The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups puts the federal government’s raids on Gibson Guitar Corp. in a new light, according to a recent Investor’s Business Daily editorial.
The government has accused Gibson of obtaining wood that was illegal in India and Madagascar. The government argues that this is a violation of the Lacey Act of 1900, which outlaws the use of plants and wildlife that have been taken or traded in violation of foreign law.
Gibson stressed in 2011 that its Indian wood, which was seized by the government in a raid, was obtained via a Forest Stewardship Council-certified supplier, and that the Madagascar wood in question was obtained without violating Madagascar law.
Shortly after the raid, Gibson Guitars CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said that his company used the same wood as its rivals, and that he was unsure why raids on the company’s facilities in Memphis and Nashville took place.
“We don’t what is motivating it,” Juszkiewicz said on the Hugh Hewitt Show. “It is…clear to me that there is some terrific motivation because we are not the only company that uses this type of wood. 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.”
In August 2012, Gibson settled with the Department of Justice by agreeing to pay a penalty of $300,000 and a $50,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
“The Lacey Act’s illegal logging provisions were enacted with bipartisan support in Congress to protect vanishing foreign species and forest ecosystems, while ensuring a level playing field for America’s forest products industry and the people and communities who depend on it,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement upon Gibson’s agreement.
According to IBD, one of Gibson’s top competitors, C.F. Martin & Co., frequently uses the same “East Indian Rosewood” without any legal repercussions. The editorial also notes that C.F. Martin & Co. CEO gives to Democratic candidates, while Gibson’s CEO is a Republican donor.
“Grossly underreported at the time was the fact that Gibson’s chief executive, Henry Juszkiewicz, contributed to Republican politicians. Recent donations have included $2,000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and $1,500 to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn,” the editorial reads.
“By contrast, Chris Martin IV, the Martin & Co. CEO, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee over the past couple of election cycles,” it adds.
According to IBD, claims by Juszkiewicz that his company was targeted are “eerily similar” to the claims conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status have made about the IRS.
“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,” IBD concludes.