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Joe Lane Delivers! Greeted With Durbin Campaign Finance Bill

Lane was on the Hill Wednesday to deliver Hughes' letter. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Lane was on the Hill Wednesday to deliver Hughes' letter. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Joe Lane made it through security screening at the Hart Senate Office Building shortly before 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, after Capitol Police gave him what he said was a “Texas two-step” about his plan to hand-deliver 535 copies of gyrocopter pilot Douglas Hughes’ campaign finance letter.  

“We’ve been discouraged by everybody who can possibly discourage us from trying,” the 71-year-old told CQ Roll Call after his visit to department headquarters.  

The unsealed envelopes, neatly printed with the names of all 100 senators and sorted by office location, rolled through the X-ray machine before being examined and swabbed by an officer, who asked Lane if he was aware Capitol Police could deliver the letters on his behalf. She also warned Lane that the recipients might not accept his delivery, and requested he not leave any envelopes unattended, as the offices might call security and cause problems “for us.” After 25 minutes, Lane had worked his way up to the third floor and successfully slipped envelopes into the hands of staffers in every Senate office along the way, with few words and little fanfare. Some smiled at the gray-haired man in khakis and black polo shirt. Others looked baffled by Lane, who had worked up a light sweat beneath his black baseball cap. Most flipped over the white rectangle to make sure it was unsealed.  

“We’re going to find the seventh level,” Lane said, striding towards the elevators. The next stop was Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin’s office, where he hoped to catch the Illinois Democrat. In two hours, Durbin planned to introduce legislation related to the cause that inspired Hughes’ daring gyrocopter stunt with the original letters.  

The Fair Elections Now Act would  amend the Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1971 by creating a voluntary three-stage system of public financing for Senate candidates. Candidates who participate in the Fair Elections process would agree to limit their campaign fundraising to $125 per donor per election, according to Durbin’s office, plus additional campaign spending of small amounts provided by the Fair Elections Fund.  

The bill, co-sponsored by 11 fellow Democrats, also establishes a “My Voice Tax Credit” to encourage individuals to make small donations to campaigns and a type of small-donor political action committee, known as a “People PAC” that would only be permitted to accept contributions of $150 or less per election from individuals.  

“Unless we curb the growing influence of big money in politics, our democracy is in serious trouble,” Durbin said in a statement. “I’m introducing the Fair Elections Now Act to put the power of our political system back into the hands of the American people, where it belongs.”  

Lane didn’t get to see Durbin when he dipped into the senator’s Hart office to deliver the letter. He snapped a photo with an organizer from Public Citizen in front of the glass double doors, and continued on his way. Lane had a handful of interns from D.C.-based advocacy groups helping him with his deliveries, but plenty of work ahead.

“Get the letters delivered, that’s it,” Lane said as he clipped down a hallway. “That’s the name of the game and I’m happy to do it.”

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