Lawmakers got an earful at the Capitol Thursday, on the issue of reforming Wisconsin’s political process. Turnout was sparse in Madison and Green Bay, which participated via teleconference. And at least a few of the citizens who showed up were critical of lawmakers and their campaign fundraising.

“You are bought, you say you’re not bought, we know you are bought, you blame the system, and then we don’t buy that argument,” said George Penn of Madison. “You are the system, you can change the system, and we don’t want to hear the reasons why it didn’t get changed.”

AUDIO: George Penn (:11 MP3)

State Representative Sondy Pope-Roberts, a Middleton Democrat, told Penn she was offended by his comments. “I work hard at this. I want campaign finance reform as well,” said Pope-Roberts. “But I don’t want to be painted with that same brush, when I’m trying my best.”

AUDIO: Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts (:15 MP3)

Chris Franczek of Madison suggested jail time for violations of existing campaign finance laws. “If it really mattered, when you got caught and convicted of violating campaign finance law, if it really hurt . . . it would give them (violators) pause,” said Franczek.

Public hearings, called by Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform chair, Representative Jeff Smith, are billed as a way for lawmakers to solicit input from regular citizens on public financing of elections. Smith has said he hopes specific legislation can be drafted in response to the feedback from voters. Hearings are also scheduled for Eau Claire and the Milwaukee area.

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