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Hochul stands by LG Benjamin after he didn’t tell her about subpoena

 New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin at an event in New York City Aug. 26, 2021.
WAMC screenshot
New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin

New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin says he didn’t tell Governor Kathy Hochul about a subpoena he’d received when she was vetting him to be her second in command last summer. Hochul says despite that and some other potential ethical troubles for her fellow Democrat, she continues to support him as her running mate.

Benjamin was a state senator when the Manhattan District Attorney subpoenaed him last year about an alleged scheme run by a former campaign aide.

The aide, Gerry Migdol, allegedly solicited phony campaign donations so that Benjamin, who was then running for New York City comptroller, could boost his fundraising numbers to receive public matching funds.

Migdol was arrested and charged with soliciting fake donations.

Benjamin had not had a public schedule since March 22nd, and had not commented since the existence of the subpoena first became public in a New York Daily News report on April 1st. He appeared Thursday with Hochul at an announcement on a budget agreement.

Benjamin told reporters that he failed to tell Hochul of the subpoena when she was vetting him to be her lieutenant governor last August. Benjamin says he participated in a background check by the State Police, and thought that was enough.

“The State Police did a thorough investigation, I participated in that,” said Benjamin. “The State Police gave a recommendation to the governor. That was process. And that’s typically the process for appointments. So I followed the process as it was supposed to be followed.”

Benjamin has denied any wrongdoing.

Hochul, who has said she didn’t know about the subpoena, says she continues to back Benjamin and says he will still be her running mate in the 2022 election.

“I have utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor,” Hochul said. “This is an independent investigation related to other people and he is cooperating. He is my running mate.”

Benjamin has also had to correct questionable practices when he reimbursed his campaign account for car loan and gasoline payments, and for a 2018 wedding celebration.

The lieutenant governor has also received subpoenas in connection with his time serving as state senator.

According to the New York Times, federal prosecutors are looking at whether Benjamin steered state grants for his district to financially benefit Migdol, the former campaign aide who is accused of running the phony donation scheme.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.