Friday, September 2, 2011

Gibson Guitar and the Bias of Traditional Media

Gibson Guitar has been in the news quite a bit lately. The short version is that they’re being investigated for allegedly importing wood for their guitars in violation of the Lacey Act.

The politicized version is that the Dirty Democrats are going after Gibson Guitar because Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO, is a big Republican donor. Or, to put it in his own words (though with my emphasis):

“[I]t seems to me there’s almost a class warfare of companies versus people, rich versus poor, Republicans versus Democrats … and there’s just a lack of somebody that stands up and says, ‘I’m about everyone. I’m really about America and doing what’s good for the country and not fighting these little battles.’

“We feel totally abused. We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally and the employees here in Tennessee, and it’s just plain wrong.

“I can’t imagine why we have stagnant GDP growth and chronic high unemployment!  The Obama Administration is actively at war with every business they don’t choose to subsidize.”

Mr. Juszkiewicz also claims that the government won't tell him how his company has violated the law, in spite of the fact that the Affidavit In Support of a Search Warrant (pdf) with all the details, which was filed with the Court in June, is freely available online.

He also implores that, “perhaps our good friends in the media can use their investigative skills to help us to get [to] the bottom of exactly why the government has singled out Gibson for harassment.”

Well, since the traditional media outlets don’t seem to be helping poor Mr. Juszkiewicz, please allow me. From the above-linked Affidavit (sworn to, by the way, by Special Agent for U.S. Fish & Wildlife, John M. Rayfield, a Republican donor):

  • A shipment of 1,250 pieces of sawn logs, 10mm in thickness, originating in India, was confiscated by the Service Wildlife Inspector at its point of entry in Dallas, TX.
  • The paperwork listed the “ultimate consignee” as Theodor Nagel, GMBH and was to be referred to Luthier Mercantile in Nashville, TN after clearing U.S. Customs. Luthier Mercantile was also listed on the Customs entry declaration as the “importer of record.”
  • Upon questioning, Luthier Mercantile General Manager, Natalie Swango, admitted that the actual “ultimate consignee” was Gibson Guitar.
  • The Customs entry declaration described the contents of the shipment as being veneer sheets of 6mm thickness, using a code that identified it as a legal import—a code that did not match the actual contents of the shipment.
  • The shipment was accompanied by an export declaration provided to the Indian Customs Authorities, using an entirely different code; one that matched a description for “finished parts of musical instruments,” which this wood was not.

So let’s make sure it’s perfectly clear for Mr. Juszkiewicz. He and his company, Gibson Guitar, imported sawn wood from India. The DOJ alleges that in an effort to make it appear as if the wood was imported legally, Gibson (and/or agents Gibson hired on its behalf) falsified customs documents for both export out of India and import into the United States, indicating product that didn’t match the contents of the shipment; that those contents were actually illegally harvested wood that is barred by U.S. law from being imported; and showing a consignee that was not Gibson Guitar, even though Gibson Guitar was the true "ultimate consignee."

But to read the rightwing outrage on the internet, the “Federal gestapo illegally raid[ed] Gibson Guitar factories [and] arbitrarily confiscate[d] millions of dollars worth of wood used to make instruments.”

Henry Juszkiewicz swears he did nothing wrong; the over-zealous government is just going after him because they hate—and have declared class warfare on—business.

Now, I don't believe for a moment that Mr. Juszkiewicz is a stupid man. I'm quite certain that he knows the difference between 6mm and 10mm, and that he knows the difference between finished parts and unfinished sawn logs.

So I'm trying to imagine Mr. Juszkiewicz picking up the phone upon learning that 10mm unfinished wood was destined for his manufacturing facility, and calling the appropriate authorities to report his source in India or his clearing house in the U.S., for sending him wood that didn't match his purchase order, and that he knew to be illegal.

Nope. That never happened.

But Gibson=Republican and Martin=Democrat! Therefore any action taken by the government against Gibson must be because they support Republicans!!!11!!1!

This is a stunning dismissal of any logic whatsoever.

Yet outlet after outlet after outlet gives Mr. Juszkiewicz a platform to make veiled and not-so-veiled allegations (including the lie that individuals need to be afraid of traveling with their guitars, for fear of being arrested) with nary a one pointing out that he is being disingenuous with his feigned ignorance of why his company is being investigated.

He is using the media to further his partisan outrage (and obvious disdain for President Obama), and traditional media isn't just reporting about it, they're promoting it.

"Juszkiewicz and his company have rallied a virtual army on the web by encouraging people on Facebook and Twitter to write their representatives and demand action.

"The company even launched a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #ThisWillNotStand. 'Why is big government spending our money to harm ordinary citizens and small businesses?' Juszkiewicz tweeted last Friday."

Why are traditional media reporters ignoring one side of a story in favor of another? Why are traditional media reporters allowing an alleged criminal actor to use them to promote his political lobbying activities?

Gibson Guitar was targeted by the Department of Justice because the DOJ believes Gibson Guitar is acting outside of United States law.


Not because the Obama Administration hates business. Not because Mr. Juszkiewicz is rich. Not because President Obama didn't "subsidize" the guitar industry. And certainly not because Mr. Juszkiewicz is a Republican.

But you may never have known that had you not read this blog.


The Gibson Guitar Raid ~ By NFRA Staff at The National Federation of Republican Assemblies
Affidavit in Support of a Search Warrant ~ Posted by The New York Times
Gibson Guitar Corp. Responds to Armed Federal Raid ~ By Alex Jones at
FRANKLIN, Tennessee (TN) Political Contributions by Individuals ~ at
Federal gestapo illegally raid Gibson Guitar factories, arbitrarily confiscate millions of dollars worth of wood used to make instruments ~ By Ethan A. Huff at Natural News
Guitar-maker Gibson denies 'smuggling' after US raid ~ By AFP
Guitars and the law, Guns N' Rosewood ~ at The Economist
Gibson Guitar CEO fights back ~ By Les Christie at CNN Money


  1. Your whole argument is based on Gibson being the "final consignee". Uhhh...duhhhhh! You have no idea how importing goods works do you? No, you don't.

    I'm in the wood business, I've imported specialty woods from overseas sources and I always use a company like Luthier Mercantile to be my factor. This is because the regulations are so tight, international letters of credit are so specific and the potential of being ripped off so high, that most companies use middle men like Luthier Mercantile.

    You have no proof that Gibson falsified the import documents. They wouldn't have done any of those documents if they used a company like Luthier Mercantile. And, in fact, I find no DOJ statements that Gibson altered or misrepresented custom documents. The only concrete statement is that the investigation centers around the Lacy Act...which has nothing to do with proper documents on this side but rather if the product was harvested/manufactured in violation of the law in the producing nation.

  2. Quilly_Mammoth, I worked for a Customs Broker for several years (the former Harper Robinson, to be exact), so as a matter of fact, I know exactly how importing goods works. Who completes the paperwork is utterly irrelevant when you're smuggling in goods that, without the falsification of documentation, are illegal to bring into this country.

    How you can overlook that part is, frankly, breathtaking.

    I don't believe for a moment that Mr. Juszkiewicz is a stupid man. He knows good and well that it is illegal to import wood products that fail to meet very specific guidelines. I'm quite certain that he knows the difference between 6mm and 10mm and that he knows the difference between finished and unfinished parts.

    I'm trying to imagine Mr. Juszkiewicz having a conscientious meltdown when 10mm unfinished wood arrived at his manufacturing facility, and him calling the appropriate authorities to report his source in India or his clearing house in the U.S., for sending him wood that didn't match his purchase order and that he knew to be illegal. It's not working for me. At a minimum, were he to accept such a shipment, he would be guilty of knowingly receiving illegal goods.

    The Lacey Act is United States Law. It was amended to include endangered plant products in 2008, not 2009 after President Obama was sworn in.

    The importation of species that are endangered or regulated against endangerment in other countries is illegal under UNITED STATES LAW. And for very good reason. I suspect even you would agree that poaching and smuggling the endangered or regulated resources of another country is "bad business."

    The United States of America—arguably the greatest nation on earth—must be a leader in not tolerating stripping other nations of their resources, and of helping to protect those resources from being illegally obtained and outsourced. Why anyone would think the United States should turn a blind eye to U.S. corporations violating the laws of other nations is beyond my comprehension.

    Again, the Lacey Act is U.S. Law, and even Gibson Guitar and Mr. Juszkiewicz are bound to abide by it.

  3. The paperwork is inconsequential _only_ if you assume collusion from the beginning between Gibson and the factor.

    I recently had a customer who wanted his desk and study to be paneled in Carpathian Maple ( he also collects violins) and wanted them to be bookmatched. Which meant that due to availability it had to be ordered from Europe. I contacted a broker and placed the order.

    I filled out no custom paperwork and received the order with accompanying documents that I would have no way of knowing if the importer lied or the seller lied. That's why you pay the factor.

    I never said the Lacey Act wasn't a US law, but it soley based on US companies not violating other nation's laws...particularly those protecting that nation's natural resources.

    Furthermore, I never mentioned the date the Act was amended by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. Partisanship much? I don't care under which President the law was passed.

    And I have a degree International Business which is just enough education to know I don't know enough to do import paperwork myself. I fully expected to work for a company in NC in the early 90's supplying exotic woods for the furniture business. I ended up elsewhere but the laws have not changed that much inthe intervening years.

    Your scenario only works if you believe there was collusion from the beggining. You write as if it were a fact when it is not.


I welcome your comments and look forward to what you have to say. Thanks for reading!