PoliticsUS Government Attack on Gibson Guitar

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To: LTK007 who wrote (100)9/29/2011 5:55:35 PM
From: joseffy
2 Recommendations   of 227
L.A. Times Finds Villain in Gibson Guitar Raid: Republicans

by Tim Cavanaugh | September 28, 2011

After describing how 24 armed and armored cops “quickly seized control of the cavernous [Gibson] guitar factory” during a wood-import-related raid on August 24, Los Angeles Times reporter Neela Banerjee wonders why raiding a century-old maker of beloved musical instruments could have led to “unanticipated results” for the Obama Justice Department:

Weeks later, the raid has generated publicity worthy of a rock concert. Groups like the "tea party" and the GOP, and VIPs like House Speaker John A. Boehner and Rush Limbaugh, have grabbed ahold of it as an extreme example of how government regulations are strangling American enterprise.

Republicans see the seizure of 10,000 fingerboards, 700 guitar necks and 80 guitars as an easy-to-grasp anecdote that helps illustrate their campaign to shrink federal government, roll back environmental regulations and reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

This story is on the front page of the Times’ objectively pro-deforestation print edition and is grouped in the “news” subfolder in the paper’s website. Yet it’s shot through with unsupported opinion, pushed arguments, elisions and dubious claims. (Also, is the copydesk now scare-quoting tea party as a rule? I never thought anybody could top the Washington Times’ beaten-but-unbowed retention of homosexual “marriage” – but even they eventually gave that one up.)

I’m guessing maybe the Times finds man-bites-dog value in the idea that Republicans are standing up for rock ‘n’ roll guitar makers when we all know Republicans never listen to anything but Lawrence Welk in their country clubs. That’s the only explanation I can think of for Banerjee’s treating the Gibson hubbub as a novelty.

A few minutes of thought should have made it clear why this story blew up: It’s about how federal officers conducted two raids against a successful and law-abiding company without filing any charges. They have done this while the country is in a severe recession that has not spared Gibson’s base of Nashville, Tennessee. The company, which seeks to maintain a relatively progressive and pro-environment posture (as CEO Henry Juszkiewicz does in his comments to Banarjee), makes a product that is coveted by consumers, highly regarded by its users and recognizable to most people with an interest in popular music. And the purpose of the raid was to investigate whether the laws of another country – India, from which Gibson imports its fingerboards and which has provided Juszkiewicz with a letter attesting to the legality of the purchases – were violated. I’m more of a Fender man myself, but I can pretty easily see why the vast right-wing conspiracy has found an eager audience for commentary on this outrage.

Banerjee of course is following the lead of Media Matters for America, for which the fall of every sparrow is the result of a Fox News conspiracy. MMFA’s Jocelyn Fong wages a prolix struggle against reality in this to-be-sure-laden attempt to reveal Gibson’s festering GOP underbelly. (Key sentence: “But Juszkiewicz does not appear to be a major Republican donor.”)

Banerjee doesn’t fare much better. She counterposes strong evidence (Juszkiewicz’s letter from the relevant government mentioned above) with weak evidence (paraphrased contentions from unnamed “industry and environmental experts”) in he-said-she-said paragraphs. She glides over the fact that the Department of Justice not only failed to file charges but recently downgraded its demands to a request for some face time with Gibson executives. She blames President Bush.

And she treats Juszkiewicz’s PR counteroffensive (which Nick Gillespie noted a while back) as something odd, maybe even ominous. This is what’s so irritating about this article: not the bias but the unneeded complexity of it. Gibson is big in the guitar world but it doesn’t exactly qualify as Big Business. It does about $111 million in annual revenues and employs 2,800 people. Like most of us, it is struggling to get by in the Obama economy. And it’s been raided by the cops twice for no apparent reason. And the cops refuse to give back the stuff they confiscated. As they say in L.A., Juszkiewicz is the rooting interest. Why is this so hard to understand?

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To: Alan Smithee who wrote (98)9/29/2011 9:04:31 PM
From: joseffy
2 Recommendations   of 227
The Gibson Raid: Much to Fret About
Federal prosecutors are proving themselves too highly strung.

by Pat Nolan 9/27/2011

With military precision, the federal officers surrounded the building, donned flak jackets and helmets, readied their weapons, burst in, and forced terrified employees out at gunpoint. Officers ransacked the facility, seizing computers, papers, and materials.

It was the second raid in three years by the Fish and Wildlife Service on Gibson, maker of the famous Les Paul guitar. The situation would be laughable, if the consequences for Gibson weren’t so dire.

The law that Gibson allegedly violated is the Lacey Act, which bars importation of wildlife or plants if it breaks the laws of the country of origin. It was intended to stop poachers. The ebony and rosewood that Gibson imported was harvested legally, and the Indian government approved the shipment of the wood. But Fish and Wildlife bureaucrats claim that, because the wood was not finished by Indian workers, it broke Indian law. In other words, a U.S. agency is enforcing foreign labor laws that the foreign government doesn’t even think were violated.

“In two cases we had a SWAT team, treating us like drug guys, come in and shut us down with no notice,” lamented Gibson chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz. “That’s just wrong. We’re a business. We’re making guitars.” Juszkiewicz says the raid, seizures, and resulting plant closure cost Gibson more than $1 million.

This abusive treatment of a legitimate business like Gibson is not an isolated incident.

Small businesses have been similarly raided, and their officers imprisoned, for such minor offenses as importing lobster tails in plastic rather than cardboard (three men were given eight-year prison sentences) and sloppy labeling on imported orchids (the accused was given a 17-month sentence).

The Gibson assaults are further evidence that America’s criminal-justice system has strayed far from its central purpose: stopping the bad guys from harming us. SWAT-team raids were designed to arrest notoriously violent gangsters, and stop them from destroying evidence. Now, the police powers of the state are being used to attack businesses. (Were the feds afraid that the Gibson workers would flush the guitars down the toilet?)

It is time to get the criminal law back to basics. Fighting terrorism, drug cartels, rapists, and murderers is enough to keep law enforcement busy. To expand that fight to include such esoteric social causes as protecting Indian workers dilutes the resources needed to fight real crime. Why do we care who finishes the wood on guitars? And why are we applying the power of the state in its rawest form to enforce Indian labor laws?

Prosecutors who are looking for an easy “win” know that businesses roll over. A public raid on its offices, or an indictment of its officers, can destroy a business’s reputation and viability. That makes the owners easy to intimidate into a plea bargain.

If they choose to fight, they face the full wrath and fury of the feds. In the Gibson raids, the SWAT teams were deployed even though Gibson had offered its full cooperation to investigators. Such raids are increasingly used to intimidate citizens under suspicion.

The orchid importer, a 65-year-old with Parkinson’s, was shoved against a wall by armed officers in flak jackets, frisked, and forced into a chair without explanation while his home was searched.

The government also attempts to get low-level employees to “finger” their bosses. For example, the feds threatened Gibson employees with long prison sentences. This is not a search for truth, but an immoral attempt at extortion to win convictions.

Investigators examine the lives of “little fish” and use minor, unrelated violations (smoking a joint, or exaggerating income on a loan application) to pressure them to back the government’s case against their employers. Mobsters have experience with threats like this, but a secretary or an accountant is scared to death by the threat of prosecution.

A favorite ploy of prosecutors in these cases is to charge defendants with false statements based on their answers to the investigators. The sentence for this can be five years in prison.

No recording is made of the interviews — in fact, the feds prohibit taping the interviews — and the agents are not stenographers. They cannot possibly recall the exact wording of the questions and the answers. Yet after the interview, they will produce a “transcript” replete with quotes throughout. And if a witness says he did not actually say what the agent put in quotes, it is the witness’s word against a fine, upstanding federal agent’s. Staring at a five-year sentence will get most people to say whatever the government wants them to.

The feds also pile up charges. According to Juszkiewicz, the Justice Department warned Gibson that each instance of shipping a guitar from its facility would bring an added charge of obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors routinely add extra counts to stack potential prison sentences higher. For instance, faxing invoices for the wood would be charged as wire fraud. Depositing the check for the sale of the guitars would be money laundering. The CEO’s telling the press he is innocent would bring charges of fraud or stock manipulation.

The intent is to threaten such long sentences that the targets plead guilty
rather than risk decades in prison.

Prosecutors further tighten the screws by seizing the assets of the company, a tactic once used against pirates and drug lords but now routinely used to prosecute white-collar crimes. The federal agents seized six guitars and several pallets of ebony during their initial 2009 raid against Gibson. Federal law allows assets to be seized not just from convicted criminals, but also from those never charged. Owners must prove that the forfeited property was obtained legally; otherwise, the government can keep it.

That gives the government incredible leverage, because without the seized inventory and bank accounts, the business will most likely go under. How can Gibson make guitars if the wood is being held by the government? How can it service customers when the government took its computers as evidence? How can it pay lawyers when its bank accounts were seized?

Asset forfeitures bring to mind a similar twist on the law uttered by the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland: “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.”

America has become overcriminalized. The Gibson raids highlight how America’s criminal-justice system has become a Rube Goldberg contraption of laws and sentencing policies that have no consistent focus — and there is little relationship between the length of the prison sentence and the harm caused by a violation.

When the Constitution was adopted, there were three federal crimes: treason, piracy, and counterfeiting. Now, there are more federal crimes than we can count — literally. The Congressional Research Service tried to tally the number of crimes sprinkled throughout federal codes, but gave up at 4,450. That does not include more than 10,000 regulations that carry criminal penalties. It’s a wonder anyone can survive 24 hours without violating some obscure statute or rule.

And while Gibson has yet to be formally charged, why would the government choose to pursue the company under criminal laws, seeking to send the officers of the company to prison? The power to imprison is the one of the most severe authorities we cede to government. The lives of incarcerated people are not their own: They cannot choose where to live, with whom to associate, when to eat, or what to do with their time. Because it carries such harsh sanctions, criminal law has always been reserved for morally reprehensible acts such as murder, rape, arson, and robbery.

However, federal bureaucrats no longer feel constrained to limit criminal prosecutions to blameworthy actions that virtually everyone in society would agree are morally wrong. After all, in the age of moral relativism, who is to say what is moral or not? Instead, this moral basis of the law has been cast aside in favor of a broad authority to criminalize conduct that Congress (or, more likely, a mere handful of legislative staffers or agency bureaucrats) decides is “wrong.” Whereas behaviors were once criminal because they were inherently bad, modern law makes certain actions criminal merely because a majority of legislators think they should be prohibited, and criminal sanctions are imposed to make it clear the lawmakers really, really don’t like the conduct.

By unpinning criminal law from its moral roots, we now impose the harshest sentences on activities that are deemed improper by those with the loudest voices. Thus, the lobster fishermen who shipped their catch in the improper containers received longer sentences than some murderers. And Gibson is raided by federal commandos not because the company poses a threat to anyone, but merely because the American government has found it to be in violation of India’s labor laws.

This is government by whim, and these “whim” crimes are not based on evil intent. In fact, they require no intent at all. They are “strict liability” crimes — you don’t have to know you are acting unlawfully to be sent to prison.

The Heritage Foundation points out that “a core principle of the American system of justice is that no one should be subjected to criminal punishment for conduct that he did not know was illegal or otherwise wrongful.” These whim laws have discarded the centuries-old requirement of mens rea, or guilty intent. From today’s perspective, the old adage “ignorance of the law is no excuse” assumes that it is possible to know all the intricacies of tens of thousands of federal statutes and regulations. Nonetheless, if we inadvertently violate one of them, we face years in prison. We are modern Gullivers, tethered to the ground by the sinews of the criminal law.

Fortunately, many are fighting against this distressing trend. Groups as diverse as the Heritage Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Prison Fellowship, the Cato Institute, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have joined forces under the leadership of former Attorney General Ed Meese to fight the overcriminalization of America.

Meese is also active in Right on Crime, a group of leading conservatives working to apply free-market, conservative principles to the criminal-justice system. Some of the prominent conservative signatories of the Right on Crime Statement of Principles are Bill Bennett, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, Asa Hutchinson, Chuck Colson, and Grover Norquist. We believe that “criminal law should be reserved for conduct that is either blameworthy or threatens public safety, not wielded to grow government and undermine economic freedom.” Congress needs to rein in runaway federal prosecutors who are threatening legitimate businesses. They can start by bringing DOJ officials before a public hearing to inquire into the raids, and ask some questions. What criteria does the DOJ use to send in a SWAT team when a subpoena would suffice? Why is it a priority of U.S. law enforcement to enforce Indian labor laws that India is not enforcing? Why doesn’t federal policy require that interviews be recorded?

Alexis de Tocqueville warned that the greatest danger to a democracy was “soft despotism”:

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Congress needs to act quickly before the federal government compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies us. They need to bring our criminal laws back to basics: Get off the backs of businesses and keep us safe from truly dangerous and morally wrongful behavior.

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To: Alan Smithee who wrote (98)9/30/2011 1:24:00 PM
From: joseffy
   of 227
White House probed over pressuring FORD to pull anti-bailout ad

More US government attack on businesses

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To: FUBHO who wrote (73)9/30/2011 1:53:13 PM
From: joseffy
   of 227
Feds to Gibson: Hand over more wood
September 28, 2011 by Annie Johnson Nashville Business Journal

Federal authorities are pressuring Nashville-based Gibson Guitar to hand over an additional 25 bundles of Indian wood that the company allegedly planned to use in its famous guitars.

The complaint was filed today in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee and mirrors a 2010 action that sought official forfeiture of wood obtained in a 2009 raid of Gibson facilities. The latter of those cases has been stayed, pending the outcome of the most recent suit.

As has been the case in previous allegations, at issue is the classification of certain wood imported to the United States from India. Namely, a June shipment of 1,250 sawn logs was classified as "finished parts of musical instruments," which is allowed under Indian law. In reality, according to the sworn affidavit of Fish and Wildlife Service agent Kevin Seiler, the wood was unfinished – a violation of the Lacey Act.

The Lacey Act, originally passed by Congress in 1900, was amended in 2008 as part of that year’s Farm Bill to include protection for certain wood and endangered animal species. At its core, the Lacey Act makes it illegal to import plants or wildlife into the U.S. if those goods are harvested in a way that violates the laws of another country.

In other words, because Indian workers didn’t create the final product, it’s not legally eligible to be exported.

The affidavit also outlines allegations that Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz understands the violations, as evidenced by the staunch defense of his company in a press conference and subsequent political fights around the Lacey Act.

“It is clear that Gibson understands the purpose of the Lacey Act, and understands that … fingerboard blanks are not finished fingerboards and thus Gibson is aware that its order for fingerboard blanks was an order for contraband ebony wood or ebony wood which is illegal to possess," Seiler wrote.

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To: LTK007 who wrote (100)9/30/2011 5:21:55 PM
From: average joe
2 Recommendations   of 227
Amazing they would go after the Gibson Les Paul an American symbol for the entire world.

I suppose it shows they really hate American symbols.

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To: joseffy who wrote (104)10/1/2011 5:01:36 PM
From: Tom Clarke
3 Recommendations   of 227
Gibson Guitars Set to Miss Indian Notes

Indian wood exporters see raids by US federal agents on Tennessee company as handiwork of European makers of string instruments


Strummers around the world will soon miss the popular string note — the bassy twang — that makes the famed Gibson guitars a rage, thanks to a concerted effort in the US and Europe to silence the unmistakable pitch of the acoustic instruments made from Indian rosewood sourced from the southern foothills of the Sahyadris.

It is the texture and sweet smell of wood when treated with lemon oil and lacquer that had prompted Tennessee-based maker of string musical instruments, Gibson Guitar Corp, to buy Indian rosewood. Last week, US federal agents raided Gibson's facilities in Nashville and Memphis and seized several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars, acting on a Federal Department of Justice decree that said the use of wood from India that is not “finished” is illegal. Finished wood refers to timber that is logged, planed and tapered for final use.

This is the second time in two years that the Justice Department has searched Gibson's premises. But Indian wood exporters see these raids as the handiwork of European luthiers-makers of stringed instruments--and wood brokers who sell “inferior quality” rosewood and ebony from Madagascar and other African countries. Gibson's troubles began in 2009 with the inclusion of wood under an amended US law called the Lacey Act, which requires importing firms to buy legally harvested wood and follow the environmental laws of the producing countries. In the first round of raids in 2009, Gibson was accused of buying unfinished ebony sourced from Madagascar, which prohibits export of that wood. Last week's raids focused on rare wood imported from India.

Gibson officials and Indian exporters rubbished the order, saying that the notice wrongly interpreted Indian laws and wood cannot be exported without approvals and certification from the Indian forest and customs departments. Also, the seized wood boards were certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a US industry body that promotes responsible management of the world's forests, they said. “The wood seized by US government is FSC-controlled… Given that the wood complies with FSC standards and was allowed in by US customs, Gibson's understanding is that the wood complies with all laws,” Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp, told ET.

Exports of fingerboards, headstock, pickups and string-bridges made of rosewood and ebony are freely allowed under Indian laws, especially in the case of string musical instruments. Further, India allows exports of processed timber--sawn, planed and tapered wood boards.

“It's a strong European wood broking lobby that is fomenting trouble,” said BH Patel of Mumbai-based Patel Wood Syndicate. “Indian exporters, unlike their foreign counterparts, do not sell wood through European brokers. We deal with foreign companies directly. European wood brokers have always disapproved our way of cutting deals directly.”

Indian timber boards, plywood and teak veneers are of great value in the US, Europe and the Gulf. India shipped processed wood and wood products worth . 2,000 crore last fiscal, government data show.

Indian wood exporters, led by Timber Exporters' Association, have sprung into action to resolve the issue. “The Justice Department has a problem with incorrect declaration of wood classification. The exporters' association is in contact with the Indian government to settle the classification issue,” said Gulab Gidwani, promoter of US-based timber exporter Exotic Woods. India's Timber Exporters' Association members say they will seek the intervention of Department of Foreign Trade and Chemical and Allied Export Promotion Council of India (CAPEXIL) to settle the issue. Association members are also planning to take up the issue with the Indian Embassy in the US. Almost all foreign manufacturers of musical instruments import premium Indian rosewood and ebony because of their colour and texture. Besides, experts say, notes like the 'bassy twang', 'string thump' and 'hollow thump' are better played on string instruments made from Indian rosewood. US accounts for over two-fifths of the global guitar sales at over 2,000 units a week. A normal instrument retails between $100 and $300 while a premium guitar is priced at over $2000.

Ace guitarist Jimi Hendrix used to play Gibson guitar

The 120-year-old company, which own brands such as Baldwin and Epiphone, buys 2.75- to 3-inch-wide fingerboard stocks — usually 5,000-10,000 boards at a time — from Indian wood exporters. Fingerboards are the part of a stringed instrument against which the fingers press the string to vary the pitch. As of now, Gibson Corp is manufacturing instruments from its old stock. “If the crisis is not resolved, we'll have to look for alternative sources from where the wood could be legally purchased,” Mr Juszkiewicz said. Last week's raids have caused a loss of $1 million to Gibson Corp.

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To: average joe who wrote (105)10/1/2011 5:05:53 PM
From: Tom Clarke
1 Recommendation   of 227
Gibson: Feds 'lied' about CEO's wood statement

By ERIK SCHELZIG Associated Press
Posted: 09/30/2011 10:41:29 AM PDT
Updated: 09/30/2011 01:36:16 PM PDT

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A Gibson Guitar spokesman said Friday that a federal agent "lied" in an affidavit filed in federal court that claims the company's outspoken CEO was aware that wood seized by authorities was illegally imported.

Gibson head Henry Juszkiewicz has publicly blasted the seizure and raids on facilities in Memphis and Nashville as examples of the federal government risking U.S. jobs with over-zealous regulation. The enforcement activities have also drawn the ire of Republicans and tea party groups.

According to the affidavit by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Kevin Seiler this week, press statements made by Gibson head Henry Juszkiewicz indicate he knew his company's "order for fingerboard blanks was an order for contraband ebony wood."

Seiler alleges that the wood shipped through a broker was mislabeled to circumvent India's export ban on unfinished ebony and rosewood, in violation of the federal Lacey Act, which bans the import of illegal wildlife, plants and wood.

"The shipment paperwork ... concealed the true nature of the import and fraudulently presented as shipment that would be legal to export from India, even though it clearly was not a legally exported or imported shipment," Seiler wrote.

Seiler claimed Juszkiewicz's media comments criticizing Indian and American law on the matter indicate Gibson "understands the purpose of the Lacey Act."

Company spokesman Ed James said in an email that Juszkiewicz produced a letter from the Indian government stating the wood was legally exported during the news conference referred to in the affidavit.

"The government and Agent Seiler are taking a statement explaining Mr. Juszkiewicz's understanding of the government's position AFTER the government took action out of context," James said. "Agent Seiler lied."

The affidavit quotes Juszkiewicz as saying that the 2008 bill to add illegal wood products to the Lacey Act was introduced at the behest of lumber unions seeking to make American wood more competitive.

"That's not a national objective ... That's not mom and apple pie," the affidavit quotes Juszkiewicz as saying.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican sponsor of the Lacey Act amendment, has said he is considering changes to the law to ensure instrument makers can import can obtain the wood they need. But other guitar makers, like El Cajon, Calif.-based Taylor Guitars, have said the law doesn't hurt their ability to make instruments.

Gibson was the subject of a similar raid in 2009 over ebony imported from Madagascar through a German firm called Theodor Nagel GmbH. Both have been fighting that seizure in federal court, but federal prosecutors obtained a hold on those proceedings while pursuing the "investigation and the prosecution of a related criminal investigation."

Details of that investigation have been filed under seal.

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To: Tom Clarke who wrote (107)10/1/2011 5:38:28 PM
From: joseffy
1 Recommendation   of 227
Company spokesman Ed James said in an email that Juszkiewicz produced a letter from the Indian government stating the wood was legally exported during the news conference referred to in the affidavit.

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To: Tom Clarke who wrote (107)10/1/2011 8:05:32 PM
From: joseffy
1 Recommendation   of 227
Perry Stands With Gibson

October 1, 2011

During a campaign stop in Memphis this week, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry adeptly played to the rhetoric of unrest reverberating around Tennessee and beyond as a result of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s raid on Gibson Guitars.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, himself a critic of the Gibson raid and one of Tennessee’s highest profile Perry supporters, introduced the Texas governor during a lunchtime fundraiser at the Memphis Botanical Gardens.

Before striding to the mic, Perry took a quick detour over to the guitar player in the corner of the room.

“Let me come over here and make sure … yes, that’s what I thought that was. God bless you, that is a Gibson guitar!” Perry announced to the audience, which included local business leaders and GOP state lawmakers Rep. Mark White and Sen. Brian Kelsey.

“And you tell the government, ‘Keep your hands off of my Gibson!’,” Perry exhorted the musician.

That chop at the federal government over the Gibson raids in Nashville and Memphis was the latest in a chorus of opposition that’s grown in intensity ever since federal agents investigating whether the company illegally imported wood temporarily shut down the facilities. The government seized wood, electronic files and guitars.

A “ We Stand With Gibson” rally, sponsored by several dozen Tea Party and Republican groups, is scheduled in Nashville at the Scoreboard Restaurant on Oct. 8 from 2-4 p.m. Speakers slated to appear include Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and talk radio hosts Steve Gill, Phil Valentine and Mark Skoda.

Musicians are also increasingly speaking out about the issue.

In a video posted to Gibson’s “ This Will Not Stand” website, Sully Erna – a member of the heavy metal band Godsmack – said “I believe in their innocence, and I stand by them 100 percent as they fight to protect their rights.”

Country legend Charlie Daniels riffed and railed on the Gibson raids for the Facebook faithful.

“When I went to Iraq the first time, I saw a great need for recreational musical instruments as a lot of the troops played, to one degree or another, but just didn’t have instruments to help while away the lonely off duty hours,” Daniels wrote. “When I got back stateside I started something we called Operation Heartstrings in an effort to provide instruments and strings to our men and women serving so far away from home. The first call I made was to Henry Juszkiewicz, the owner of the Gibson Guitar Company who, without hesitation, donated one hundred Gibson guitars and a gross or so of strings to the project.”

Wondered Daniels, “Is this what America has come to, that the resources of the United States government can be used to settle political scores by a petulant president and a totally out of control Justice Department?”

Supporters of the federal government’s actions in the Gibson saga say the agency is just following orders from Congress — including Tennessee Republicans who in 2008 voted to expand the scope of government’s authority to prosecute and seize property under the Lacey Act.

Despite assurances from the feds that they won’t be targeted, musicians who own Gibson guitars remain concerned that the instruments of their trade could be subject to asset forfeiture.

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To: FUBHO who wrote (60)10/1/2011 8:07:31 PM
From: joseffy
1 Recommendation   of 227
Ramsey Condemns Gibson Guitar Raid as ‘Criminalization of Free Enterprise’

September 12, 2011

Facebook Post from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, Sept. 12, 2012:

While I’ve been interacting with constituents and preparing for the upcoming legislative session, I have been appalled at the recent news reports out of Nashville and Memphis.

Gibson Guitars, the iconic manufacturer of the axes wielded by a wide variety of artists from Chet Atkins to B.B. King to Angus Young, has been raided for the second time in the past few years by armed agents of the federal government. Gibson’s crime? Importing a certain type of wood for use in their guitars that may be illegal in a foreign country.

That’s right. Our government executed criminal warrants based on one interpretation of another country’s laws. This would be funny if it wasn’t so downright scary.

A federal raid is a not a small thing.
It is a serious undertaking that has consequences for the business against whom it is conducted. Computers get forensically imaged, boxes of files are carted out. Employees are detained and questioned. Business can not be effectively conducted for days if not weeks afterward.

This kind of action can result in lost profits, lost jobs and the bankruptcy of a company. The economic consequences can be dire. Raids such as these should not be taken lightly.

Yet what was the stated need for overwhelming force in this case?

Basically, the federal government is suggesting that Gibson Guitar has violated the Lacey Act. It charges that Gibson imported wood from India that was illegal because it was “unfinished.” The wood is allegedly illegal not because of any law passed by Congress or any state legislature but because of an interpretation of Indian law.

Is this reason enough to hold hostage an employer of over 1200 people?

Even if one concedes the questionable merit of the Lacey Act, which requires American companies be bound by the law of foreign nations, the repeated targeting of one company in this fashion is abhorrent.

Our Constitution was written to ensure that the federal government’s power was not only limited but decentralized. The Founding Fathers wanted a government where no branch or agency of government could have too much power.

Looking at the Gibson case, the US Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service has surely violated that founding tenet.
As I mentioned, this is the second time the company has been raided by armed agents of Fish and Wildlife. No charges were ever filed in connection with the first raid in 2009 but the company's property has still not been returned.

Gibson, it should be noted, has provided evidence that the wood imported in both cases was completely authorized as legal by the countries exporting the wood.

What has been most concerning to me is the implicit assertion by the government that if this “unfinished” wood had been finished in India by Indian workers instead of at Gibson by American workers the company would have no legal problem.

It is almost as if the federal government is encouraging Gibson to do what many other companies have done for various reasons: Ship American jobs overseas. Gibson is one of the few major US companies that still produces a tangible product within America’s borders and the federal government targets them because they MAY have run afoul of a foreign law.

I fail to see the need for armed federal agents in a place of business like Gibson. This is not a criminal cartel, it is a musical instrument manufacturer. The company does not thumb its nose at the law, in fact, the company and it’s CEO have clearly made their best efforts to stay within the law.

In fact, the only beef the Obama administration could really have with Gibson Guitars is the political habits of its CEO. Apparently, the head of Gibson has been very generous in his donations to Republican candidates and causes such as Congressman Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Lamar Alexander. One of Gibson’s chief competitors on the other hand prefers Democrat candidates. I hope this is simple coincidence and not something more sinister.

If Gibson Guitars has broken the law, they must pay required penalties. But the resources which have been brought to bear and the manner in which this company has been targeted amounts to a classic case of overreach and overkill.

In an ever increasing competitive global economy, the federal government should be looking for ways to assist and nurture American businesses – not seek to criminalize companies who provide high-paying jobs to American workers.

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