Gibson Guitar and the Politics of Persecution

MK-BW282_GIBSON_G_20120806181542The highly publicized 2011 raid by FBI agents of a plant owned by Gibson Guitar is beginning to look more and more like another outgrowth of the Obama administration’s crackdown on citizens considered to be political “enemies.” By now it is well known that the Obama IRS has been persecuting individuals affiliated with the Tea Party and even religious organizations through audits, federal agency investigations and the denial of the right to form non-profit groups. The Obama Justice Department, too, has engaged in unprecedented seizing of communication records of journalists, including Fox News’s James Rosen, whom the administration has threatened with charges of “espionage.” With these details now made public, Gibson Guitar has good reason to believe the shocking raid of its facilities, which cost the company altogether millions of dollars, was also a warning to its Republican-supporting CEO Henry Juszkiewicz.

On August 24, 2011, armed FBI agents in SWAT gear executed a warrant for the seizure of wood at Gibson Guitar facilities. At the time, the raid appeared peculiar because of the excessive forced used over charges of regulatory violations. The premise of the raid was an obscure 100-year-old law known as the Lacey Act. On the basis of this act, the Feds were able to storm the facilities, claiming that Gibson’s had broken foreign (not American) law in its procurement of the wood, even though the government produced no evidence of the crime at the time and no evidence has since emerged that the material was illegally obtained. Juszkiewicz was only told at the time that the Gibson supply chain had a “risk” of including illicit wood. This was in fact the only infraction the company was penalized for after it was forced to settle its case to avoid costly litigation.

Suspicions of political motivations behind the attack were quickly aroused. Gibson Guitars CEO Henry E. Juszkiewicz is a known supporter of conservative causes and political candidates. The Examiner, citing Open Secrets, reports that Juszkiewicz had contributed $2000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN07) last year, as well as $1500 to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Juszkiewicz also has donated $10,000 to the Consumer Electronics Association, a PAC that contributed $92.5k to Republican candidates last year, as opposed to $72k to Democrats.

Notably, one of Gibson’s biggest competitors, C.F. Martin & Co., reportedly uses the same type of wood seized from Gibson’s, but did not face any kind of interference from the federal government. The Examiner reports that Chris Martin IV, CEO of C.F. Martin & Co., is a well-known Democratic fundraiser. The Examiner describes Martin as “a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the DNC over the past couple of election cycles.” Furthermore, no other companies known to use the wood in question, such as furniture manufacturers, have reported similar prosecution from the federal government, though the wood is distributed widely throughout the world. As Juszkiewicz told radio host Hugh Hewitt, “Virtually every other guitar company uses this wood and this wood is used prominently by furniture and architectural industries, and to my knowledge none of them have been shut down or treated in this fashion.”

Gibson Guitar lost enormous assets as a result of the government’s manhandling. Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News Channel legal analyst, described the harrowing nature of the raid and its incredible cost.

These guys came dressed in SWAT gear with machine guns pointed at people. They took dozens and dozens of people out into the parking lot. They then seized what they said was the illegal wood. They effectively shut down the business for a month. Gibson’s legal bills are about $2.5 million and they haven’t even gotten back the wood that was seized from them.

As with the IRS scandal today, the so-called mainstream media attempted to downplay the significance of the Gibson raid, casting it as a political football for Republicans. Politico reported at the time:

[The] federal raids on the company that makes Gibson electric guitars were a gift to Republicans who have spent years railing about more obscure issues like boiler MACT regulations and particulate emissions standards.

Here, at last, was a controversy the average person could grasp: Overreaching regulators were out to kill rock ‘n’ roll.

Still, House Republicans are having some trouble getting the issue to gain traction on the Hill.

However, with both the Attorney General’s office and the IRS now tied directly to scandals in which there is strong evidence that each of the agencies misused and abused their powers in order to target political enemies of the President, the Gibson Guitar case can hardly be dismissed as regulatory overreach. In hindsight, it was an ominous foreshadowing of the explosion of misdeeds we are witnessing today.

Thanks to the dedication of Congressman Darrell Issa, the investigation into the IRS has been moving forward.  The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which Issa chairs, has scheduled more hearings into the IRS scandal for later in the week. Head of the IRS’s non-profit division, Lois Lerner, whose Fifth Amendment rights have come into question after she chose to emphatically profess her innocence shortly before refusing to testify on the matter, is listed as one of the scheduled speakers. Meanwhile, Attorney General Holder, who has already been cited in contempt of Congress, is being investigated for perjury.

Investor’s Business Daily, which renewed interest in the injustice done to Gibson’s with a recent editorial, keenly observes that all of the Obama administration scandals are connected by a common denominator: abuse of power to persecute political adversaries — even if those on Obama’s “enemies list” are ordinary citizens exercising their constitutional rights.

Juszkiewicz’ claim that his company was “inappropriately targeted” is eerily similar to the claims by Tea Party, conservative, pro-life and religious groups that they were targeted by the IRS for special scrutiny because they sought to exercise their First Amendment rights to band together in vocal opposition to the administration’s policies and the out-of-control growth of government and its power.

The Gibson Guitar raid, the IRS intimidation of Tea Party groups and the fraudulently obtained warrant naming Fox News reporter James Rosen as an “aider, abettor, co-conspirator” in stealing government secrets are but a few examples of the abuse of power by the Obama administration to intimidate those on its enemies list.

So far, the administration has dismissed this growing plethora of scandals, claiming ignorance in each case. That claim, as ludicrous as it is, would be equally troubling, even if it were true. The bottom line is that there is a common thread in each of the scandals that have come out over the last few weeks. In nearly all of these cases, there were examples of parts of the Obama administration using the power afforded to them to punish enemies of the administration and subsequently reward its friends. Gibson Guitar was just the canary in the coal mine.

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  • UCSPanther

    I say that when the tables are turned, we give the democrats and the supporters a taste of their own medicine and see how they like it…

    • Grantmann

      No, we simply do the right thing and faithfully execute the laws of the United States. We do not stoop to their level. It is imperative that we restore the reputation that this administration has sullied.

      • NTS

        One thing: Accountability. The agents who participated in the Gibson raid have to be fired (HA! I know… Even with the assault with a deadly weapon acts they committed.) or have the payroll funds attached to their position number zeroed out. Granted, that would require the GOPers to let their peanut-sized testicles descend to where they actually belong on a man.

    • Rifleman

      Nah, wrong is wrong, and I think you may be operating under the mistaken assumption that the msm and academia will be consistent in their 'principles'. They've proven time and time again that they aren't.

    • attila the hun

      If you do to them what they done to you, makes you as thuggish and undemocratic as they are. Just like third world banana republics.
      The best way to deal with those people is, first you expose them for for what they are a.k.a undemocratic thugs, then you make an example of them by punishing them to the full extend of the law

      • Defcon 4

        The moral high ground eh? Funny how that doesn't seem to work with fascists…

  • Deerknocker

    In an otherwise incompetent administration, political oppression seems to be a strong suit.

    • Victoryman

      ……with many comparisons to Germany in the 30's. "It can't happen here?" It already has. History repeats, only the names change.

  • Chezwick

    This is a scandal in-and-of-itself….separate from the other three. Why was Gibson investigated and Martin not, if they're both using the same prohibited Indian wood?

    • Snow White

      Gibson needs to get jay Sekalow , or some other good lawyer, to file law suit against the FBI and all the other regulatory agencies involved in targeting them. What's wrong with initiating a criminal case against them? Charge them with violating their civil rights. Everyone is guaranteed freedom from unreasonable search and seizure by the Constitution. One way to insure the reemergence of the KKK or other similar vigilante type organization is for people to realize they have no rights or recourse under the law as administered by a corrupt administration. Bedford Forest organized the KKK to redress legitimate grievances because white people were completely disenfranchised in his area after the Civil War.

  • ElizabethMC

    This administration is evil. They are the most corrupt organization in my lifetime. If only the media were impartial. These criminals would be exposed and put in prison.

    • Snow White

      Obama makes Richard Nixon look like a piker when it comes to corruption.

    • guest

      agree it is pathetic how some people fail to see the stinking corruption and vindictiveness

  • Michael

    I agree with Chezwick – this should be front page news. We all knew what was going on in 2011, but no one could prove it. Someone use the Gibson story as a talking point against Alan Colmes. He can’t keep saying these are isolated incidents.

    This is am American icon, if that don’t make us stir, what will?

  • Rifleman

    Like I said when he was elected in '08, the dp was taking the "Chicago Way," of corrupt politics national.

    • kasandra

      Well, even Bill Clinton called him a Chicago thug during the 2008 campaign. It's the one time the American people should have listened to him.

  • John

    I knew it, the wood of Gibson guitars is otherworldly. That's why when I play my Gibson guitar the music seems to flow up through the very bowels of hell, through my fingers and out a possessed Marshall amp. Gibson doesn't need sanctions, they need an exorcism.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    This is and abuse of power one would expect in a Nazi scenario. Imagine the Gestapo coming
    to your place of employment and at gunpoint forcing you into a parking lot where you can
    stare down the barrel of war weapons. Ludicrous but this happened, the FBI agents in charge
    should be fired immediately, there was no evidence of a crime being committed nor threat
    of violence. It is hard to get my head around this fiasco but the threat of deadly force
    against American workers in beyond and outrage, heads should roll but the MSM not
    covering this is a prime example of just how connected it is to the increasingly sinister
    Obama administration. Any number of government inspectors could have looked into this
    complaint, one person with a clipboard and a ticket issued if there was questionable materials.

    • Defcon 4

      The federal government is corrupt from the top down. It's kinda disgusting that no FBI agents have come forward to reveal anything about this "investigation". Kinda makes you wonder if there are any honest ones left.

    • Snow White

      One thing is for sure. This would never have happened when J Edgar Hoover was director of the FBI. Hoover may have had his own methods of keeping the politicians our of FBI business, but he ran a tight ship that stayed within the law.

  • Asher

    Democrat businesses who were using the wrong wood were not targeted. Swat teams barging in, yelling and coming in to tell you about using the wrong wood seems overbearing and extreme..They wanted to intimidate the Gibson company…Tyrants!



    Right off the assembly line: "THE FRET/NECK/BODY LESS PAUL GUITAR.."

  • Texas Patriot

    This is over the top. Obama should personally apologize for this. It's an insult to every guitar lover in the world. Unbelievable!

  • Jim_C

    Not Gibson! Now, it's personal!

    Though personally I would have investigated Gibson's quality control dept.

  • SoCalMike

    And Hugh Hewitt along w Congressman Campbell think the IRS can be reformed.
    How pathetic! Nice men but ZERO spine or fight.
    No more perfect chance exists to destroy this monster amd these 2 panty waists talk reform.
    Like reforming a rattlesnake!

  • JamesD

    I too was always quick to blame the main stream media for not reporting or attempting to cover up stories, but now with the attack on James Rosen I am beginning to wonder with the exception of MSNBC if maybe the others fear that if they speak out or publicly divulge any information about Pres. Obama or his administration that they will suffer personal attacks and maybe being fired and blackballed from the news industry.

  • Sum Won

    Total abuse of power – CRIMINAL!
    Who at the FBI called this raid?
    How long will it take for them to be stripped of their position and pension or go to jail?

  • Cowboy

    Musicians I know personally — and I know plenty, who do bluegrass, old time country and stuff, and play really well — knew all about this crime against Gibson, and the hands off Martin, and said not a word about it, because their beloved Barack Hussein Obama administration was behind it, and they agree that a supporter of conservatives and "vicious right wingers" like the Gibson company owner is, got just what he asked for.

    • critical thinker

      You make a great point. Not many of the "good ole boys" stood up for the freedoms and rights that they so often sing about. Guess they don't want to miss out on some of the huge music events Obama hosts on a very regular basis at the WH.

  • American Patriot

    Obama is beginning to look more and more like Nixon, the only difference being that Obama is a better liar and doesn't sweat as much.

    • Defcon 4

      The zero is worse, people died in Benghazi, no one died in Watergate.

    • Michael Durham

      The critical difference between Nixon and Obama, that you all seem to miss is this:

      Nixon WENT AFTER these very same kinds of Leftist "democrat" vermin in 1972, that Obama is, today.

      Nobody seems to 'get it'.

    • guest

      nixon was a saint compared to this one

  • Rob

    Obama is a criminal of the highest order. We are witnessing tyranny before our very eyes. If we can't do the job of exposing him, then the writing is on the wall.

    • guest

      agree with you and people are complacent fools to let this guy rule the country and half the world. then again, someone controls him somewhere in the background for sure. pyramid scheme hierarchy with the top of the pyramid invisible

  • Chris

    If ignorance is bliss, then this is indeed one of the happiest (mis)administrations in history.

    And given that their planned transformation of the formerly-great U.S. into a fourth-world banana-dictatorship is going so well, I'm sure they are QUITE happy with themselves…

  • "gunner"

    this administration is like japanese "tentacle porn", intruding everywhere.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    "SWAT gear and machine guns" the FBI was looking for dueling banjos………………William

  • MykeC

    I made and posted this to my timeline in 2011 when it was happening. Nice to see some truth finally emerging.

  • MykeC

    "Now with Gibson under my thumb, we are only a few days away from fundamentally transforming rock and roll!"

    Sorry for the repost. I forgot to quote my original caption!

  • Sam Clemens

    If someone doesn’t take down the freaking Nazis in Washington, this nation is doomed. In fact, it may already be too late to save it with anything less than revolution.

  • Starland sound

    They attack you with all the money you send them every April… Irony.

  • TT335i

    Yet more speculation being spread as fact, when there is no evidence to support the claims being made.

    You, the writer, make the following claim:
    “By now it is well known that the Obama IRS has been persecuting individuals affiliated with the Tea Party and even religious organizations through audits, federal agency investigations and the denial of the right to form non-profit groups.”

    Being “well know”, spread by political agenda such as yours, does NOT mean it is true. In fact, independent investigation of the claims like yours has shown your claim is simply not true regarding Obama being the person in the lead of who and what the IRS goes after.
    In fact, the independent investigation found that the IRS is also investigating people and organizations the ‘liberal’ and/or have a Democratic party bent.
    SO, stop the crying that conservatives and Republicans are being so unfairly targeted by the IRS.

    The IRS sucks as it is, and you and those like you use that as yet another way to attack Obama.
    Enough with this constant need and want to find something against Obama.
    There are other legit areas where you could be spending your time and actually have some factual claims.
    The targeting of journalist’s information and private contacts information should NOT have been targeted by our countries security organizations.
    Obama NEEDS to do something about this and make it stop.

    This is a direct result of the insane change in American life that was instituted by a former administration under the guise of “national security”.
    Instead of fighting to get rid of these gastapo like actions by our nations security organizations, Obama has instead chosen to partake in it and use it.

    So, really, what is so different with Obama’s administration compared to Bush’s? They both abuse their power and authority beyond it’s limits.
    It’s the same stink wrapped in a different package, and I fear that the next election will simply rewrap the same stink, and all we’ll be left to decide is which package looks more appealing without wanting something different inside that package. Obama was supposed to be different and it turns out he’s not.
    The left can stop complaining cause nothing has changed. Status quo remains, and it’s quite conservative to want to maintain what is already in place.

    • Scotty

      What’s the difference? Obama uses the arms of governement to further his political gains. Are you ignorant or cannot connect the dots. This is straight from Holder. With the revelations from IRS, the Rosen intimidation I’d say it’s compelling enough for a RICO case against Holder and Obama. Nothing new, Chavez did this as he consolidated power.

  • Scotty

    LIke an anaconda, the Progressive police state slowley tests and tightens.

  • Pat Cleveland

    About time the IRS started enforcing the political donations laws! Ought to start taxing some of these churches that are involved in politics too!

  • Pat Cleveland

    Political partys are not tax exempt!

  • James Shelton

    Their guitars are too expensive,
    yet they deserve some relief.
    They could lower the cost of their guitar down to $1,000 or maybe $500
    and I may just buy one of their guitars,yet till then if there ever is a then
    I can not buy any from them right

  • roseblue140

    The price of Gibson guitar is so high with my pocketbook!

  • chuckfanned

    It’s interesting and ironic that an EPA rep, after the raid stated that “it’s not up to Gibson to decide which laws…they want to respect.” Their boss however, Barrack Obama, picks and chooses which laws he will enforce on a day to day basis. If it suits his agenda he will enforce it, if it doesn’t he won’t.