NY lieutenant governor resigns following arrest
New York Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin (D) has resigned from his post, hours after being arrested on charges related to campaign finance fraud.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced in a statement on Tuesday that she had accepted Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately. Hochul chose Benjamin to serve has her No. 2 when she became governor of the Empire State in August, following former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) resignation.
“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,” Hochul said in a statement.
“New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them,” she added.
Benjamin, 45, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with one count of federal program bribery, one count of honest services wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit those offenses and two counts of falsification of records. He surrendered to the FBI in Manhattan.
The charges came after authorities discovered that Benjamin, while serving as a state senator in New York, worked to direct a $50,000 state-funded grant to an organization in exchange for campaign contributions from that organization, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He was engaged in the scheme from around 2019 until around 2021, according to authorities.
Benjamin was seeking funds for his 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller and his Senate campaign, according to The New York Times. He ultimately lost his bid for comptroller.
Benjamin was also accused of falsifying records connected to the campaign contributions in question by making it appear that they were from other individuals. Additionally, authorities said Benjamin made false statements in the questionnaire he filled out during the process to become New York lieutenant general.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a statement said Benjamin “abused his power.”
“As alleged, Brian Benjamin used his power as a New York state senator to secure a state-funded grant in exchange for contributions to his own political campaigns,’ Williams said in a statement. “By doing so, Benjamin abused his power and effectively used state funds to support his political campaigns.”
Despite stepping down from his post, Benjamin will likely still appear on the Democratic primary ballot for New York lieutenant governor, according to the Times. He was nominated the party’s candidate for the post, and the only way his name could be removed from the ballot at this time is if he moves out of the state, dies or runs for another position, the newspaper noted.