While nine in 10 Americans agree there's too much corporate money in politics, Doug Hughes alone decided to carry out a life-endangering mission to expose Washington's descent into a money-fueled corruption pit. And his mission was a success. Even a week out, especially as initial questions around national security ease off, Hughes's epic stunt remains a lasting conversation starter on the demand for election reform in America.
From the floors of Congress with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) saying, "Mr. Hughes does have a point" to Comedy Central's Daily Show segment dubbing him the "Chitty Chitty Mailman," Hughes single-handedly piloted campaign finance reform into the limelight.
Last Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced the "relaunch" of a "Democracy for All" task force to reduce money in politics. While Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) told Bloomberg, "It doesn't take the landing of a gyrocopter on the Capitol to underscore the frustration that the American people feel about our campaign finance and election system," it did seem to have taken a creative and buzz-worthy act of civil disobedience for our legislators to prioritize solutions and for the mainstream media to report it.
Civil disobedience is a key part of our country's history. The point of civil disobedience is to be bold and disruptive. The point is to break the rules. When Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting in the front of the bus and refusing to move for a white passenger, her guts and defiance helped catapult the Civil Rights Movement into the national spotlight. Perhaps Hughe's and his flying machine is the modern day equivalent for the movement to get big money out of politics.
Much like the Civil Rights Movement, the movement to end political corruption is about voice, representation, and political equality. When the Supreme Court ruled in Buckly v. Valeo that money is free speech, they set a new, unprecedented law of the land: whoever has the most money has the loudest voice. As a result, big money in politics has drowned out the voices of ordinary citizens and it has distorted our representative government, skewing it towards the interests of the wealthy elites who are willing to pay-to-play. It's a system that Sen. John McCain describes as "Legalized bribery."
If we're going to win common sense reforms to get big money out of politics, we need more people like Hughes to tread the avenue of dissent.
In the past year, members of the activist group 99Rise burst into the Supreme Court on three separate occasions to demand campaign finance reform, which quickly garnered the attention of the media.
Over 35,000 people have joined the guerrilla campaign StampStampede.org to stamp big money out of politics. They are literally rubber stamping their cash with anti-corruption messages like "Not to be used for buying elections" unleashing a visual, symbolic blitz through the actual source of corruption. Every stamped bill is seen by approximately 900 people, culminating into an accelerating display of public support to get big money out of politics
Merely on an anecdotal level, the gyrocopter method was a brilliant display of non-violent activism. It was simply captivating. Within 24 hours of the event, "campaign finance" was mentioned on broadcast television about 3,000 times. But we need to keep the momentum going.
Through diverse and inventive tactics, the anti-corruption movement will not cease speaking out about pay-to-play politics and dollar-driven legislators until we see real changes. The people of this country need to unite in promoting a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. FEC ruling, which opened the floodgates to unrestricted special interest money in our elections. And we need to do it quick -- before corporations and ultra-wealthy groups completely hijack our political system.