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Hochul stands by Lt. Gov. Benjamin after he failed to tell her about subpoena

Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin embraces Gov. Kathy Hochul during an event in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, in New York.
Mary Altaffer
Associated Press

New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin said he didn’t tell Gov. Kathy Hochul about a subpoena he’d received when she was vetting him to be her second-in-command last summer.

Hochul said despite that and some other potential ethical troubles for Benjamin, 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 22, and had not commented since the existence of the subpoena first became public in a New York Daily News report on April 1. 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. He said 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,” Benjamin said. “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, said she continues to back Benjamin, and he will still be her running mate in the 2022 election.

“I have utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor,” Hochul said. “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.

He also has 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.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.