- Written by Christian Wissmuller
- Published: 31 January 2014
As presumably most everyone in the industry knows, back in August of 2011, agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confiscated wood from Gibson's Tennessee facilities - the second such raid in two years.
Gibson has now released a new series of guitars commemorating the company's struggles with the government. From the official press release:
Fight the Powers that Be with this Powerful Les Paul!
Great Gibson electric guitars have long been a means of fighting the establishment, so when the powers that be confiscated stocks of tonewoods from the Gibson factory in Nashville—only to return them once there was a resolution and the investigation ended—it was an event worth celebrating. Introducing the Government Series II [Les Paul, a striking new guitar from Gibson USA for 2014 that suitably marks this infamous time in Gibson’s history.
A distinctive vintage-gloss Government Tan finish, complemented by black-chrome hardware and black plastics and trim, is topped by a pickguard that’s hot-stamped in gold with the Government Series graphic—a bald eagle hoisting a Gibson guitar neck. Each Government Series II Les Paul also includes a genuine piece of Gibson USA history in its solid rosewood fingerboard, which is made from wood returned to Gibson by the US government after the resolution.
Significantly, the release notes that the new guitars are made "from wood returned to Gibson by the US government after the resolution [to the charges]," but doesn't acknowledge that under the settlement reached between the government and the guitar-maker in early August of 2012, Gibson agreed to pay a $300,000 fine for the ebony from Madagascar that was taken in the first raid. Gibson additionally agreed to make a $50,000 donation to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to promote conservation work and forfeited the seized illegal wood, which was valued at $261,844. Then-Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno, further said that, "Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit overharvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation." Reference of such acknowledgement is also absent in the PR for the new Les Pauls.
At the time of the settlement, CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said that Gibson, "felt compelled to settle as the costs of proving our case at trial would have cost millions of dollars and taken a very long time to resolve."
In the aftermath of the government raids, both Juszkiewicz and Gibson became rallying points for many Republicans and the Tea Party. The comments on the Government Series' product page (http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/Les-Paul/Gibson-USA/Government-Series-II-Les-Paul.aspx) indicate that such sentiments are alive and well for some: "The series should be renamed 'Too Much Government Series' or 'Abusive Government Series'"; "Bravo! Way to stick it to the man"; "Since the Obama Administration targeted them with malice, many of us will by the guitar... we stand with Gibson against the thugocracy that targeted them."
There was a Government Series I released in 2013. Based on the new instrument, it appears the issue's still got legs.