Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether New York’s second-highest official was involved in an alleged scheme to funnel fraudulent donations to his 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller.
Prosecutors and the FBI have sent subpoenas to New York Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin’s campaign advisers and the state Senate as investigators dig into whether Benjamin knew of an alleged attempt to hide a number of illegal donations to his campaign, according to The New York Times. Last year, federal prosecutors charged Manhattan real estate developer Gerald Migdol with crimes related to dozens of improper campaign donations.
Benjamin was not named in last years indictment; however, prosecutors have since issued subpoenas to Benjamin’s campaign committee, staffers, and advisers requesting information on how involved the current lieutenant governor was in the fundraising process, sources familiar with the subpoenas told The Times. Prosecutors have not accused Benjamin of any wrongdoing.
The New York Daily News first reported on prosecutor’s interest in Benjamin’s involvement last week. At the time, Benjamin’s office responded to the news with the same statement he issued last year after Migdol was indicted.
“Neither Lieutenant Governor Benjamin nor his campaign are being accused of any wrongdoing, and they are prepared to fully cooperate with authorities,” the statement said.
The investigation into the fraudulent campaign donations heats up as Benjamin and Gov. Kathy Hochul prepare for primary elections in June. Hochul rose to the governorship last year after former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid allegations he sexually harassed a number of his female staffers.
Hochul tapped Benjamin to join her administration as her second-in-command in August last year when he was serving as state senator for Harlem.
Cuomo floated making a political comeback earlier this month by running for the office he exited among heavy criticism over his past conduct with female staffers and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Daily Wire reported on March 18:
Cuomo spoke to a group of clergy gathered in a small Pentecostal church in the Bronx Thursday, the ex-governor’s second public address in two weeks as he appears to work his way back into public life.
“I’m open to all options,” Cuomo said when asked if he was considering another run for office, according to Bloomberg. Asked if he would consider creating another political party for the bid, Cuomo answered, “I’ve done it before. My father’s done it before.”
Cuomo resigned from office in August after New York Attorney General Letitia James published a report concluding that Cuomo “sexually harassed a number of” women. At the time, the former governor was also facing pressure to resign from legislators accusing him of covering up the extent of COVID-19’s impacts on New York’s senior community, an impact that some of those legislators said was worsened by Cuomo’s policies.