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.
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.
So now Gibson is turning government wood into government guitars.
This week Gibson has announced the “Government Series” of guitars, to celebrate the end of its tussle with the eager enforcers of the U.S. Customs Department.
It’s a series of guitars made, purportedly, with the very same wood that was seized by the United States government, which was later returned at the end of the fiasco.
The body is painted in a custom color the company has named “Government Tan”–suitably drab–a nod to the joyless reality of living under the heavy thumb of stifling bureaucracy.
Wait… government tan. That’s racist! Anyway according to the Gibson Guitars press release…
Fight the Powers that Be with this Powerful Les Paul!
Great Gibson electric guitars have long been a means of fighting the establishment, so when the powers that be confiscated stocks of tonewoods from the Gibson factory in Nashville—only to return them once there was a resolution and the investigation ended—it was an event worth celebrating. Introducing the Government Series II Les Paul, a striking new guitar from Gibson USA for 2014 that suitably marks this infamous time in Gibson’s history.
A distinctive vintage-gloss Government Tan finish, complemented by black-chrome hardware and black plastics and trim, is topped by a pickguard that’s hot-stamped in gold with the Government Series graphic—a bald eagle hoisting a Gibson guitar neck. Each Government Series II Les Paul also includes a genuine piece of Gibson USA history in its solid rosewood fingerboard, which is made from wood returned to Gibson by the US government after the resolution.