Federal agents dressed in paramilitary gear swooped into Gibson Guitar’s Tennessee headquarters on August 24, 2011. The agents from the US Fish and Wildlife Service claimed that Gibson was using illegally imported foreign wood in their guitars. When the dust settled, Gibson was out countless lost work hours while its manufacturing was shut down, and it agreed to pay a total of $350,000 in fees, even though it had not knowingly done anything wrong. In fact, it had done nothing that its competitor, C. F. Martin guitars, had not done, but the feds never dispatched any armed troops against Martin.
The Gibson raid never made much sense. There was no risk of fight or flight. Businesses are inspected and fined routinely every day by any of a number of federal agencies. Gibson’s case, supposing there even was a legitimate one, could have been sorted out with phone calls, not a swoop resembling a raid on a terrorist hideout. The tactics alone never made much sense.
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.
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.
Taken in isolation, the Gibson raid could be a one-off, but it didn’t happen in isolation. Gibson was one target, Catherine Engelbrecht in Texas was another. Both suffered significant harassment at the hands of executive branch agencies. Despite assurances that the IRS abuse of activists like Engelbrecht is in the past, her True the Vote application still has not been resolved after three years.
Is it possible that the executive branch really was unleashed on Americans and their businesses just because they oppose Barack Obama? Or was it that, plus as the EPA’s former enforcer Al Armendariaz bragged in 2010, the raid was intended to publicly crucify some people to instill fear in everyone else?