Why Did Armed Federal Agents Shut Down Gibson Guitars?


CA Staff
Feb 29, 2012

This sounded like something out of a novel, not real life, yet it was a sad fact. Last fall armed armed agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Homeland Security raided Gibson Guitar corporate headquarters in Tennessee and four of their factories for a second time, and confiscated 24 pallets of Indian rosewood and ebony, as well as guitars (more than $500,000 in products) and computer files.

Conservative Action Alerts says, "The raid cost Gibson more than $1 million in lost profits, because the company was forced to shut down production and send hundreds of workers home - after they were interrogated by Homeland Security. Yet to this date, NO CHARGES HAVE BEEN FILED. Obama's Dept. of Justice is stalling and forcing Gibson Guitar out of business ... or at least, overseas. "

Conservative Action Alerts has an interesting perspective on why Gibson was targeted while his biggest rivals remain untouched speculating that Obama is attacking Gibson because their CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, is a large contributor to Republican candidates and Gibson operates non-union manufacturing plants. The report goes on to assert that Gibson Guitar's top competitors -- who are unionized and big supporters of Obama -- have not been raided, although they import the same products from India.

The report points out Obama is ostensibly worried about wood importation, because of the Lacey Act of 1900, which was originally passed to regulate trade in bird feathers used for hats, and amended in 2008 to cover wood and other plant products.

The U.S. Lacey Act includes the provision: Anyone who imports into the United States, or exports out of the United States, illegally harvested plants or products made from illegally harvested plants, including timber, as well as anyone who exports, transports, sells, receives, acquires or purchases such products in the United States, may be prosecuted. However, Conservative Action Alerts points out that in any prosecution under the Lacey Act, the burden of proof of a violation rests on the government.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the government was looking at a March 2009 shipment of ebony from Madagascar intended for guitar fingerboards. After the 2009 raid, Gibson stopped buying wood from Madagascar but continued to use its suppliers in India for ebony and rosewood. In the more recent raid, the government was focused on Indian ebony. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405311190389590457654294202785928...

In a court filing made by the Justice Department, Gibson was told by the Obama administration to move its manufacturing overseas, from Tennessee where it provides needed jobs, to Madagascar.

"I think they're taking the position that we should be shifting these jobs overseas," Bruce Mitchell, the chief legal counsel for Gibson told Fox News. "We have - probably 40 people in our factory here who are doing the inlays into the fingerboard. ... If all that was to be done over in India, then ... those jobs would be lost."

Gibson factory workers were told that they could face criminal prosecution for sorting wood in the Gibson factory.

"We feel totally abused. We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally and the employees here in Tennessee, and it's just plain wrong," Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said in a statement released to the media.

The charges against Gibson appear weak. The wood that was seized is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier and is FSC Controlled. FSC standards require the wood not be illegally harvested and not be harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights.

Gibson is suing the government in Federal Court in Nashville to get their property back. Juszkiewicz says that Gibson employees are being "treated like drug criminals."

Almost 6 months after the 2nd raid, the government hasn't charged the company with any wrongdoing, but has simply shut down the business. At a time when Obama should be concerned with creating new jobs for America, it looks like he is doing everything he can to eliminate Gibson's workforce and take away Tennessee jobs.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) says "Gibson Guitar is at the heart of this jobs debate, and is an example of exactly why President Obama has it wrong when it comes to getting our economy back on track. Maybe if the President spent more time finding real solutions to empowering small business owners and less time hindering businesses like Gibson, we'd see more new jobs being created."

Conservative Action Alerts report warns that the government's encroachment of our rights will continue as long as the American people fail to act. "They are violating the Fourth Amendment rights of individuals and destroying American businesses. Is it all for political reasons? Or is it simply Obama's expanding police state?"

Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has now introduced an amendment called the FOCUS Act (Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012). It will remove every reference to "foreign law" from the Lacey Act and substitute current federal penalties with civil penalties.

Senator Paul said on his website: "It is long overdue that the Lacey Act be revised to address its broad overcriminalization. We have seen the damage this extremely broad and vague law has done to American companies and it is time to change its language to better serve Americans and the American jobs it threatens."