Top NY Dem Arrested in Campaign Finance Scheme

New York lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin (D.) / Getty Images
April 12, 2022

New York lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin (D.) was arrested Tuesday for his part in an alleged scheme to funnel illegal contributions to his failed campaign for New York City comptroller.

The New York Post reported that federal authorities arrested Benjamin on bribery charges. Prosecutors said they would publicly announce the indictment at noon on Tuesday.

Benjamin, a "defund the police" advocate, admitted last month that authorities questioned him in connection with a scam allegedly perpetrated by Harlem lawyer and longtime Democratic donor Gerald Migdol. Prosecutors have charged Migdol with making "straw donations" to Benjamin's 2021 comptroller campaign so that Benjamin could qualify for taxpayer-funded Board of Elections contributions.

New York governor Kathy Hochul (D.) chose Benjamin, a former state senator for Harlem, following disgraced ex-governor Andrew Cuomo's resignation in August.

Veteran Democratic strategists told the Post last month that Hochul faced a tough decision on whether to keep Benjamin on the ticket.

"The combination of increased crime throughout the state and a lieutenant governor who could be indicted could be lethal," strategist Hank Sheinkopf told the Post. 

Hochul, who is facing primary challenges from Rep. Tom Suozzi and city public advocate Jumaane Williams, eventually decided to keep Benjamin. She is also facing an unexpectedly strong challenge from prospective Republican candidate Lee Zeldin. In polling last month, Hochul and Zeldin were in a statistical dead heat.

While Cuomo decided to stay out of the Democratic primary, speculation has mounted that the former governor could mount a comeback bid as an independent.

"I have a lot of options open, and I'm considering them," Cuomo said last month.

Update 5:28 p.m.: Brian Benjamin resigned on April 12.