American Elephants


DOJ Bullies Have Beaten Gibson Guitars Into Submission by The Elephant's Child

When the cats away, the mice will play. Congress is out of town, minds firmly fixed on politics, campaigning and general vote-getting. Good time for the executive branch to slip through things that might otherwise annoy Congress.

So the Department of Justice, ( increasingly a reason to fire the Obama administration), announced yesterday that the Gibson Guitar Corporation had accepted a deferred prosecution agreement regarding the Department of Justice’s  allegation that Gibson imported wood for its guitar frets in violation of the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it a crime to import flora or fauna in violation of a foreign nation’s laws. As a result, the Department of Justice will not charge Gibson with a crime (except for maybe a tax offense, left open) for “illegally importing ebony from Madagascar and ebony and rosewood from India” through a German intermediary “from June 2008 through September 2009.” Gibson, in return must pay a $300.000 fine, make “a community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation” bulk up its internal procedures, and generally grovel whenever the government asks it to do anything related to this matter.

Heritage points out several features of the agreement worth mentioning:

First: The government acknowledges in the agreement that “certain questions and inconsistencies now exist regarding the tariff classification of ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks pursuant to the Indian government’s Foreign Trade Policy.” In other words, the government acknowledges that the relevant law—not just our law, but a foreign nation’s law—is unclear. Ordinarily, that conclusion should lead the government to drop any charge that Gibson violated the law, especially the law of a foreign nation.

Second: The government’s case is no better regarding Madagascar. The agreement cites (1) “Madagascar Interministerial Order 16.030/2006,” and (2) some other equally well-known “laws”—all of which may have been written in a foreign language. The agreement alleges that Gibson received a translation (from whom is not stated) of the first whatever-it-is saying that “‘fingerboards’ are considered ‘finished’ under Madagascar law” and therefore may be exported. But, according to the government, “trip organizers”—who, for all we know, could have been Gibson’s trip companions “Greenpeace and other non-profit environmental groups”; the agreement does not say—informed Gibson that “under the organizers’ interpretation of [Madagascar’s] 2006 Interministerial Order, the harvest of ebony was illegal and that instrument part ‘blanks’ would be considered ‘unfinished’ and, therefore, considered illegal to export.” Put aside the obvious problems with government’s reliance on the opinion by the trip’s “organizers” of a foreign order written in a foreign tongue—Gibson was given conflicting views of the law. That should have ended the matter entirely. Remember: Gibson imported wood, not heroin.

Third: The press release is full of all of the chest-puffing that we are accustomed to see the federal government display: The government has enforced the law, prosecuted the wicked, protected the environment, cured the common cold, etc. But the government has made a federal case out of “fretboards” or “fingerboards.” …

Fourth: Gibson must pay the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation $50,000 for its (or its designee’s) use for the environment. Really? Fines paid to the government go into the U.S. Treasury and belong to the public; the NFWF is a private organization. In essence, the taxpayers are subsidizing the NFWF.

Why does it matter that Congress is out of town?  Why, because there are currently two bills before Congress that would have the result of repealing criminal provisions of the Lacey Act.

On the part of Gibson, they probably made a dollars-and-cents decision. An imperial administration can pretty much beat any poor sucker who gets in their crosshairs into submission. Continue reading




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,423 other followers

%d bloggers like this: