More scandal in New York as lieutenant governor resigns after arrest in federal investigation

In the latest scandal involving the New York state government, Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin resigned from office after his arrest on federal corruption charges.

Benjamin’s resignation creates problems for the New York Democratic Party and Governor Kathy Hochul (D) just seven months into her term as governor.

Hochul was the lieutenant governor of now-disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo.

Benjamin, also a Democrat, is accused of soliciting campaign contributions for favors from a real estate developer.

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Get her day in court

Brian Benjamin pleaded not guilty in Manhattan court on Tuesday to bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsifying documents, and was released on $250,000 bond.

Benjamin’s attorneys said they denied the charges and said a grant at issue in the investigation was used for school supplies.

β€œThere 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 the end of this case so that he can devote himself to public service again.

The FBI Deputy Director of the New York Field Office said of the case: “Exploiting his official authority by allocating public funds as part of a bribe to obtain political campaign donations and engaging in any activity to conceal the bribe is illegal. As we claim today, Benjamin’s conduct in this scheme directly circumvents the procedures put in place to maintain the fairness of our systems.

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A dilemma for New York Democrats

Governor Hochul also issued a statement which said,

β€œI have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately. As the legal process unfolds, 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 to work every day to serve them. Β»

Hochul, who was herself a lieutenant governor, assumed the governorship after former governor Andrew Cuomo resigned over allegations of sexual harassment. Hochul selected then-Senator Benjamin to serve as lieutenant governor upon taking office.

The problem is that the election for the next term as Empire State governor is in November, and Benjamin is on the ballot for the June 28 Democratic primary.

Manhattan election lawyer Sarah Steiner said: ‘Right now we are 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 out. .”

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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 con man, a tradition in this deep blue state. The most recent being Cuomo, but before Cuomo was fellow “luv guv”, Eliot Spitzer, who quit amid a prostitution and money laundering scandal.

Then David Paterson, who headed for the exits of the Governor’s Mansion due to allegations of witness tampering in an employee’s domestic abuse case and inappropriate gift solicitations.

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver resigned in 2015 after his arrest on federal corruption charges, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was convicted of extortion, wire fraud and corruption.

Ana Maria Archila, a fellow candidate for lieutenant governor, said of the most recent scandal that “Albany politicians have traded ‘favors for cash’ for too long.”

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