Why The Man Who Flew A Gyrocopter Into DC Is Actually A Patriot
Doug Hughes, the 61-year-old mailman-turned-pilot, who flew his gyrocopter onto the US Capitol lawn earlier this week, was convinced he could have an impact on American politics.
He may have been right, albeit at a hefty price. He was taken to a cellblock by police, and charges are pending.
It's not surprising some would see Hughes more as a threat than a patriot.
After all, he flew into the most severely restricted civilian airspace in the country, failing to communicate with air-traffic control or receive clearance to fly into the District.
The most "warning" Hughes gave was a statement to The Tampa Bay Times, saying he was concerned about the government being controlled by the rich. He also sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org warning of his impending flight into the District.
The government took his statement to The Tampa Bay Times seriously enough to have him interviewed by a Secret Service agent last spring. But that was all the concern raised around Doug Hughes. And it may not be so bad that he succeeded in his mission.
Not only did he reveal oversight among the FAA, air traffic control, the US Coast Guard and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, he also got people talking about the issue he wanted addressed: campaign finance reform.
Hillary Clinton actually spoke on the subject earlier in the week, underscoring the need to "fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all."
Her words don't sound too different from Hughes' own, when he remarked in a Tampa Bay Times video he wanted to hand-deliver letters to every member of Congress to,
Galvanize millions of people to... change the government to build a wall of separation between government and big money, so that government will represent the people.
In the video, he admits there are bigger issues than campaign finance reform, but argues those can't be addressed until campaign finance reform takes place.
So, is Hughes just "crazy"?
Do we write him off as someone with a vision, who got himself completely in over his head? Not necessarily. It takes bold actions for the average person to get his voice heard, and Hughes, indeed, did something bold to spread his message.
More importantly, campaign finance reform is a serious issue impacting American politics as a whole. How can we expect our politicians to act in our best interest on a national and international level when it's in their best interest to act on behalf of major corporations?
As it stands, the relationship between American politicians and wealthy corporate funders undermines the trust the average American has in leadership. In 2014, public trust in the government was at an historic low.
Meanwhile, America's "most politically active corporations spent an average of $5.8 billion on federal lobbying and campaign contributions" and saw "$4.4 trillion in federal business and support" in return, according to The Sunlight Foundation.
With big business so involved in American politics, it's no surprise levels of trust and support are low.
A recent Huffington Post article reports when Represent Boston volunteers urged city council members to implement anti-corruption laws, the councilors were aghast. This reaction came despite council members' tendency to side with real estate developers who were major political donors.
The question is, will the politicians hold themselves accountable?
Even Hillary Clinton, who has spoken vocally about the importance of campaign finance reform, has toed the line in her dealings with major corporations. When she was a New York state senator, she worked closely with Wall Street and formed many allies in the corporate world.
Donors to the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation all gathered at Goldman Sachs headquarters in June 2014, and included among their ranks was Haim Saban, a hedge fund billionaire and CEO of Saban Capital Group, Inc., which forged a business partnership with Rupert Murdoch in 1995.
This isn't to say Hillary won't prove to be an advocate for campaign finance reform, but her past involvements make you wonder.
Which is why people need to take these kinds of matters into their own hands. At the end of the day, campaign finance reform is about ending corruption among politicians. The only people who can truly hold politicians accountable are the individuals who vote for them.
Efforts are being made to enact anti-corruption laws, beginning with the states and moving to the national level.
In the meantime, we have people like Doug Hughes, willing to go to the greatest lengths to make a statement.
It's something most of us aren't willing to do.
It may be a little crazy, and it may create quite the legal mess for Mr. Hughes himself, but he got people talking, and his stunt has demonstrated one important point: The only real way we'll see campaign finance reform take place is if the average American takes a stand.
Citations: Man Flies Gyrocopter Onto Capitol Lawn To Protest Money In Politics Video (Elite Daily), FAA investigating Florida mailmans landing of gyrocopter on US Capitol lawn (The Tampa Bay Times), Hillary Clinton says she would support a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform (The Washington Post), Public Trust in Government 1958 2014 (Pew Research Center), Fixed Fortunes (The Sunlight Foundation), Taxation Without Representation (The Huffington Post), Hillary Clintons Wall Street dilemma (CNN), Clintons to Meet With Foundations Big Donors Next Month (The New York Times), Haim Saban (Saban Capital Group, Inc.), Congress Wont Fix Corruption We Will (Represent.us)