Florida mailman Doug Hughes, who was arrested last month for landing a gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol lawn
, says he took his flight in the name of saving democracy.
"When I return to Washington for my arraignment in federal court this week, it will be by car, not gyrocopter," Hughes writes in an opinion piece for The Washington Post
. "My flying days are over, perhaps forever."
But that does not mean he does not accept the consequences for his actions, and said he hopes Americans will understand that he took the risk to deliver a message that campaign contributions are putting democracy at risk.
"Everyone is entitled to an opinion about my flight over the Mall last month, but I did not commit this peaceful protest thoughtlessly," said Hughes. "No one was hurt, no property was damaged and the message was delivered. It was a message Americans agree with."
Hughes said on his website at the time that he was taking full responsibility, and that he was delivering letters to all 535 members of Congress in order to draw attention to campaign finance corruption.
"As I have informed the authorities, I have no violent inclinations or intent," Hughes, 61, wrote on his website, thedemocracyclub.org
. "An ultralight aircraft poses no major physical threat — it may present a political threat to graft. I hope so. There's no need to worry — I'm just delivering the mail."
The federal government isn't taking Hughes actions as a political act, however, but prosecuting him as a criminal on charges of operating an unregistered aircraft and violating national airspace. He was released from jail and sent home to Florida to await his prosecution, which starts this week.
But in his Post opinion piece, Hughes said that his act just supports American sentiments, pointing to a poll by the Global Strategy Group
that indicates that 91 percent of Americans say the corrosive influence of money in politics needs attention, and a Gallup tracking poll in which voters said frustration with government is a major issue.
"Tens of thousands of Americans have protested, marched, written their elected representatives and local media, and quietly built a movement," said Hughes.
"People understand the threat that unlimited money in the electoral process poses to our democracy," said Hughes, writing that Americans are searching for solutions, including recently passed disclosure laws in Montana and six other states.
He called for President Barack Obama to become involved by shifting the problem of money in politics into solutions, including "ending pay-to-play dark money dealings" in federal contracts.
Such issues will be among the most important in the 2016 elections, claimed Hughes, and each candidate needs to answer one question: How they would approach reducing the influence of money in government.
"Sadly, most Americans don’t know about these solutions or how to engage," Hughes said. "That’s why I chose civil disobedience, taking 535 stamped letters and my message to the seat of power where the problem is. Big money is a threat to our democracy just as security threats are."
He said that it is appropriate to spend billions protecting the United States from terrorists, but now "it's time for Americans to spend time protecting democracy from plutocrats."
The problem is complex, Hughes said, but Americans want to live "in a 21st-century democracy where everyone has a right to know who is influencing our government, everyone has a voice, everyone participates, everyone plays by the same set of commonsense rules and everyone is held accountable if they break faith with those rules."
The same principles are in the Unity Statement of Principles
, he said, which is endorsed by 152 organizations that represent millions of Americans.
Hughes said he has faith in a jury of his peers, but called on Americans to realize by his putting his freedom on the line, "others might realize how precious their freedom is."
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