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Priorities: DOJ Raids Guitar Company for "Illegal" Wood

What are officials in the Obama Justice Department spending their time on these days? Well besides arming Mexican drug cartels with thousands of guns through Operation Fast and Furious, they are raiding private businesses, specifically Gibson Guitar Company in Nashville and Memphis. From the WSJ:


Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. The Feds are keeping mum, but in a statement yesterday Gibson's chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, defended his company's manufacturing policies, accusing the Justice Department of bullying the company. "The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier," he said, suggesting the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to make the company cry uncle.

It isn't the first time that agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service have come knocking at the storied maker of such iconic instruments as the Les Paul electric guitar, the J-160E acoustic-electric John Lennon played, and essential jazz-boxes such as Charlie Christian's ES-150. In 2009 the Feds seized several guitars and pallets of wood from a Gibson factory, and both sides have been wrangling over the goods in a case with the delightful name "United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms."

The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn't be a negligible offense. Peter Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar wood trade the "equivalent of Africa's blood diamonds." But with the new raid, the government seems to be questioning whether some wood sourced from India met every regulatory jot and tittle.


It's not enough to know that the body of your old guitar is made of spruce and maple: What's the bridge made of? If it's ebony, do you have the paperwork to show when and where that wood was harvested and when and where it was made into a bridge? Is the nut holding the strings at the guitar's headstock bone, or could it be ivory? "Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever," Prof. Thomas has written. "Oh, and you'll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration."

Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar responded to the Obama Administration's raid, saying his company is providing some of the only manufacturing jobs left in America to American workers, yet is being punished for importing legal goods to produce a product. 

In a Gibson Guitar press release, Juszkiewicz also points out the raid has shut down the company, costing valuable sales dollars, productivity and jobs for workers.

There are so many things wrong with this situation. Let's start with the federal government using taxpayer dollars to raid a company for wood and for information the feds already had. Gibson has complied with all federal regulations when it comes to the products they import and produce. The Obama Justice Department has confiscated the private property of the company with no valid cause or evidence to support their claims of illegal "wood" activity and this isn't the first time Gibson has had to deal with the feds raiding their factories while heavily armed (because you know those guitar builders are really violent.)


In 2009, more than a dozen agents with automatic weapons invaded the Gibson factory in Nashville. The Government seized guitars and a substantial amount of ebony fingerboard blanks from Madagascar. To date, 1 year and 9 months later, criminal charges have NOT been filed, yet the Government still holds Gibson’s property. Gibson has obtained sworn statements and documents from the Madagascar government and these materials, which have been filed in federal court, show that the wood seized in 2009 was legally exported under Madagascar law and that no law has been violated. Gibson is attempting to have its property returned in a civil proceeding that is pending in federal court.

The Obama Justice Department has raided Gibson, twice, and hasn't given them their day in court, which is completely unconstitutional and corrupt.

Also, lets remember the Obama Justice Department is currently suing Arizona and Alabama because the governors there have the nerve to ask people for documentation proving they are legal citizens of the United States, yet want guitar owners to carry paperwork proving the wood used to build their guitar isn't illegal. Completely mind boggling, but after all, guitars can't vote and illegal immigrants can since democrats and the Obama Justice Department refuse to enforce voter identification laws.

So, what are the "top priorities" of the Obama Justice Department these days? Giving Mexican Drug Cartels thousands of illegal guns, raiding private businesses for perfectly legal and federally compliant wood and killing the few manufacturing jobs left in America, despite President Obama constantly preaching about how we need to manufacture goods in the United States while he supports policies that make it impossible to do so. The Gibson raid is just one example. 


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