Finance Reform: It's for the (Whirly)birds

Man lands gyroplane on grounds of U.S. Capitol to protest big money in politics

Campaign finance reform was in the spotlight in Washington Wednesday, at least tangentially, when a man landed his gyroplane on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, ostensibly to deliver letters to each member of Congress decrying big money in politics and advocating for finance reform.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, which was tipped off about the stunt and actually reported the flight soon after takeoff, Florida mailman Doug Hughes told a friend that he had called the Secret Service beforehand to notify an agent of the flight.

Times staff writer Ben Montgomery said Hughes had planned the stunt so as not to be shot down, but to instead make a point.

He announced his flight plan beforehand, said Montgomery, who added that Hughes' goal was to criticize the fact that unlimited amounts of corporate and union money can be spent in campaigns.

Hughes also produced a video showing his preparations and his copter (which had a U.S. Postal Service log on its tail) — telegraphing his plans — and explaining what he planned to do. He said he was not suicidal and was not a terrorist. He said he wanted people to build a wall between government and "big money." He said other problems would not be fixed until campaign finance reform was fixed.

"Not the best approach," said a spokesman for one finance reform group which has employed more traditional methods of reform, "but I’m sure his undetected method of transport was noted by people with bad intentions and/or heads full of conspiracy theories."

While Hughes may have wanted to make a point about finance reform, news coverage focused on the potential threat if it had been someone with a bomb, rather than a 61-year-old man on a flying bycycle with a lawnmower engine. One commentator on CNN quipped that it might be time for Homeland Security to hire "a bunch of Boy Scouts with BB guns" to defend the Capitol. “Clearly, we are not well protected,” he added.