Ms. Hochul inherited the governorship in August, pledging a new era of transparency and ethical rigor in Albany after her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, became the latest high-ranking New York State leader in recent years to resign amid scandal. Choosing Mr. Benjamin, 45, a rising star from Harlem, to replace herself as lieutenant governor was her first major act in office.
When the investigation was disclosed, her opponents moved quickly to try to link Ms. Hochul to Mr. Benjamin’s potential legal issues, previewing attack lines that may grow more intense and force the governor to a difficult choice about whether 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 executive experience are on full display with her handpicked running mate,” Representative Tom Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat challenging Ms. Hochul, said on Saturday.
This is not the first time that Mr. Benjamin’s actions have raised ethical concerns, though the earlier cases are not known to have drawn federal scrutiny. Last year, The Daily News identified several suspicious expenditures from Mr. Benjamin’s Senate campaign account, including $6,700 spent on “constituent services” at a Harlem jazz club in 2018 right around the same time he held a wedding celebration at the venue.
Mr. Benjamin’s campaign denied at the time that the event was in any way inappropriate, calling it a “supporter appreciation/mobilization” event.
Last month, The Albany Times Union found a dozen cases where Mr. Benjamin claimed a taxpayer-funded reimbursement for travel to and from Albany at the same time he used a campaign debit card to pay for gas. Mr. Benjamin’s campaign denied he had profited from the practice.
Questions about the funding of Mr. Benjamin’s comptroller 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 Michael Murphy, a close associate of Mr. Migdol’s. They included contributions from several men who told the outlet that they had never given to the campaign and another from Mr. Migdol’s 2-year-old grandson.