Back in August, the federal government’s raid on Gibson Guitars made huge news. The raid by armed agents was ostensibly conducted because Gibson was illegally using rare, restricted woods from India and Madagascar to make its guitars… even though nobody in India or Madagascar filed any complaints against them. This was justified on the grounds that the Lacey Act allows the United States government to prosecute importers for violating foreign laws, whether or not the foreign government in question believes a violation has occurred.
Gibson employees were told by the invading federal agents that they could be looking at up to five years of jail time for whatever the hell they were supposedly guilty of. (The agents in question, clad in body armor and lugging heavy weapons, were from the Fish and Wildlife Service.) The befuddled CEO of the company, Henry Juszkiewicz, was a committed conservationist who once sat upon the board of the Rainforest Alliance, although he resigned after a previous raid in 2009, because he said he didn’t want to cause trouble for the group.
Juszkiewicz initially thought the raid might have been a mix-up due to improperly completed shipping documents, but later said his company was being deliberately targeted by the Obama Administration, which “wants us to just shut our doors and go away.” Fun Fact #1: many of Gibson’s competitors use the same kind of wood in their instruments, but none were assaulted by federal agents. Fun Fact #2: those competitors are not located in a right-to-work states, while Gibson headquarters is in Tennessee.
A Republican congresswoman from Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, acting in concert with several powerful House committee heads, demanded answers from Obama Administration officials, including Attorney General Eric “Stonewall” Holder. They got about as far as any student of the Most Transparent Administration In History would expect. There are limits to what Congress can do, given that an active “investigation” is still in progress.
In fact, it has now been six months since the Great Gibson Guitar Raid… and even though Gibson’s business was damaged, and half a million dollars’ worth of property was confiscated, no charges have been filed at all.
No problem, though. The government could whip up some charges and file them at any time. Perhaps Juszkiewicz is growing tired of waiting. As far back as October, he was talking about moving jobs overseas to escape from the Obama Administration.
Reason TV put together a fine video presentation summarizing this exciting journey through the uncharted wilds of the Indian and Madagascarian (Madagascarese?) legal codes.
I’m reminded of a grim Russian joke I heard years ago:
Two men are being hauled to Siberia in a prisoner transport.
The first man asks, “How long is your sentence in the gulag?”
The second man replies, “Twenty years.”
The first man asks, “And what was your crime?”
The second man says, “Nothing.”
The first man becomes very angry and shouts, “LIAR! Everyone knows the penalty for nothing is only ten years!”