GOP Inviting as Guest to Obama Speech the CEO of Company Raided by Feds

Sep 7, 2011 3:52pm

In addition to those Republican lawmakers who have announced – motivated, it seems, by disrespect — that they will decline to attend President Obama’s Thursday night jobs address to a joint session of Congress, Republicans are also taking the additional step of inviting a man whose company the Obama administration is investigating for possibly breaking the law.

Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp., will either sit in the House Gallery as the guest of his member of Congress, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. (members of Congress each get to invite one guest to sit in that balcony), or he will be invited to sit in the speaker of the House’s box for the speech, Republican officials tell ABC News.

As of Wednesday afternoon, officials in House Speaker John Boehner’s office were trying to decide where he should sit.

Last month, the Nashville company was raided by federal officials for importing ebony from India that the Justice Department says was “fraudulently” labeled to evade Indian export laws. The Justice Department says the mislabeling constituted a  violation of a 2008 law requiring companies to detail information about wood they import, and to abide by the relevant laws of foreign nations.

No charges have been filed in this recent case, but the federal government first raided Gibson in November 2009 because of an earlier shipment of ebony from Madagascar that was also alleged to have been exported illegally from that country.

Legal representatives for Gibson Guitars argue that if the wood products had been “finished” in India or Madagascar, the company’s actions would have been be perfectly legal.

Thus, they argue, the federal government is actually taking actions that would encourage outsourcing.

“I think they’re taking the position that we should be shifting these jobs overseas,” Bruce Mitchell, the chief legal counsel for Gibson, told Fox News.  ”We have – probably 40 people in our factory here just at USA who are doing the inlays into the fingerboard … that are putting the fret on. If all that was to be done over in India, then … those jobs would be lost.”

Andrea Johnson, director of forest programs for the Environmental Investigation Agency in Washington, told National Public Radio  that Gibson “made a decision in the end that they were going to source despite knowing that there was a ban on exports of ebony and rosewood. … The intent here is to reduce illegal logging and send a signal to the markets that you’ve got to be asking questions and sourcing wood in a responsible way.”

-Jake Tapper

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