Recently, the Obama administration raided three U.S. factories of the Gibson Guitar Company (well-known for their Les Paul and Epiphone lines) on grounds it was using illegal wood in the manufacture of it's guitars. In an extensively planned and coordinated effort, armed federal agents from the Department of Justice raided the manufacturing facilities forcing workers out and taking with them paperwork, computers and wood samples, including guitars. Gibson is no stranger to the Obama Administration's heavy hand on legitimate U.S. businesses and has seen similar raids in the past. Gibson is currently in legal wranglings in an effort to get property back from a similar heist that occurred in 2009.
The Obama DOJ is claiming violations of the Lacey Act an obscure conservation act signed into law by President William McKinley on May 25, 1900 intended to protect endangered domestic plant and wildlife and recently amended (under President George Bush's watch) by the 2008 Farm Bill to include a broader range of plants and animals and even the 'unauthorized importation and transformation' (read: local manufacture, importation of finished product is 'ok') of commodity wood used in the manufacture of everything from furniture to musical instruments. Misapplication of this law is not only affecting Gibson's current operations, but also the domestic furniture industry and anyone who owns any Gibson guitar (or other item) made with the offending wood. Even classic models made decades ago. Confiscations can take place at border crossings, airports and even guitar shows where owners can be asked to account for the origin and legality of every wooden part. Obviously this is something that most will not be able to comply with as there is no way to be 'certified compliant' to the Lacey Act and enforcement in this case is far beyond the reach of the original intent of the law.
We suspect this has less to do with the false and decidedly foolish allegations of the use of illegal wood, and more about the Obama Administration's connections with a certain Gibson competitor who is facing tougher times. Could it be that Jeffery Immelt, President Obama's 'Jobs Czar' has had a small bit to play in this situation? Immelt's company, GE Capital has been the major source of funding for Gibson competitor Taylor Guitars who has seen a sharp downturn in profits due to the economy and stiff competition from low-waged foreign sources such as Korea, Taiwan and China. In addition to encouraging Taylor Guitars to outsource it's manufacturing, something that thankfully has not yet happened, GE Capital is now tied to thug tactics and attacks on local competitors.
Illegal wood or not, this is not the way to get Americans back to work. Surly an Administration in dire need of a good jobs report can find a less disruptive way of dealing with illegal wood allegations, one in which keeps Americans working while responsibly following up on legal matters. According to Gibson CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, the DOJ said this could all go away if they made their guitars in Madagascar. For a company like Gibson who has a rich American history, this is not an option. (Besides, Gibson already makes many of it's lower-end non-Gibson branded products overseas.) If this is how Obama plans to 'fundamentally change America' we're going to be playing the blues on some crap Kaman Montana guitars (now owned by Fender) for some time to come...
It should be noted that Gibson uses the same wood from the same suppliers as it's competitors. Some point to the obvious and seemingly only difference that the Gibson CEO is a Republican, while his competitors are Dems. Gibson can also avoid this situation by sourcing it's wood from the U.S., but forestry laws are getting tougher and this would raise the cost of the final products significantly. In most cases 'African' and 'Indian' rosewood and ebony raw materials are just not available from domestic suppliers.
Armed agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Homeland Security raided Gibson's corporate headquarters and two factories On August 24th and 25th in connection with an on-going investigation that began in Texas. The Gibson Guitar Company has not been charged with any crimes, including in relation to DOI/DHS activities in 2009.