In the spirit of true demagoguery, Constance Horner, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, has chosen to distort the pending Hatch Act reform legislation {op-ed, Nov. 15}. At no point in her diatribe does she address the fundamental question of reform: "Do we need to strip 2.6 million American citizens of the most basic and fundamental political rights in order to bar the politicized abuse and coercion of the federal work force?"

The carefully crafted, bipartisan bill answers this question with a resounding "No!" The legislation accomplishes its dual objective of barring political coercion and expanding political activity on the job or at the government work sites while freeing employees to engage in politics in their homes and communities just like other U.S. citizens.

Instead of a reasoned debate around this issue, Horner uses emotionally charged phrases such as "Hatch Act repeal," "army of foot soldiers," "Tammany Hall" and union presidents seeking "retroactive pardons" and "decisive power."

First, as Horner knows, the bill would amend -- it would not repeal -- the Hatch Act. By clarifying prohibited practices on the work site, the legislation would actually strengthen protections against political abuse.

Second, in raising the specter of "Tammany Hall," Horner states that "Today's debate . . . has not changed since the turn of the century." But she is wrong; much has changed. The press, the public and Congress are now vigilant watchdogs over any attempt to abuse political power. If any administration systematically sought to abuse the federal work force for political ends, how long would it take before such abuse was on the front page of The Post, a feature story on CBS's "60 Minutes" and a target of congressional hearings and investigations? On our part, I guarantee that our union would crucify any supervisor who attempted coercion on behalf of any candidate of any party in any election.

In reality, any supervisor attempting such activity would inevitably harm the campaign he or she was seeking to support. This in itself would guarantee that coercion would not take place.

Horner's statement that three federal employee union leaders, including myself, want "retroactive pardons" is particularly offensive in that the legislation explicitly grandfathers any preceding penalties and pending proceedings.

Finally, Horner raises the red herring of union abuse of political power. Federal employees, like the public, hold diverse political views and aspirations. Some are Republicans; some are Democrats. Some would like to be engaged in partisan political activities; most would not. Federal unions have no power to intimidate federal workers into taking political action. Our power in the political arena is the same as that of thousands of other organizations -- the ability to inform, educate and persuade.

After wading through Horner's sea of disinformation, one is left with the puzzling question of why this administration, which has proved to be an eloquent spokesman for the benefits of freedom and democracy abroad, would abandon these principles when they apply to the 2.6 million employees of the federal government.

Kenneth T. Blaylock

The writer is national president of the American Federation of Government Employees.