U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) kicked off an annual defense-bar conference in Washington today by criticizing what he called "a federal regulatory onslaught" by the Obama administration.
Boehner delivered opening remarks at the annual summit of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the arm of the business lobby that advocates on legal and regulatory issues. The summit is taking place today at the Chamber’s headquarters, which occupies a corner near the White House.
He singled out two recent enforcement actions that the Obama administration has taken: raids of the Nashville, Tenn.-based Gibson Guitar Corp. in connection with what Justice Department lawyers say were illegal purchases of foreign wood, and a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board regarding the Boeing Co.’s motivation for building a new plant in South Carolina, where labor unions are relatively weak.
Of Gibson’s CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, who is also scheduled to speak at the summit, Boehner said “the federal government raided his business because he’s buying imported wood.” The dispute, he said, “is costing this country millions of dollars, because of this raid by the federal government. It seems like an overly heavy handed way of doing business.”
It is unusual for a senior lawmaker to be so critical of an ongoing Justice Department case, though Boehner did not name DOJ and Juszkiewicz has been outspoken in defending his company. A civil forfeiture complaint and accompanying affidavit that the Justice Department filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee alleges that wood from India was purposely mislabeled to avoid detection during import.
Republican lawmakers have been quicker to criticize the NLRB’s complaint against Boeing. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is investigating the agency for an action that he says overstepped its authority and undermines the ability of businesses to make basic decisions. The NLRB complaint alleges Boeing opened its new plant in South Carolina in retaliation for union activity at existing plants in Washington state.
“Boeing completed a plant that will create thousands of new jobs,” Boehner said. “And yet a federal agency is suing to stop that plant from actually operating. Listen, I’ve been around the government for quite a while, but I have never seen actions like this in my entire career. This is a federal regulatory onslaught like no one has ever seen.”
Click here for the agenda of the Chamber conference, which is sponsored by law firms including Mayer Brown and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Click here (PDF) for a report put out today by the Chamber's rival, the American Association for Justice, a trade group for plaintiffs' lawyers.