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Snow Moon over North Hill by Cindy Schreiner

Why was NYS Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin indicted by the feds?


The arrest wasn’t exactly a surprise, Benjamin has resigned

By Andrew Harris

The rise and fall of Brian Benjamin happened fast. The state senator from Harlem was chosen by Governor Kathy Hochul as a rising star in NY politics with the experience in government needed for the executive branch. Maybe too much experience….

Benjamin has been accused of running a scheme to fund his political ambitions using the same tool of corruption that has plagued politicians throughout history: The bribe. Prosecutors describe this as “brazen,” citing the apparent willingness to engage in a scheme that isn’t exactly new, or original, or unique.

The scam that Benjamin is accused of goes like this: A rich donor approaches a politician and says, “here is how we help each other gain advantage. In this case, the donor has a vehicle for the transaction all set up, a non-profit corporation. When a normal non-profit might contribute $1000 to a state level campaign, this non-profit wanted to play big time to support their candidate of choice.

Benjamin, at the time was running for NYC Comptroller, one of the most powerful positions in the state, and according to the charges, he and a accomplice made an illegal deal. The short explanation of the accusation is that the donor told Benjamin that if he could secure funding for their non-profit, they would forward that money to his campaign for NYC Comptroller. Give us a $50,000 grant and we’ll make a $10,000 donation.

You can see how politicians are able to “raise” such massive political war chests and this exemplifies the power of incumbency. What Benjamin is accused of is not as “brazen” as the storyline suggests, it really only tells the tale of an ambitious politician attempting to breakthrough into a “pay to play” game. Benjamin joins the ranks of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos in a not-so-elite club of New York politicians who’s have been caught in the same mousetrap.

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