What Does the IRS Scandal Say About a 2011 Guitar Raid?

Ben Terris

If you're a member of Congress from outside Nashville, Tenn., everything comes back to guitars.

Take the ongoing IRS scandal. If it seems impossible to make a story about tax collectors targeting conservative groups about six-strings, then you haven't met Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

"The recent scandals surrounding this administration raise a number of questions about who they choose to target and why," Blackburn said in a statement. "The arrogance and lack of transparency displayed by this president and his Cabinet officials in events such as the raids on Gibson Guitar and the IRS targeting of conservative groups show a complete disregard for the rule of law."

In 2011, the Justice Department accused the Gibson Guitar Corp. of illegally importing exotic wood from India and Madagascar, violating a hundred-year-old law known as the Lacey Act. In 2012 the guitar company agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty to avoid criminal charges.

That Gibson was guilty of committing the crime doesn't matter all that much to Blackburn. What matters was that the company—in her opinion—must have been targeted for political beliefs.

What makes her think Gibson was targeted? An editorial from Investors.com has the answer:

Gibson's chief executive, Henry Juszkiewicz, contributed to Republican politicians. Recent donations have included $2,000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and $1,500 to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.... By contrast, Chris Martin IV, the Martin & Co. CEO, is a longtime Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee over the past couple of election cycles.

"It is clear that this administration made a choice to use excessive regulatory methods to intimidate conservative groups and individuals who disagree with their political ideology," Blackburn said. "Not only is this wrong, but it is illegal. No one should have to live in fear of their government. President Obama owes the American people a full explanation as to why these decisions were made, and anyone responsible for plotting these politically motivated attacks should be punished to the fullest extent of the law."