In 2009 and 2011, the U. S. government carried out two raids at Gibson Guitar Corporation’s facilities in Nashville and Memphis, TN. The four search warrants entitled the government to shut down operations, seize data items and threaten the firm’s existence. Both raids occurred during the Democratic reign of President Obama. These raids are a complex topic that has different viewpoints. Read the below discussion and form your own opinion.
1. Legislation involved
The raids were based upon a century-old legislation known as the Lacey Act. The original Act, enacted in 1908, was enacted to protect illegal animal trafficking. The scope was expanded in 2008. The expansion prohibits trafficking in illegally exported or harvested plants and fauna. Timber falls into this category. The law states that taking possession, transporting, importing, buying and/or selling of such materials will be in violation of the Act. The expanded scope was enacted as a response to the raping of natural forests done by illegal harvesters. Trees were being cut down without any consideration given to countries, laws or the global natural environment. The Act is intended to cut down on the massive deforestation of tropical hardwood forests.
The Lacey Act states that plant materials made with protected timber cannot be taken from the originating country’s soil or borders without governmental permission. This means that any importer must first get the manufacturing countries approval. Tariff laws and any other governmental regulations must be followed. Failure to do so means the perpetrator faces the punitive damages set forth in the Act.
2. The involved commodities
Three raids involved the timber commodity known as Indian rosewood. Gibson Guitars has been using this rosewood in its fingerboards. The company uses this specialty wood in at least 10 of its guitars. The wood is grown in the rich forests found in India; hence the name Indian rosewood. Industry statistics state that over 90-percent of the harvested rosewood is used by China.
One raid involved Madagascar-harvested ebony. The ebony was used to manufacture fingerboards.
3. Alleged illegality and proof
The U.S. Government claimed that Gibson was in violation of the Lacey Act by purchasing and importing rosewood and/or ebony fingerboards from India. The government accused Gibson of being one of the greedy corporations that plunders the planet’s forests. This is a direct violation of the Act. Gibson claims the government is misinterpreting the foreign laws.
The company was accused of violating both Madagascar and India’s tariff laws. The government claimed that goods were illegally exported (trafficked) without gaining prior approval or paying applicable fees. Gibson claims to have received a sworn word of approval from the African government.
4. Money matters
Gibson Guitars is not the only guitar manufacturer that uses Indian rosewood. C.F. Martin and Company also uses this valued commodity. C.F. Martin has never been raided. Chris Martin IV, the CEO, is a known Democratic contributor. He is reported to have contributed over $35,400 during the last two election cycles. The contribution has supported both individual candidates and the Democratic National Committee.
Gibson Guitars, on the other hand, is a Republican-oriented company. Records show that the CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, has contributed about $4,000 to various Senators and Representatives.
5. Financial penalty saga
The government imposed a $300,000 penalty on Gibson and threatened extensive legal action. The company paid the penalty. The government then stated it was okay for the company to resume wood importation while further investigation occurs.
The Gibson Guitars raid is a complex issue that only those directly involved can fully understand. The above facts are only the beginning – we encourage you to do your own research.