Federal authorities are investigating whether New York lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin was involved in an illegal campaign-finance scheme allegedly perpetrated by one of his longtime associates and supporters. Federal investigators are also probing discretionary funding Benjamin awarded to his Harlem district as a state senator. Thus far, Benjamin — whom Kathy Hochul named lieutenant governor last August after she became governor following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo — has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
According to the New York Times, federal prosecutors and agents from an FBI public-corruption unit want to know if Benjamin played any role in fraudulent contributions that indicted Harlem real-estate investor Gerald Migdol allegedly tried to direct to the then–state senator’s unsuccessful 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller. As part of the investigation, federal prosecutors have issued subpoenas to both the New York State Senate and Benjamin’s campaign advisers.
On Friday, the Daily News reported that Southern District of New York investigators had recently subpoenaed state officials and State Senate employees regarding grants Benjamin had lined up in his former Harlem district. Per the News, “The inquiry is related to funds doled out through the State and Municipal Facilities Program, or SAM, a lump sum appropriation in the state budget administered through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, according to the source.”
On Sunday, the Times reported that with regards to the campaign-finance issue, after Migdol was indicted late last year, SDNY prosecutors “subsequently issued several grand-jury subpoenas late last year seeking records from Mr. Benjamin’s campaign committee, some of its paid staffers and firms consulting for the campaign, according to three people with direct knowledge of those actions.”
The Times notes that it remains unclear if Migdol is cooperating with federal authorities, or whether or not Benjamin will face any charges.
A spokesperson for Benjamin insisted in a statement that “neither [Benjamin] nor his campaign are being accused of any wrongdoing, and they are prepared to fully cooperate with authorities.”
Both Benjamin and Hochul are seeking reelection this year and face Democratic primaries in June.