New York state Governor Kathy Hochul said on Tuesday she had accepted Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin’s resignation, hours after Benjamin was arrested on federal bribery charges.
Benjamin surrendered to federal authorities after being faced with bribery conspiracy charges tied to an alleged campaign finance scheme from his prior senate campaign.
According to the New York Post, Benjamin is accused of funneling fake campaign contributions to his campaign. Prosecutors have outlined the incident as “plain and simple” bribery. During a press conference, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams labeled Benjamin’s actions “A simple story of corruption.”
“We allege that Benjamin struck a corrupt bargain with a real estate developer. Benjamin allegedly directed a $50,000 state grant to a nonprofit organization controlled by [the developer] and, in exchange, Benjamin received tens of thousands of campaign contributions. Those contributions were directed both to Benjamin’s state Senate campaign committee, and to Benjamin’s New York City comptroller campaign. Taxpayer money for campaign contributions-quid pro quo, this for that – that’s bribery, plain and simple.”
In a statement Tuesday evening, Benjamin’s attorneys argued his actions in question were laudable, not criminal. “He looks forward to when this case is finished so he can rededicate himself to public service,” Benjamin’s attorneys said.
The federal court indictment includes five counts, including conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and falsification of records charges. Prosecutors outlined his two year effort to obtain contributions from an unnamed real estate developer in exchange for the senator arranging $50,000 from tax funds to be paid for a non-profit controlled by the firm.
Hochul now searches for her next second-in-command, promising improvement in the selection process. “We are going to do a much better vetting process,” Hochul said. “We have a very powerful vetting process that will be underway for this. But in terms of what we knew at the time, it did not rise to the level of what we’re dealing with here today.”
ARTICLE: JILLIAN WEIDNER
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK TIMES