The News did not do its homework. A recent editorial on Hatch Act reform legislation to grant greater political rights to federal employees said, "But surely it would be unwise, for example, to permit an employee who handles the requests of a contractor during business hours to ask that same contractor, after hours, for a political campaign contribution."
Yes, it would be unwise. But the Hatch Act reform legislation very specifically prohibits federal workers from accepting, receiving or soliciting a contribution from anyone who has or is seeking a contract with the worker's agency, is regulated by the agency, or has interests that may be affected by the performance of the worker's duties.
And yes, federal employees under the Hatch Act may exercise such political rights as signing petitions and attending political rallies. But they may not circulate partisan petitions, and they may not carry political signs or even speak publicly at a partisan political rally.
The Hatch Act reform bills passed by the House and pending in the Senate do not repeal the Hatch Act. They simplify and clarify; they reform. All the protections against coercion and corruption will remain. Political activity while on the job, in any form, will continue to be illegal for federal employees. That includes any pressure, no matter how subtle, from bosses, peers or subordinates. No campaign contributions, no petitions, not even the wearing of campaign buttons will be allowed.
The reform has gained a veto-proof vote in the House and 25 co-sponsors in the Senate only through strong bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats alike have been convinced that the changes in the law will not return the "spoils system" to the federal work force. The law will maintain clean government with protections for employees and citizens, and grant full citizenship rights to the 3 million federal workers who have been denied them for so long.
ROBERT M. TOBIAS
National Treasury Employees Union