Gibson Guitar uses Twitter to tap into Tea Party anger over federal overreach

Gibson Guitar, the maker of the iconic Les Paul electric guitar, is appealing to anti-government Tea Party anger as it fights a government investigation into the wood it uses.

The company has used Twitter and Facebook to argue the government overreached when federal agents raided Gibson factories in Tennessee last week and seized several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars.

According to a government affidavit, Fish and Wildlife Service agents were investigating whether wood used in Gibson guitars was illegally imported from India.


Although the guitar company says it cooperated with agents, it has turned to new media to complain of bullying by the federal government. 

Gibson's official Twitter account uses the hashtag "ThisWillNotStand" for posts about the raids, and on its Facebook page, the company promised, "We are fighting this tooth and nail."

“We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally and the employees here in Tennessee, and it’s just plain wrong,” said Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz at a press conference last week. 

The company accused the Justice Department of "bullying" and "harassment." Juszkiewicz said the raids temporarily shut down the factories, costing the company money.

In a statement, the company insisted it was innocent and vowed to "fight to protect its rights."

Conservative websites quickly picked up the story, suggesting the company's social-media campaign was effective.

"Whatever the specious merits of the government’s investigation, the broader lesson is that federal regulatory authority is so expansive and vague, it enables corrupt bureaucrats to intimidate and punish nearly any honest business that falls under Washington’s crosshairs," wrote a blogger on the conservative website RedState on Monday.

Other conservative websites have suggested a nefarious political motivation behind the raid, pointing to the fact that the Gibson CEO donated to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in 2007. According to campaign finance data on Open Secrets, he also donated to Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) in March.

On Monday, Juszkiewicz appeared on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt's show to discuss the investigation. Hewitt asked Juszkiewicz whether he believed the raids were political, who replied that it is "clear to me that there is some terrific motivation because we are not the only company that uses this type of wood."

Juszkiewicz also appeared on the show of conservative radio host Dana Loesch last week. On Monday night, he called into National Rifle Association Radio to talk about the raids.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, said the raids were part of an ongoing investigation.

The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment.