The Wall Street Journal has a real eye-opener giving the dirt behind federal raids of Gibson Guitar:
On a sweltering day in August, federal agents raided the Tennessee factories of the storied Gibson Guitar Corp. The suggestion was that Gibson had violated the Lacey Act—a federal law designed to protect wildlife—by importing certain India ebony. The company has vehemently denied that suggestion and has yet to be charged. It is instead living in a state of harassed legal limbo.
Which, let’s be clear, is exactly what its persecutors had planned all along. The untold story of Gibson is this: It was set up.
Most of the press coverage has implied that the company is the unfortunate victim of a well-meaning, if complicated, law. Stories note, in passing, that the Lacey Act was “expanded” in 2008, and that this has had “unintended consequences.” Given Washington’s reputation for ill-considered bills, this might make sense.
Only not in this case. The story here is about how a toxic alliance of ideological activists and trade protectionists deliberately set about creating a vague law, one designed to make an example out of companies (like Gibson) and thus chill imports—even legal ones.
The article goes on to explain how a British environmentalist group, the Environmental Investigation Agency, conspired with American labor unions and American paper manufacturers to get the Lacey Act expanded so that even companies acting in good faith could be shut down by a theoretical violation of the law. The goal is to stop all imports of wood from third world countries, and not just imports of rare or endangered woods from tropical rainforests. The strategy all along has been to rewrite the law so that a large and famous company would get entangled and be forced to close, frightening other companies into stopping the importation of legal wood from overseas. It just so happens that Gibson was the intended victim of this strategy from day one. However, even while being trapped by the Lacey Act, it still appears that Gibson has not violated any law, US or foreign:
And so Gibson has been trapped, as intended. The company, after all, is not accused of importing banned wood (say, Brazilian mahogany). The ebony it bought is legal and documented. The issue is whether Gibson ran afoul of a technical Indian law governing the export of finished wood products. The U.S. government’s interpretation of Indian law suggests the wood Gibson imported wasn’t finished enough. Got that?
Since the Indian government in fact provided certificates to Gibson clearing the wood, the persecution of Gibson for breaking the law should be a non-starter, but not in Obamaworld. This law should be repealed and the harassment of Gibson Guitar should cease.