Democrats aren't serious about campaign reform.

Bob Michel is not your basic boat-rocker. The House Minority Leader is almost a stereotype of the convivial congressman, a fellow who has pitched for the Republican congressional baseball team, golfed with Democrats Tip O'Neill and Dan Rostenkowski and who lifts his baritone in song with anyone who wants to gather around the piano at the end of the evening.

It takes a lot to make Robert H. Michel mad, but this year he is on the warpath. At age 67, the man from Peoria has become, of all things, a reformer.

More than a year ago, when Jim Wright was forced to resign from the speakership under ethics fire, Michel said the stain on the House's honor would be removed only if this 101st Congress became ''the reform Congress.'' He joined Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) in passing new rules that guarantee House members are paid by the public, not through interest-group speaking fees. Then Michel focused on the need for ''dramatic reform of our campaign laws and {finance} practices.''

That was an important breakthrough. Through most of the past 15 years, House Republicans, except for an occasional maverick like John B. Anderson, had held themselves aloof from occasional Democratic drives to clean up campaign-finance laws, as most Senate Republicans continue to do.

Michel took the issue to his party's policy committee and put his own prestige on the line in arguing that the threat to Congress's reputation and integrity was so great that something must be done. He was hammered hard by some of his fellow Republicans. But in the end, he won their assent for 21 campaign-finance-law changes. The package was predictably tilted to Republican interests, but Michel brought it to Foley as a negotiating position, not a take-it-or-leave-it demand.

The two leaders agreed that negotiations should begin with Reps. Al Swift (D-Wash.) and Guy Vander Jagt (R-Mich.) as their representatives, with the understanding that, when the real sticking point was reached, Foley and Michel would take over themselves. At that point, they met once, with their subordinates, but Foley never took the crucial steps that would have been required to forge a bipartisan bill. He never took the issue to his caucus or forced the Democrats to resolve their internal differences, and he never invited Michel to sit down for serious one-on-one negotiations.

Instead, last week, Foley said that the House calendar had become ''too backed up'' to deal with campaign-finance legislation before the July 4 recess. He said he would try to get to it in mid-July. He would not, however, promise Michel an ''open rule,'' which would permit the Republicans to offer each of their major suggestions separately -- and force the House to debate them on their merits.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the House Democrats are foot-dragging on this issue. Michel, who is sometimes accused by the red-hot partisans in his own party of being too cozy and comfortable with Foley, said he has reluctantly concluded that the Democrats don't want to change the system that has become a public scandal.

''It works to their advantage,'' Michel said. ''For them, the status quo is good; they're 80 votes out in front.'' With political-action committees (PACs) giving seven-eighths of their contributions to incumbents, who also enjoy millions of dollars in taxpayer-financed staffs, offices and communications subsidies, it is no wonder than 98 percent or more of the incumbents seeking reelection are successful.

The reforms Michel drafted would change this. They would, among other things, lower the ceiling on PAC contributions from $5,000 to $1,000, require half of a candidate's money to be raised from his own constituents, and reduce the perks that incumbents use to secure reelection.

For more than a year since Wright's forced resignation, the Democrats have delayed coming to grips with those issues. As this was written, they were still debating what kind of limits to put on PACs and on ''soft money'' contributions from unions and others that are the lifeblood of their party. The Democrats prefer to emphasize spending ceilings for House races.

Michel risked a rebellion in his own GOP caucus by hinting late last year that he would even negotiate on spending ceilings if the Democrats were serious about a reform package. They never bothered to test how far he might be willing to go. But Michel is clear and correct in saying that spending ceilings by themselves are a phony reform, which would only remove one more threat to incumbents.

Michel is still ready to negotiate. ''My goal,'' he said, ''is to get something meaningful enacted into law. ... What we're spending on campaigns and the way we're raising it are unconscionable.''

But the Democrats seem bent on writing a partisan bill, which, even if it passed, would draw a presidential veto. To add insult to injury, they are planning to muzzle Michel's ability to offer his amendments when they finally bring their bill to the floor.

That's a pretty shabby record. Bob Michel is not the only one who ought to be angry about it.