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Mailman Calling For Campaign Finance Reform Lands Gyrocopter On US Capitol Lawn

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A Florida mailman, looking to make a stand against corruption in politics, landed in a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. The small personal aircraft brought with it letters addressed to all members of the U.S. Congress, urging reforms on laws governing campaign finances.

The pilot of the gyrocopter, Doug Hughes, flew the personal aircraft during a one-hour journey from Maryland into the restricted airspace covering Washington, D.C. The gyrocopter went undetected by the North American Aerospace Defense Command as it landed on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Police officers converged on the gyrocopter as it landed, with President Barack Obama immediately being informed about the situation. Details of the event, however, were still unclear at the time. The incident riveted Washington and led to the closure of the U.S. Capitol for part of the day.

The U.S. Capitol Police said that the gyrocopter landed at around 1:30 p.m. Hughes was brought into custody at once. A bomb squad was sent in to investigate the aircraft, but no harmful devices were found.

The actions of Hughes, who has been arrested but with charges against him still pending, was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, which had a reporter follow him in his planning and execution of the gyrocopter protest.

Ben Montgomery, the reporter who followed Hughes' protest, said that the plan took shape after Hughes' son took his own life by crashing his car into another car.

"He told us that he felt like his son did something stupid, but he had made a point," Montgomery told CNN's Jake Tapper. "He learned a lesson out of that. And it was, if you want to make a point, you've got to do something big, as sad as that seems."

According to Montgomery, Hughes was aware that he could be killed during his protest, either while in the air or upon landing. However, Hughes was ready and has pictured all the possible scenarios, as the mailman had been thinking about the protest for two and a half years.

Hughes was aiming to hand the letters to every member of the U.S. Congress to lobby for reforms in laws governing campaign finances, in a bid to take the role of money out of politics.

CNN obtained an interview with Michael Shanahan, a friend of Hughes that he called up before embarking on the protest flight.

"He's upset that politicians can be bought and sold at auction, and I agree with him. That's the point he's trying [to make]," said Shanahan.

Photo: Andrew Malone | Flickr

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