February 3, 2014
The Gibson Guitar company is fighting the “powers that be” – making “Government Series” guitars for sale out of wood confiscated in a Justice Department raid but eventually returned to the company.
In a 2011 raid on Gibson facilities in Memphis and Nashville, heavily armed SWAT teams seized up to $3 million worth of wood the Justice Departmentclaimed had been imported illegally from India. It was the second time the company had been targeted in two years, and it started a criminal case that wasn’t resolved until July, 2012, when the government dropped all charges against Gibson and the company agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty and contribute $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
At the time, the raid drew mockery from Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and country singer celebrity Charlie Daniels, as well as an army of Gibson supporters in tea party groups and elsewhere.
As part of the agreement, Gibson demanded the supposedly illegal wood be returned — and last week it unveiled a new guitar line made from it: The Government Series II Les Paul.
The company, owned by no-nonsense conservative Henry Juszkiewicz, made its motives clear in a news release announcing the guitar:
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.
Even though the Gibson raid was national news, its possible political motivations were largely unexplored by the mainstream media.
Juszkiewicz is a donor to Republicans like U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Lamar Alexander; his company got invaded by government agents for using wood imported from India. Meanwhile, according to Investor’s Business Daily, competing guitar maker C.F. Martin & Co. made guitars from the exact same wood yet escaped Justice persecution. It’s worth nothing that C.F. Martin CEO Chris Martin is a reliable Democratic donor, according to IBD.
The “Government Series” guitars start at about $1,000 retail and include a certificate of authenticity signed by Juszkiewicz, who maintained from the beginning that the company had done nothing wrong.
“We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted …,” he said in a news release announcing the settlement of the criminal case and reported by the Heritage Foundation. “… [T]he Government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the U.S. Government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the taxpayer millions of dollars and putting a job-creating U.S. manufacturer at risk and at a competitive disadvantage. This shows the increasing trend on the part of the Government to criminalize rules and regulations and treat U.S. businesses in the same way drug dealers are treated. This is wrong and it is unfair.”
All of the Government Series guitars contain wood that was confiscated in the raid, so supplies are limited.
Here’s a bet they sell out – fast.