Michael Benjamin (investor)

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Michael Benjamin
Michael Benjamin Times Square Pro-Troops Rally 2004 02.jpg
Michael Benjamin at a 2004 Support the Troops Rally in New York City's Times Square.
Personal details
Born November 1, 1969
New York City, U.S.
Spouse(s) Meaghan Benjamin
Residence New York City, U.S.
Occupation Private Investor
Religion Jewish

Michael Benjamin (born November 1, 1969) was born Michael Benjamin Bonheur in New York City, New York, United States. Benjamin works as a private investor focusing on Internet companies. He was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the United States Senate in 2004.[1]

Personal background[edit]

He is the son of a Jewish Iranian father that immigrated to the United States from Tehran in 1950 and a Catholic mother who immigrated from Honduras.[2]

Soon after Michael's birth the family moved to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where his father was relocated with his job at Bank of America. After about one year in San Pedro Sula they moved to the capital, Tegucigalpa, for another year. In 1971, the family moved to Lima, Peru and in 1973, they moved to Quito, Ecuador. Michael attended school at the American Cotopaxi Academy.[3]

Several years later, in 1976, the family moved back to the U.S. They settled in the New York City suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, where they lived for four years. Michael attended North Street Elementary School. In 1980, the family relocated to Bogotá, Colombia. Michael attended the American school Colegio Nueva Granada. Soon after, in 1982, they moved to Mexico City, where Michael attended the American School Foundation. They left Mexico in 1987 and, after a brief stay in San Francisco, moved back to Greenwich. Michael attended his senior year at Greenwich High School.[3] While there, he was awarded High Honors by the NAACP for his writing in recognition of Black History Month.[4]

Benjamin attended New York University where he studied economics and Western literature and was elected president of the student government for his junior and senior years. He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1992 and shortly thereafter began work as assistant to the president of Richter & Co., Inc., an investment bank in midtown Manhattan known primarily for launching Cerberus Partners, L.P. a major American hedge fund. He later worked in the insurance industry with American Corporate Benefits, Inc. and the Guardian Life Insurance Company, before starting his own securities trading and investments business in 1997.

The New York Benevolence Council, Inc.[edit]

Along with another graduate of NYU, Benjamin founded the New York Benevolence Council, Inc. in 1993, a non-profit organization which provided mentoring and tutoring in New York City public schools, coordinated food and clothing drives, and organized fund-raisers in support of various humanitarian causes. At its height in the late 1990s and early 2000s, NYBC had over 1,000 young professionals serving as volunteer tutors and mentors to public school students, and organizing fund-raising benefits primarily for women and children who were victims of domestic violence. In 2002, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg awarded NYBC a community service award for its work on behalf of victims of domestic violence. In 2003, after a 10-year run, NYBC donated its assets to various charitable organizations and ceased operations.[5]

Political career[edit]

1996 Congressional Race[edit]

In 1996, at the age of 25, Benjamin was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Congress from New York's 8th district, covering parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.[6] Although he lost the race, Benjamin received notable endorsements from Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and the New York Post. The chairman of the campaign was John C. Whitehead, former chairman of Goldman Sachs & Co. and of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Whitehead went on to head the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the organization in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center after September 11 attacks.[7]

2004 Senate Race[edit]

In January 2003, Benjamin declared his intentions to run for the United States Senate against incumbent Democrat Chuck Schumer.[1] Initially regarded as a long shot, Benjamin stunned many observers when he quickly raised over $820,000 for the campaign from over 20,000 different individuals.[8]

The conservative Benjamin battled with the state GOP, which decided in August 2004 there would be no primary.[9] Despite his impressive fundraising, the Republican State Committee nominated moderate Assemblyman Howard Mills to run against Schumer. Mills went on to lose the election in the largest landslide for a Senate seat in the history of New York.[10]

Leadership can emerge from any quarter of society. Whether one is rich or poor, black or white, male or female, young or old, leadership makes no distinction. In politics, when candidates who would be our leaders are handpicked by an elite few, a shallow talent pool results and many good people are excluded from consideration. Such a restricted pool exists in the New York Republican Party and valuable opportunities are being lost. In order for the New York GOP to reverse this trend, a new model of operation must emerge - a model based on principle, diversity, inclusiveness, humility, and transparency. This new model should encourage democracy in the nominating process and allow all candidates to receive a fair hearing and a chance to compete.

— Michael Benjamin[11]

Benjamin publicly accused New York GOP Chairman Sandy Treadwell and Governor George Pataki of trying to muscle him out of the Senate race and undermine the democratic process.[12] Many Republican voters were upset when Benjamin was denied the chance to engage in a primary.[13] He had campaigned throughout New York, visiting all 62 counties on several occasions, and had built strong support among political leaders and community groups.[14] In addition, Benjamin received the majority of his financial support in small donations, with only $2,500 from Political Action Committees (PACs).[8] Mills had raised $200,000 less than Benjamin, and a large portion of his campaign contributions came from PACs.[9]

Many New York Republicans were irked again in 2006 when a similar situation unfolded as the state party decided to nominate Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro over conservative lawyer Ed Cox, even though Cox had raised over $1.3 million to Pirro's $400,000.[9] There has not been a Republican primary for Senator since 1992.[13]

New York politics, especially on the Republican side, is run by party bosses. There’s really no democracy. There hasn’t been in the modern history of Republican politics in New York. The party bosses pick who the candidates are. They handpick everything and they keep control over everything. I came into this process as a Republican with my own beliefs, as an independent person, as a citizen of New York who wanted to reform certain things and as you can see from this report that you read, because I didn’t maybe ask for permission to run, because I maybe didn’t tow the party line, or maybe because I wasn’t as liberal as they are, they tried to move my campaign aside. My feeling was, you know what, let them submit who their candidate is. I’ll go up against them. Put us both in the arena and let the best candidate win.

— Michael Benjamin[15]

His platform included simplifying the tax code, lowering taxes, reducing government spending, Social Security private accounts, a strong national defense, and a no-nonsense approach toward Iran, Syria and North Korea.[16] His platform advocated for school choice for "all parents, not just the rich".[17] Benjamin supported banning partial-birth abortion, except for cases where the mother's life is at risk, and abolishing unfunded Medicaid mandates on municipalities.[17] He also stated he wanted to bring jobs back to New York and limit government intervention in the economy.[17] He espoused many very conservative opinions including support for the war in Iraq[18] and supported both the Patriot Act and the inclusion of Iran as part of the Axis of Evil by President Bush.[16]

On Second Amendment Rights & Gun Control:

I know that the firearms you keep to protect yourself and those you love do not threaten the public safety. I understand that the firearms you use to hunt and to enjoy recreational target shooting are not on the street and do not cause crime. I know that disarming the law-abiding has never deterred criminals and does nothing to reduce gun violence. I affirm that the right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, is an individual right - your individual right.

I believe the solution to gun violence in America is not to strip freedom away from law-abiding citizens, but for our government to vigorously prosecute and punish violent criminals.

Gun control is not crime control. Gun control is a cynical, manipulative scare tactic, sold by politicians who lack the heart to truly lead, preferring comforting delusions to challenging realities.

In the United States Senate, I will oppose bills that only pretend to reduce gun violence. I will oppose legislation calling for ballistic fingerprinting, which would lead to no more than an enormous waste of taxpayer money. I will support the bill to end frivolous lawsuits against the firearms industry. I will call for a review of federal gun control laws, and urge the repeal of those laws that only burden the law-abiding and waste precious law enforcement resources.

There are already over 30,000 gun control laws on the books and gun violence is still a serious problem in America. In the United States Senate, I will aggressively support genuine crime control through the enactment of laws to impose swift, certain and severe mandatory sentences for anyone convicted of having or using a firearm during the commission of a crime.”


— Michael Benjamin [19]

Electoral history[edit]

US House election, 1996: New York District 8
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jerrold Nadler 131,943 82.3
Republican Michael Benjamin 26,028 16.2
Conservative George A. Galip, Jr. 2,381 1.5
Majority 105,915 66.1
Turnout 160,352 100

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wall Street Trader Moves to Challenge Schumer. Humbert, Mark. Associated Press, March 31, 2003.
  2. ^ Benjamin for U.S. Senate Website, Family Background section.
  3. ^ a b Benjamin for U.S. Senate Website, Personal Background section.
  4. ^ "The Federal Government & Civil Rights Since 1945", Greenwich Time, February 28, 1988.
  5. ^ New York Benevolence Council Website
  6. ^ By Day He Trades Stocks, Then Dreams of Challenging Senator Schumer. Starks, Timothy. New York Sun, June 3, 2003.
  7. ^ Benjamin for U.S. Senate, Political Experience section
  8. ^ a b The Center for Responsive Politics, December 31, 2004.
  9. ^ a b c Remember Senate 2004, November 20, 2005.
  10. ^ Major Parties to Anoint their Senate Combatants. Humbert, Mark. Associated Press, May 15, 2004.
  11. ^ Undermining Democracy, A Special Report from the Benjamin for U.S. Senate Campaign, April 2004
  12. ^ Senate hopeful claims GOP bosses snubbed him. Albany Times-Union, February 25, 2004.
  13. ^ a b Petition to Open the NY Republican Primary for Senator, retrieved on July 19, 2007.
  14. ^ He's Spoiling for a Chance to Take On Schumer. Hernandez, Raymond. New York Times, November 10, 2003.
  15. ^ National Iranian-American Council. Saadat-Lajevardi, Leily. "NIAC Interviews Michael Benjamin on his Fight to Run for US Senate", August 25, 2004.
  16. ^ a b Benjamin for U.S. Senate Website, Key Issues
  17. ^ a b c Center for Responsive Politics Michael Benjamin on the issues, retrieved on July 17, 2007.
  18. ^ U.S. Senate Candidate Michael Benjamin Supports President Bush's Decisive Global Leadership On Iraq. Benjamin for Senate 2004 Press Release, dated March 17, 2003.
  19. ^ Long Island Sportsmen's Courier, December, 2003

External links[edit]

Preceded by
David L. Askren
Republican Candidate
New York's 8th Congressional District

1996
Succeeded by
Theodore Howard