The Guitars Gently Weep
In 1968, Eric Clapton played a Gibson Les Paul guitar on the White Album’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by the Beatles. Other guitar greats like B.B. King, Slash, Alex Lifeson, Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend and Keith Richards have all used Gibson Guitars. You would think the Department of Justice has higher priorities than investigating a guitar company, but you’d be wrong.
By now, nearly everyone knows that the Department of Justice raided Gibson Guitars regarding the use of certain wood that may have violated the Lacey Import Act. At issue is Gibson’s import of unfinished, as opposed to finished, rosewood and ebony. FBI raids effectively shut down the business and idled workers. Gibson has since reopened, but the federal action raises issues of over-criminalization of business behavior.
Not surprisingly, the legislation to criminalize the use of ebony and rosewood in the Gibson guitars came from the usual suspects on the Left. But it also had support among American forestry business interests seeking to erect barriers to competition from overseas wood.
The craziest part of the Lacey Act is that it allows Gibson to import finished guitar pieces made from the same wood. But if Americans working in Tennessee cut, sand and varnish unfinished wood, then call in the FBI raiding parties. The law was amended in 2008 to reach this state with the support of the Bush administration.
This is the sort of illogical madness, fueled by special interest meddling in the economy that has most Americans rightfully disgusted with Washington.
Since the Gibson raids, a bipartisan group of Tennessee congressional leaders have sought to amend the Lacey Import Act and make the law more sensible. Reactionary opposition to the amendments reveals who is ultimately behind the policies which led to federal raids on Gibson Guitar: the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation and Greenpeace.
The lawmakers seeking to amend the Lacey Act “are basically gutting the law as it is currently enacted,” said Lisa Handy, senior policy adviser for the Environmental Investigation Agency, told the Tennessean.
The “Environmental Investigation Agency?” The convicted felon George Soros helps to fund the Environmental Investigation Agency, a private organization. This group has agitated for action against Gibson Guitar, and of course the Eric Holder run Justice Department delivered.
It would be interesting to see all the third party communications to the U.S. Attorney’s office as well as the Environmental and Natural Resources Division (Environmental Crimes Section) regarding Gibson Guitar. It is hard to believe that these raids didn’t have their genesis in Soros-funded agitation from EIA or one of the other green groups. These are public records and available to people who ask, assuming the Most Transparent Administration in History complies with the law, and assuming someone files a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOJ.
This creeping over-criminalization of business activity is an assault on American liberty. Thousands of actions now constitute possible crimes worthy of criminal investigation, pushing the limits of absurdity. They include shipping lobster tails in plastic bags, failing to prune your bushes and creating odd art. These laws remove an important traditional element of a crime – a criminal state of mind. By eliminating the requirement that crimes should have criminal intent, regular everyday activity can land Americans in jail.
If Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser is caught in a deadly snowstorm and inadvertently snowmobiles into federal wilderness land – it’s a crime. If Gibson ordered finished rosewood or ebony guitar parts made by Indian workers, no problem. If the wood came unfinished, however, it’s a crime.
Our country has become a paradise for lawyers, especially well connected ones, and a minefield for the ingenious.
Of course Gibson Guitar is run by an outspoken conservative -- Henry Juszkiewicz. Whether or not that has something to do with DOJ’s zeal nobody knows. One thing is for sure, Gibson is going to have to pay a lot of money to lawyers familiar with the Lacey Act. Juszkiewicz has teamed up with Right On Crime to roll back excessive criminalization of the economy, something sure to further endear him to the agitators behind the case against Gibson. With unemployment parked at nine percent, ideologically driven overreach that hurts American business is the last thing voters want to see.