New York’s Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin Indicted In Campaign Contribution Bribery Scheme
New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin (D) turned himself to federal authorities this morning after it was publicly announced he is being indicted on charges related to an alleged bribery scheme to garner campaign contributions for his campaign from a prominent real estate developer.
Damien Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a 12 p.m. press conference that Benjamin “has been indicted for bribery and related offenses. Mr. Benjamin surrendered to law enforcement and will be presented before Magistrate Judge Wayne this afternoon.”
In what Williams called “a simple story of corruption,” his office has alleged that Benjamin directed a $50,000 state grant to a nonprofit operated by an unnamed real estate developer in exchange for “tens of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions … 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.”
The description of the developer just referred to as “CC-1” in the press conference aligns closely with developer and philanthropist Gerald Midgol. He was arrested last year for a separate campaign financing scheme and likely provided testimony key to Benjamin’s indictment. Independent local paper The City flagged that several contributions to Benjamin’s failed Comptroller campaign were sent by Midgol under different names, including that of his two-year-old grandson.
Along with the bribery charges, Benjamin’s other infractions relate to him allegedly lying and covering up his scheme as reporters and investigators began flagging suspicious campaign contributions. Williams claimed Benjamin went as far as, “falsifying campaign forms, and misleading city regulators.” He also may have lied in his vetting forms for the position of Lt. Governor after he was offered the position by New Yorks’ current governor Kathy Hochul.
Michael Driscoll, one of the directors of the FBI’s New York Field Office who collaborated in the investigation with New York’s state prosecutors, also spoke at the conference. He echoed the actions first outlined by Williams. “Accepting numerous small donations on its own is not illegal,” Driscoll noted, “But it is, however, illegal to exploit one’s official authority by allocating state funds as part of a bribe to procure these donations. And to engage in activity to then cover-up that bribe.”
“Honesty on these issues is not negotiable,” said Jocelyn Strauberg, commissioner of the NYC Department of Investigation who spoke last. “The charges also illustrate the importance of compliance with city fundraising rules and candor with the New York City campaign finance board … The lies and deception alleged here frustrate its work and deprive New Yorkers of accurate information with respect to political contributions.”
Benjamin has yet to address the accusations publicly. He has a court date coming later today.