After reading your recent editorial "Time for Campaign Reform" {May 29}, suggesting that I and other Senate Republicans are "stonewalling" on the issue of campaign finance reform, I was tempted to ask, "Where has The Post been during the past year?"

In case you haven't noticed, Senate Republicans have taken the following important steps to advance the reform effort here in Congress:

1. Last February, I urged Sen. Mitchell to join me in appointing a six-member, bipartisan panel of experts to study the most contentious campaign finance issues. The panel's final report rejected the idea of direct public financing of congressional campaigns, recognized the need to strengthen the role of the political parties, noted the special importance of in-state contributions and shifted the reform debate away from the fixation on artificial, arbitrarily determined spending limits and toward the real campaign finance culprit -- the sources of campaign funds.

The panel's significant report, well received by both parties, will continue to shape the campaign finance debate in the weeks ahead.

2. Senate Republicans recently introduced the Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform Act of 1990, a 34-point plan that is probably the most significant piece of campaign finance reform legislation since the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.

The Republican bill takes a big whack at the special interests by removing political action committees from the federal election process altogether. No exceptions and no loopholes: if you're a PAC, you're out of business.

The Republican bill also bans "soft" money, the undisclosed and unregulated money used by labor unions, corporations, trade associations and certain tax-exempt organizations to finance their own special-interest activities on behalf of federal candidates. In addition, the Republican bill codifies the Supreme Court's Beck decision, which ruled that employees should not be forced to finance union political activities against their will. It restricts the practice of "bundling" contributions. It establishes a meaningful "broadcast discount." And it reduces the contribution limits for out-of-state residents by a full 50 percent -- from $1,000 to $500 per candidate per election.

3. As Senate Republican leader, I have appointed a team of Republican senators to participate in bipartisan negotiations. Several negotiating sessions with Senate Democrats have already occurred, and more sessions are scheduled in the days ahead. Although I don't expect any miracles, I am optimistic that the negotiators will be able to develop a comprehensive reform package acceptable to both parties.

In light of these efforts, I am somewhat perplexed by your complaint of Republican "stonewalling." Senate Republicans have introduced a serious and comprehensive reform proposal. We have participated in establishing a bipartisan panel of experts. We are now participating in bipartisan negotiations. We are doing everything, in other words, but stonewalling.

The editorial is absolutely right when it complains that Republicans have refused to embrace the idea of "spending limits," which has become part of the Democratic campaign finance mantra. Rigid spending limits may sound like a good idea, but, in truth, they are nothing more than a prescription to protect congressional incumbents.

Just note this simple fact: only seven of the 32 winning Senate challengers from 1978 to 1988 stayed within the spending limits proposed by the Democrats. Obviously, these are pretty low numbers. They're also pretty good numbers, if you're interested in seeing the Democratic Party maintain its lock in Congress through the 21st century.

This isn't just my view. It's the view of virtually every campaign finance scholar who has studied the issue. It's the view of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, a Washington-based nonpartisan research group, which recently concluded that the spending limits contained in the Democratic bill would favor Senate incumbents. And it happens to be the view of President Bush, who has publicly threatened to veto any bill that contains a rigid spending-limits measure.

It seems that "stonewall," meaning "to engage in obstructive . . . delaying tactics," more aptly describes The Post's own editorializing and reporting on Republican efforts to achieve meaningful campaign finance reform.

-- Bob Dole The writer is the Republican leader of the Senate.