From 2009 to 2011, legendary guitar company Gibson Guitars was raided multiple times by federal regulators for “violating” the Lacey Act. Though the Lacey Act was originally passed to promote environmental conservation, Gibson’s guitars didn’t use endangered wood or put any animals at risk. In fact, an obscure section of the law was abused to penalize the company for failing to comply with an Indian regulation that requires that the wood be manufactured into fretboards by workers in India, rather than in the United States.
Essentially, the US government conducted an armed raid on Gibson, shut down its factories, seized its property without due process, and then put the company through legal proceedings that costed hundreds of thousands of dollars, caused millions in damages, and led to widespread confusion among musicians as to which of their guitars they can take on international flights.
Now, in the wake of revelations about an IRS scandal in which Tea Party groups were unfairly targeted for additional scrutiny based on their political beliefs, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is alleging that his company was targeted for the same type of corrupt rationale, specifically Juszkiewicz’ political donations to Republican politicians.
However, today whilst reading over at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) I came across this particular article that raised a few hairs on my back.
“Gibson Guitars has finally faced the music. After nearly a year of crying foul, running to the Tea Party for political backing, seeking audience with every possible media outlet and hiring a DC lobbying firm to change the law under which it was being investigated, Gibson Guitars has acknowledged that it did, in fact, import illegal wood in violation of the Lacey Act.”
If for no other reason – when the EIA writes publicly on their government website that the management at Gibson Guitars went “crying foul, running to the Tea Party for political backing…” also hiring a DC lobbying firm showed me beyond a reasonable doubt that many were targeted as a ploy by the Obama administration to victimize political opponents.
The conclusion on August 6 of the highly public investigation into Gibson’s trade practices was a watershed moment for the 2008 Lacey Act amendments, and for similar new laws in consumer nations designed to curb illegal logging and associated trade. Under the terms of a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Gibson has agreed to pay over $600,000 in penalties, including the forfeiture of illegally imported rare wood from the protected forests of Madagascar.
Almost two years after Gibson Guitars was raided for violating an obscure law, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R–TN) is demanding a full explanation:
“The recent scandals surrounding this administration raise a number of questions about who they choose to target and why. The arrogance and lack of transparency displayed by this President and his cabinet officials in events such as the raids on Gibson Guitar and the IRS targeting of conservative groups show a complete disregard for the rule of law.”
As for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) I almost could not contain myself with good humor after reading this proudly displayed on their homepage.
“The Environmental Investigation Agency’s Washington, DC office is a registered non-profit, tax-exempt charity under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by U.S. law.”
In September 2011, Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested answers from the Departments of Justice and Interior, but the Obama Administration responded with no real information about the raid itself. This has been the standard when dealing with Obama’s Administration.
With recent scandals surrounding the Administration, a series of excessive government overreach has been unveiled. It’s no surprise Blackburn is revisiting the Gibson raids in an effort to keep President Obama accountable. Let’s hope this time he has some answers.