Now The Gibson Guitar Raids Make Sense
IRS Scandal: The inexplicable raid nearly two years ago on a guitar maker for using allegedly illegal wood that its competitors also used was another targeting by this administration of its political enemies.
On Aug. 24, 2011, federal agents executed four search warrants on Gibson Guitar Corp. facilities in Nashville and Memphis, Tenn., and seized several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. One of the top makers of acoustic and electric guitars, including the iconic Les Paul introduced in 1952, Gibson was accused of using wood illegally obtained in violation of the century-old Lacey Act, which outlaws trafficking in flora and fauna the harvesting of which had broken foreign laws.
In one raid, the feds hauled away ebony fingerboards, alleging they violated Madagascar law. Gibson responded by obtaining the sworn word of the African island's government that no law had been broken.
In another raid, the feds found materials imported from India, claiming they too moved across the globe in violation of Indian law. Gibson's response was that the feds had simply misinterpreted Indian law.
Interestingly, one of Gibson's leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Co. According to C.F. Martin's catalog, several of their guitars contain "East Indian Rosewood," which is the exact same wood in at least 10 of Gibson's guitars. So why were they not also raided and their inventory of foreign wood seized?
Grossly underreported at the time was the fact that Gibson's chief executive, Henry Juszkiewicz, contributed to Republican politicians. Recent donations have included $2,000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and $1,500 to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
By contrast, Chris Martin IV, the Martin & Co. CEO, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee over the past couple of election cycles.
"We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted," Juszkiewicz said at the time, adding the matter "could have been addressed with a simple contact (from) a caring human being representing the government. Instead, the government used violent and hostile means."
That includes what Gibson described as "two hostile raids on its factories by agents carrying weapons and attired in SWAT gear where employees were forced out of the premises, production was shut down, goods were seized as contraband and threats were made that would have forced the business to close."
Gibson, fearing a bankrupting legal battle, settled and agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty to the U.S. Government. It also agreed to make a "community service payment" of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation - to be used on research projects or tree-conservation activities.
The feds in return agreed to let Gibson resume importing wood while they sought "clarification" from India.
The feds say they acted to save the environment from greedy plunderers. America is a trivial importer of rosewood from Madagascar and India. Ninety-five percent of it goes to China, where it is used to make luxury items like $800,000 beds. So putting Gibson out of business wasn't going to do a whole lot to save their forests.
Juszkiewicz' claim that his company was "inappropriately targeted" is eerily similar to the claims by Tea Party, conservative, pro-life and religious groups that they were targeted by the IRS for special scrutiny because they sought to exercise their First Amendment rights to band together in vocal opposition to the administration's policies and the out-of-control growth of government and its power.
The Gibson Guitar raid, the IRS intimidation of Tea Party groups and the fraudulently obtained warrant naming Fox News reporter James Rosen as an "aider, abettor, co-conspirator" in stealing government secrets are but a few examples of the abuse of power by the Obama administration to intimidate those on its enemies list.