I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the higher-ups in Gibson Guitars, the famous guitar manufacturer that brought us the Les Paul and other top-quality guitars, will not be going to jail. The bad news is they have been hit with a hefty fine, their materials have been seized, and the intended message sent by the government has been received by the famed guitar manufacturer: Play ball with us- or else!
As reported earlier, Gibson has been the victim of not one, but two raids in the past few years by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the fine, jack-booted folks at the Department of Homeland Security. Under flimsy pretenses, the stormtroopers seized upon the manufacturing facility to confiscate wood used to make the fretboards, computers and files. The company was, essentially, shut down and forced to regroup in the wake of having much of their business seized. The company estimates that the raid cost them $2 million to $3 million.
Almost immediately, the raids did not seem right. The first raid, in 2009, seized mahogany that had been imported from Madagascar. The Feds cited a recent extension of the Lacey Act, an obscure 100 year old conservation law that, in short, regulates the importation of exotic plants and wildlife and aims to keep imports consistent with the laws of the countries exporting the plants or wildlife. However, Madagascar claimed the wood was legal to export. Regardless, the Feds seized the wood.
Fast forward to 2011, and the same thing happened again. This time, they seized rosewood that had been imported from India. Again, the Indian government claimed that there was no violation. The wood was seized anyway.
The federal government has stated that the importation of the fretboards as a finished product would be legal, but not the wood to make the fretboards. However, the guitar manufacturer has claimed that they imported the materials legally, and take pride in the guitars being made in America by American workers. In Obama’s world, however, turning a profit through industry is frowned upon.
If that weren’t enough, it seems the true motives behind the raids were likely political. Gibson makes their guitars out of the same materials other high-end manufacturers use for their guitars. However, Gibson seems to be the only one singled out- twice. Gibson’s CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, is a Republican and has given quite a bit of money to Republican campaigns over the years. Gibson’s main competitor, C.F. Martin & Company, is headed by Chris Martin IV, a strong Democratic supporter who has given generously to Democratic campaigns over the years. C.F. Martin’s catalog offers numerous guitars made with “eastern Indian rosewood”, the same wood that was seized from Gibson. Yet, Gibson was the only guitar manufacturer raided.
After several years of litigation and dealing with the hell-on-Earth that is American bureaucracy, Gibson finally relented and opted to pay the fine, forfeit the materials and get back to work. They were ordered to pay a $300,000 fine, forced to make a “donation” of $50,000 to a conservation fund and forfeit their wood. After successfully extorting the company, United States Attorney Jerry Martin gloated by saying,
“This criminal enforcement agreement goes a long way in demonstrating the government’s commitment to protecting the world’s natural resources.”
The only thing missing from the statement was, “Let this be a lesson to the rest of you…”
I am certainly saddened to see the “bad guy” win, but the company was put under tremendous financial strain by the weight of a tyrannous government. I commend Gibson for speaking out on several occasions, highlighting the intention of the raids and putting up a pretty good fight. While I am sorry to see the thugs win this one, I am glad to see that Gibson is putting Americans back to work, and for what it’s worth, in the future, I’ll be sure to make any guitars I buy a Gibson, both for the superior quality and the fact that I believe in the company. I encourage any guitar aficionados to consider doing likewise as well.
This is just another example of the strong-arming thuggery we are seeing in Obama’s America. These stories are becoming far too frequent. Let us remember these examples as November draws closer and send a message that we are through being bullied!