arrest and resignation of Lt. Gov. Benjamin create political challenges for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who hand-picked him for his former post and chose him as her running mate in her campaign for a full term as governor. The Governor’s efforts to portray herself as above reproach could be significantly hindered by Lt. Gov. Benjamin’s legal difficulties. Furthermore, Lt. Gov. Benjamin’s name is already on the ballot for the June Democratic primary; as the Times noted, “his name can only be removed at this point if he were to move out of the state, die or seek another office.” In an interesting twist, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run on separate ballot lines in New York primaries. Therefore, it is entirely possible that Gov. Hochul could win her primary this June and end up with a general election running mate that she did not select (either former Deputy Brooklyn Borough President and New York City Councilmember Diana Reyna, the running mate of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, or progressive activist Ana Maria Archila, the running mate of New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams).