State Attorney General Letitia James visited the Great Neck Inn as a guest speaker for a progressive nonprofit fundraising event on Sunday afternoon, defending her lawsuit against the National Rifle Association and claiming the “rot runs deep” in the organization.
Hosted by Reach Out America, James discussed other high-profile cases such as her suit against Google and Facebook, the investigation of the Trump Organization and the suspension of Rudolph Giuliani’s law license.
Among the cases discussed was the attorney general’s 2020 lawsuit against the National Rifle Association over claims that top executives illegally pocket fundraising dollars for personal expenditures.
“We are seeking to dissolve the NRA because the rot runs deep,” James said. “It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. It has to do with the fact that they were diverting funds for their personal use.”
James made it clear that her lawsuit charges the NRA in its entirety, in addition to leaders like Wayne LaPierre, the group’s executive vice president.
“Just like any other charitable organization they have a responsibility to abide by the law – and they were not,” she said. “They were treating the NRA as a personal piggy bank.”
LaPierre was singled out and his lavish expenditures cited as evidence.
“Wayne LaPierre and his followers were basically diverting funds that individuals were giving to the NRA – for the purposes of furthering and supporting and defending the Second Amendment – they were using it for yachts,” James said. “Can someone please tell me what the Second Amendment has to do with a yacht?”
The former New York City public advocate mentioned other legal actions such as her suit against Google, alleging the company violated antitrust laws by engaging in predatory acquisitions.
“They purchase these companies, basically because they don’t want these small companies to compete with them,” James said. “They have dominance over the marketplace and as a result of that, your privacy rights, your data, obviously is in jeopardy.”
“As a result of their power and their advantage, they are basically converting your personal data into cash cow,” James said.
James took questions from the audience and commented on the suspension of the law license of Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and lawyer for former President Donald Trump.
“Unfortunately, because he trafficked in falsehoods, he was held responsible for the insurrection,” James said, referring to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. “Because he has an obligation and a duty as a member of the bar to speak the truth and to provide facts, he needs to be held accountable, and in fact he was.”
James also shed light on her office’s actions against the Trump Organization and hinted at a potential action by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. An investigation is seeking to determine whether Trump’s company inflated and deflated the value of assets to obtain favorable terms from banks and avoid taxes.
“Now they say that I’m on a political witch hunt,” James said. “But if someone values it to achieve favorable terms for insurance purposes and for mortgages and then devalues those same assets for tax purposes, don’t you think I have an obligation and duty to look into that?”
A former City Council member for the district representing Crown Heights, Brooklyn, James let the audience know of her “honorary Lubavitch” status, referring to the Hassidic Jewish community. She also gave a call to action for the defense of democracy and of those locked out of the sunshine of opportunity.
Local politicians like Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti and North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink attended the event, though some left before James’ arrival.
The attorney general said there were some investigations she couldn’t comment on, but reassured the audience of her duty.
“All I care about is the notion that no one is above the law,” James said. “I have a responsibility and duty to ensure that the law is enforced in the state of New York, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
An earlier version of this article said the event was a Democratic Party fundraiser. It was a fundraiser for Reach Out America, which does not have a political party affiliation.