What the Brian Benjamin Charges Mean for New York Politics


SHANTEL DESTRA, HOST:

Former Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin has resigned. Two weeks ago, he was charged with bribery and fraud for illegally funneling thousands of dollars in state funds to his previous campaigns. Jack O’Donnell is a political analyst who’s worked on the administrations of many high-profile politicians - from Senators Chuck Schumer and Hilary Clinton to President Bill Clinton. I asked how the charges Brian Benjamin is facing will impact New York:


JACK O'DONNELL: Well, I think that the impact on average, everyday New Yorkers is already felt right, whether he's found guilty or not the US Attorney found enough, enough reason to believe that he was, you know, he was guilty to bring these charges. And I think the other impact is on Governor Hochul. You know, she selected him that was one of her first big tests in office. And, you know, now she's got to kind of wear that as she introduces herself to New Yorkers and runs for election


DESTRA: How much would you say that every day New York will be paying attention to this trial as an unfolds as we saw recently, Cathy, hopeful when she was lieutenant governor, no one really knew who she was until the whole Cuomo scandal. So how much is that going to impact this situation?


O'DONNELL: I think a lot of New Yorkers would have been hard-pressed before or after this, to name the lieutenant governor. I think that the arrest and resignation oftentimes is a lot more sensational than the trial. You know, in federal court, a trial like this could be a couple of years away, and then it could drag on for months. By the time the trial comes, people tend to not pay as much attention to it. But at the end of the day, you know, this is a high-ranking elected official in New York. And so I'm sure the press and some of us in the public will be paying attention.





DESTRA: Thinking back before the Cuomo scandal, how often has it been that New York State has been involved in scandals to this magnitude before?


O'DONELL: Well, boy, we've had quite a run recently, I think. I think if you start with Eliot Spitzer and the the prostitution scandal around his resignation, I mean, that was national international news. You know, from then on, we had kind of a pretty bad run. Several members of the State Senate, the State Senate Majority Leader, Pedro Spata, Malcolm Smith, they all went to prison. And then we had Shelley Silva, the Speaker of the Assembly, who had been there was closing in on a record for the longest-tenured speaker in New York state history before he went down. So I think in terms of scandal, New York's had a really bad 20 years.


DESTRA: How Does New York Compare to other states in terms of scandal?


O'DONNELL: New York is is really up there with with some of the worst scandals and the worst records. It's something that I think voters need to ask some questions about elected officials about what what are we doing about that and what are we demanding?


DESTRA: Jack O'Donnell, Political Analyst with O'Donnell and Associates, thank you for being here today.


O'DONNELL: Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.