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Anti-Corruption Gyrocopter Pilot Seeks Return To Congress, This Time By Election

Posted in Archive, Journalism, and MintPress News

Originally published at MintPress News.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — After illegally landing a miniature helicopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol last year, Doug Hughes is determined to return to the Hill as a member of the House of Representatives.

“I’m coming back to Congress by ground. And this time I’m not going to be outside the building — I’m going to be inside the building!” the former U.S. Postal Service employee from Florida told MintPress News on Monday.

Hughes garnered international attention in April, when he landed a gyrocopter directly on the front lawn of Congress. The personal aerial vehicle contained letters for members of Congress, demanding that they fight the influence of money in politics.

Mailman Faces Felony Charges For Delivering Protest Letters Via Gyrocopter To Congress

Even though he knew he was risking being shot down, he told MintPress in July, “I’m 61 years old, and I believe I have a moral obligation to pass this world onto the next generation in better shape than I received it from my parents.”

For his act of civil disobedience, Hughes initially faced two felony charges and multiple misdemeanors which carried a maximum sentence of nine-and-a-half years. He told MintPress on Monday that he has since accepted a plea bargain, at the urging of both a public defender and an additional, paid lawyer, that will reduce his charges to a single felony — for operating the gyrocopter without a license — that carries a maximum potential sentence of 10 months in prison.

Hughes returns to court for sentencing on April 13, and he plans to use the hearing to generate publicity for his new campaign for office. Starting on April 2, he’ll join Democracy Spring, a nonviolent action in which hundreds of activists intend to march from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in protest against government corruption. With the group slated to arrive in the nation’s capitol on April 11, he expects plenty of supporters to attend his sentencing.

“We’re going to literally pack the courtroom. We may have 500 people leftover outside the building, and I have drawn the media for every one of my hearings,” he explained.

Hughes is running against Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida Democrat who currently occupies holds the 23rd congressional district in the House and is the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Hughes highlighted the congresswoman’s support for the war on drugs as a sign of her corruption: She receives campaign funding from private prisons, which turn a profit on the thousands of people arrested for drug crimes each year, including one person arrested for marijuana every minute. He also noted her support from the alcohol industry, which profits hugely from its position as a provider of one of the few legal drugs.

Even worse, however, is Wasserman Schultz’s apparent support for Hillary Clinton over other candidates like Bernie Sanders through attacks on the Sanders campaign and scheduling relatively few debates compared to past elections, often on days when people are unlikely to watch, which Hughes called undemocratic.

Hughes said he’s not running only in hopes of toppling Wasserman Schultz, but to show that money in politics matters to voters, and that incumbents like Wasserman Schultz are vulnerable, especially during primaries when voter turnout is at its lowest. “Most voters in this district have never seen a primary,” he said.

“I am not running against Debbie Wasserman Schultz so much as I am running for reform and against her style of politics,” Hughes said, adding that her control over the Democratic Party reduces elections to a mere “ritual.”

If elected, Hughes intends to reach out to David Brat, a former economics professor who unseated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a “stunning” primary defeat in 2014. With Brat, who ran a comparatively low-budget campaign that opposed the influence of money in politics, Hughes hopes to form a bipartisan caucus opposed to corporate corruption and force Congress to take the issue seriously or potentially lose their next election.

Referring to the caucus he hopes to form with Brat, Hughes concluded, “We want to show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that every member of the House of Representatives is vulnerable in the primary” unless they agree to reforming American politics.

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