Gibson Guitars is back in the news again, not for their iconic guitars but for a U.S. government shakedown that should have been covered by media as a scandal.
Some are asking whether the raids on Gibson's factory were politically driven. That's a question worth investigating. The first raid occurred during President Barack Obama's honeymoon with major media. Obama was in his first year in office and Democrats controlled the entire government. Media provided an across the board pass to the Democrat Party.
Gibson factories in Tennessee, a right to work state, were raided twice by the federal government. The first raid was in 2009.
The US Report called attention to the raid because it was obvious that government agencies chose to penalize an American company for export practices in another country.
How was that made possible?
After Democrats gained absolute control of the government, the Lacey Act was amended.
That Act passed originally in 1900 was enacted for sound environmental reasons, but in the hands of leftwing Democrats, the act became far more expansive and obscure. Government agencies could now decide what regulatory moves were allowable under amendments that some legal scholars say need clarification. Furthermore, the scope of the amendments provides a means of political targeting common in the Obama administration.
Customs and Border Protection issued ‘Guidance on the Lacey Act Declaration,’ a sure sign that a law is not clear [Boldface Added]:
The Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. 3371 et seq., the Act) as amended makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant, with some limited exceptions, taken or traded in violation of the laws of the United States, a U.S. State or a foreign country.
Thus if you manufacture anything related to plant matter, you must comply with laws set by any foreign country. Could there be a greater assault on the U.S. small business sector than these amendments?
The U.S. Dept. of Justice ended up with $300,000 in cash from Gibson, another $50,000 from Gibson designated for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (a public-private partnership comprising mega-corporations eager to control global natural resources), and wood worth $261,844.
Gibson admitted no guilt and obviously it was smart for the company to settle a dispute that could’ve ended up costing the company millions of dollars.
DoJ mentioned that a Gibson employee had gone on a trip to Madagascar “sponsored by a non-profit organization.” Most of those non-profits are extreme leftwing groups bent on preservation of natural resources rather than conservation and wise use.
Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz described his experience with the two aggressive raids on his factory:
“[T]he Government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the U.S. Government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the taxpayer millions of dollars and putting a job-creating U.S. manufacturer at risk and at a competitive disadvantage. This shows the increasing trend on the part of the Government to criminalize rules and regulations and treat U.S. businesses in the same way drug dealers are treated.”
Ironically, the government’s interpretation of amendments that are impossible to fully abide by actually made First Lady Michelle Obama vulnerable to charges. Mrs. Obama gifted a Gibson guitar to the First Lady of France, complete with rosewood fingerboard.
The Lacey Act stipulates [Boldface Added]:
“Illegal plants and plant products may also be seized and forfeited whether or not the person from whom they are seized knew of the illegal nature of the product.”
The US Report began to cover the Gibson persecution in November, 2009. The larger lesson is that the assault on Gibson constituted an assault on the U.S. private market.
The DoJ put the usual spin on their account of the Gibson incident, claiming their interpretation of the law should have been followed by Gibson although the law wasn’t amended until 2008. DoJ didn’t mention whether actions would be taken against the exporter in Madagascar.
There’s a logical question to ask. Was Gibson on the wrong side of leftwing politics?
The National Association of Music Merchants posted a white paper explaining why the Lacey Amendments should be revisited. Clearing the matter up will be difficult if Democrats retain power because it’s obvious leaving those amendments ambiguous is very profitable to the government bureaucracy.
NAMM summed up the problem simply: “An almost limitless set of foreign laws can trigger a violation.”
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/May 28, 2013)
Read more about the assault on Gibson Guitars in TUSR archives. We’ve covered the story since the first raid in 2009.
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