Gibson Guitar CEO Henry E. Juszkiewicz
The CEO of embattled Gibson Guitar will be the special guest of the leader of Capitol Hill’s Songwriters Caucus at the President’s speech to Congress on jobs tonight.
Rep. Marsha E. Blackburn (R- Tenn.) invited Gibson’s Henry E. Juszkiewicz as a gesture of support to her longtime friend and constituent, said Michael Reynard, her press secretary.
Blackburn, who plays both the guitar and the ukulele, founded the Songwriters Caucus in 2003 as a vehicle to promote her state’s music industry and protect creative property, Reynard said.
When House Speaker John A. Boehner (R.-Ohio) heard that Juszkiewicz would be in Washington, he contacted the congresswoman’s office and invited him to watch the speech from the speaker’s box in the House gallery, Reynard said. Before the speech, Blackburn said, she will escort the guitar executive through the halls of the Capitol to meet Congress members and other business-leader guests of the speaker.
“Small businesses under the leadership of executives like Henry are the key to getting our nation’s economic engine running again,” she said.
“The best thing President Obama could do is seek their advice, then get out of the way. Big government doesn’t create jobs, small businesses like Gibson Guitar do,” said Blackburn, whose favorite guitarist is Chet Atkins, who not only played Gibson guitars, but was a revolutionary designer for the company.
The company is seen as a victim of heavy-handed government tactics after it was overwhelmed Aug. 24 by more than two dozen Department of Justice agents in combat gear and armed with automatic rifles. The agents executed search warrants at the company’s Memphis and Nashville facilities, seizing several pallets of rare wood, electronic files and guitars.
Although no charges have been filed against the company, Juszkiewicz said it is his understanding that the issue is the Justice Department’s interpretation of Indian export law and its enforcement of the 1900 Lacey Act, which prohibits the importation of materials that are illegal to export from the country of origin.
“Gibson has complied with foreign laws and believes it is innocent of any wrongdoing. We will fight aggressively to prove our innocence,” Juszkiewicz said after the raid.
The CEO said in an Aug. 25 statement that he was told by Justice Department officials that he would have no more problems if he moved his operations to India.
“The use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India,” he said he was told. “If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.”
This interpretation is not shared by officials in India, he said.
Blackburn said she wants to hold up Gibson as the model of what is correct about free enterprise in Tennessee and America. “Gibson Guitar is at the heart of this jobs debate, and is an example of exactly why President Obama has it wrong when it comes to getting our economy back on track,” she said.
“Maybe if the President spent more time finding real solutions to empowering small-business owners and less time hindering businesses like Gibson, we’d see more new jobs being created,” she said.