In light of recent targeting, congresswoman calls on Obama to explain motives behind Gibson raid

Caroline May | Reporter

In the wake of recent political targeting scandals, Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn is calling on the Obama administration to fully explain the 2011 raids on the Gibson Guitar Corp.

“The recent scandals surrounding this administration raise a number of questions about who they choose to target and why,” Blackburn said. “The arrogance and lack of transparency displayed by this President and his cabinet officials in events such as the raids on Gibson Guitar and the IRS targeting of conservative groups show a complete disregard for the rule of law.”

In 2011, federal agents raided Gibson’s facilities in Nashville and Memphis in response to the company’s alleged use of wood that is illegal to obtain in India. The company was charged under the Lacey Act, which made the transportation and sale of plants and wildlife that were illegally obtained overseas a crime. Gibson’s facilities were also raided in 2009 under suspicion of illegal wood from Madagascar.

Last week Investor’s Business Daily highlighted the fact that Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz has contributed to Republican politicians, including Blackburn. It further noted that the CEO of C.F. Martin & Co — one of Gibson’s competitors, which has used the same type of Indian wood with impunity — is a long-time Democratic donor.

“It is clear that this administration made a choice to use excessive regulatory methods to intimidate conservative groups and individuals who disagree with their political ideology,” Blackburn said. “Not only is this wrong, but it is illegal. No one should have to live in fear of their government.”

“President Obama owes the American people a full explanation as to why these decisions were made, and anyone responsible for plotting these politically motivated attacks should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” she added.

This is not the first time Blackburn has questioned the Obama administration about its treatment of Gibson. After the 2011 raid, Blackburn, the vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined other members of the committee in asking the justice and interior departments to provide more information about the decision to raid Gibson.

The departments’ response, which was delivered two weeks later, “frustrated” Blackburn at the time, as she said it provided no real answers.

Last August, Gibson settled with the Justice Department, agreeing to pay a $300,000 penalty and a community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

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