Ms. Hochul inherited the governorship in August, promising a new era of transparency and ethical rigor in Albany after her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, in recent years became the last high-ranking New York state leader to resign over scandal. Choosing Mr. Benjamin, 45, a Harlem rising star, to replace herself as lieutenant governor was her first major act in office.
When the investigation was revealed, her detractors quickly sprang into action to try and connect Ms. Hochul to Mr. Benjamin’s potential legal troubles, seeing a foretaste of lines of attack that could intensify and leave the governor with a difficult choice. forcing her to distance herself from Mr. Benjamin, who she had hoped would help improve her standing with New York City voters, particularly in the black community.
“Kathy Hochul’s poor judgment and lack of managerial experience are fully reflected in her hand-picked running mate,” Representative Tom Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat who challenged Ms. Hochul, said on Saturday.
This is not the first time that Mr. Benjamin have raised ethical concerns, although the previous cases are not known to have involved federal investigation. Last year, The Daily News identified several suspicious expenses from Mr. Benjamin’s campaign bill in the Senate, including $6,700 spent on “constituent services” at a Harlem jazz club in 2018, right around the same time he was hosting a wedding party at the venue.
The campaign of Mr. Benjamin denied at the time that the event was inappropriate in any way, calling it a “supporter appreciation/mobilization” event.
Last month, the Albany Times Union found a dozen cases where Mr. Benjamin claimed taxpayer-funded reimbursement for travel to and from Albany, while simultaneously using a campaign debit card to pay for gasoline. Mr. Benjamin’s campaign denied that he had profited from the practice.
Questions about the funding of Mr. Benjamin’s audit campaign first surfaced in January 2021, when The City identified nearly two dozen questionable contributions worth nearly $6,000 to his campaign that had been collected and delivered by a close associate of Michael Murphy. from Mr. Migdol. They include contributions from several men who told the outlet they never gave to the campaign and another from Mr. migdol.