IVN Exclusive Interview: Gyrocopter Pilot Says Risking Jail Time Worth It

His name may not ring a bell, but he would prefer that you remember him for what he did instead.

Doug Hughes came into the national spotlight recently for landing a gyrocopter on the Capitol Lawn, a stunt typically reserved for action movie characters like James Bond and Mad Max — not 61-year-old mailmen.

Hughes, carrying 535 individually-marked letters to each of the sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, intended to raise awareness about the influence of big money in politics. In an interview for IVN, Hughes said, “I wanted to draw attention not to the problem of corruption, but the solutions to corruption.”

Following the Supreme Court decision in the 2010 Citizens United case, record-breaking amounts of political spending by corporations, labor unions, and other special interests have bred skepticism and disengagement among American voters who believe that such sums of money cause elected officials to value wealthy constituents above the rest.

Hughes faces federal felony charges for flying through restricted national airspace and for operating an unregistered aircraft. He remains under house arrest in Ruskin, Florida until a May 8 court hearing in Washington.

Asked whether campaign finance was worth the possible jail time, Hughes responded enthusiastically, “Heck yes!” He added:

“If you go back in history, and look at the Declaration of Independence, fifty-four delegates put their names on it and pledged their lives, fortunes, and their honor. They were throwing down on the most powerful nation in the world (Great Britain), with no expectation to win, but was it worth it to them?… They said ‘yes’… We’re dealing with a fight no less serious than that of the Founding Fathers, but this time it is not against a monarchy, but a plutocracy.”

When asked if he supported a particular method of campaign finance reform, Hughes said he “wants to be a spokesperson for the movement overall,” and that while he does not endorse one specific proposal over another, he does support the idea of calling an Article V Convention of States, during which a constitutional amendment focused on regulating campaign finance could be introduced.

I wanted to draw attention not to the problem of corruption, but the solutions to corruption.
Doug Hughes, the man who landed a gyrocopter on the Capitol Lawn.
Legislatures in several states, including California, Illinois, and Vermont, have already made the call for such a convention.

Hughes also supports the American Anti-Corruption Act, originally written in 2011 by former Federal Election Commission chairman Trevor Potter, as well as many strategists, reform leaders, and constitutional lawyers across the political spectrum. The bill is designed to limit or ban practices determined to be major contributors to political corruption.

Hughes believes the AACA has the “best chance of passing,” though he does not wish to discourage others from writing “something better.”

When asked about his chosen method of transportation, Hughes said he opted to use the gyrocopter because it is a “non-threatening machine” and he “wanted a vehicle that makes people not afraid, but amazed.” (You can catch some footage of him landing on the Capitol Lawn set to the theme of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines here — the footage begins near the 30:30 mark)

Before signing off, Hughes shared his mantra, that “everybody agrees that there is a problem,” and that “they need to do [their] due diligence as a voter, and get engaged… they’re going to need to be informed even if the mainstream media doesn’t [do it for them].”

You can read the full text of the letter Hughes sent to members of Congress here.