Gov. Kathy Hochul faces a major dilemma after it was revealed her No. 2 is under federal investigation over alleged campaign finance fraud, policy experts said on Monday.
Veteran Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said if the embattled Lt. gov. If Brian Benjamin were indicted, Hochul would have “a real problem”.
“The Democrats need to sit him down and learn the truth,” he said.
“The combination of rising crime across the state and a lieutenant governor who could be impeached could be deadly.”
Another Democratic adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hochul is “in a really difficult place right now.”
“You risk alienating the black community if you dump Brian Benjamin before there’s even an allegation of wrongdoing against him — but at the same time, you don’t know how far that could spread.”
Former Gov. David Paterson, who served as chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, also called the situation “a cause for concern.”
“The thing is, you just don’t know. The FBI doesn’t start staring at people unless there’s a reason,” he said.
“People in Harlem that I speak to are shocked, very surprised.”
Paterson also said, “At this point, Hochul is loyal to him.”
But he noted that circumstances could change quickly, adding: “I think we’ll have to see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Benjamin abruptly canceled a 10:30 a.m. meeting with the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus in Albany to review the status of the state budget due Thursday.
Benjamin unexpectedly resigned at 9:40 a.m., Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) said.
Comrie said he doesn’t believe the move is related to disclosure of the federal investigation.
Benjamin is scheduled to host a fundraiser for Rep. Jaime Williams (D-Brooklyn) with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) on Wednesday in Albany.
But neither he nor Williams responded to requests for comment Monday, and it’s unclear if he still plans to attend.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Manhattan prosecutors issued multiple grand jury subpoenas late last year demanding documentation from Benjamin’s campaign committee, several paid associates and consulting firms.
The investigation is reportedly focused on whether Benjamin was allegedly involved in a straw donor program that federal authorities say channeled illegal contributions to his failed campaign for the city auditor last year.
Harlem landlord and attorney Gerald Migdol was charged with conspiracy and wire fraud in late November.
Last week, Benjamin admitted to The Post that he was interviewed by the FBI earlier this year, but said neither he nor Hochul was a target of the investigation.
On Sunday, he claimed those remarks were “unofficial”.
Hochul and Benjamin, both Democrats, took office last year after former Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, and they plan to seek a full four-year term in November’s election.
Hochul’s campaign declined to comment.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/28/brian-benjamin-could-hurt-gov-hochuls-campaign-sources/ Brian Benjamin could hurt Gov. Hochul’s campaign: sources