Association publications are not the only thing on display today at the American Society of Association Executives convention in Chicago: The D.C. government has rented a booth to market Washington as the ideal location for association headquarters.

"Our presence in Chicago will place us squarely in the big leagues," said Curtis McClinton, the District's deputy mayor for economic development. "It will signal to the national business community our professionalism and competitiveness in making the case for D.C."

The District's campaign, "Washington, D.C., Is Associations," is the first phase of an aggressive marketing effort to promote the virtues of Washington nationwide.

D.C. representatives traveling to the Chicago convention, which began Saturday and ends Wednesday, will be armed with a new portable D.C. marketing booth, a 12-page color brochure designed for associations and a list of some 800 Chicago-based associations they hope to lure to the District. McClinton said they have prepared a direct-mail campaign for the targeted groups as a follow-up.

Promotion is not the only reason for the trip. "Aside from competing for new business, we will also take advantage of this meeting to enlist from trade association executives already here their ideas about how the District government can use its resources to serve them better -- and to keep them here," McClinton said.

About six months ago, McClinton set up a 20-member Association Attraction Program at Mayor Marion Barry's request. The group is made up of Washington-based association executives who meet to discuss how the District can improve the climate for associations in Washington and to advise the mayor's office on how to attract more association business.

The Washington area has more associations than any other city in the country, according to industry statistics, and the association business is the area's third-largest, behind the government and the service sector. ASAE statistics show 80,000 people from the Washington area are employed by associations, with 40,000 in the District alone.

The District's main interest in attracting associations is that they generate a lot of business for the city, especially for service, hospitality and convention firms, an association spokesman said.

The District is not the only city that will be promoting itself at the convention: The City of Alexandria also will be there to show off its attributes. "Alexandria is hustling like crazy -- we have to keep up with them," a D.C. spokesman said. A survey prepared by the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives found that in 1984 Alexandria had a total of 230 association headquarters, topped only by the District, which had a whopping 2,510 associations headquarters here.

The ASAE convention will house about 580 booths for the group's more than 12,000 member societies across the country. In addition to the trade show, there will be educational seminars and ASAE's 65th annual meeting to elect officers for the upcoming year. PROFESSIONAL

Sherry R. Arnstein, formerly special assistant to the assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, now the Department of Health and Human Services, will become executive director of the American Association of Osteopathic Medicine on Sept. 1. Arnstein's career has included magazine editing, research and consulting on health-care policy for several area research groups. She has worked for the past six years as vice president for government relations at the National Health Council, where she directed the Washington office. She also has co-authored a book on technology assessment and published numerous articles on government relations, technological innovation and health-care policy. Dr. Frank Myers, chairman of the association's board of governors, said, "We look to Mrs. Arnstein to provide considerable guidance to our institutions in the assessment of their present and future roles in the training of physicians."

George Washington University will offer a master's degree program in association management for the second year this fall. The program, which the university says is the first of its kind in the nation, is designed for professionals as well as full-time students. It taps Washington's large association community for lectures and field work. Contact the university's Department of Public Administration for details on this year's curriculum. TRADE

The Washington-based Sugar Association has launched a $2 million radio campaign to combat competition from such sweeteners as aspartame, saccharin and corn syrup. The 30-second ad, which airs in each of the top 10 media markets, including Washington, carries the message that natural sugar is safer and better tasting than sugar substitutes, and also low in calories (16 calories per teaspoon).

Kathleen Hatfield has been hired as associate director of international trade for the National Association of Manufacturers. Hatfield has been a legislative aide for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for the past two years. She will be in charge of tracking trade legislation and assessing its impact on the U.S. merchandise trade account.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States Inc., which represents manufacturers and marketers of liquor, has appointed Mary Ann Chaffee as director of strategic policy analysis. Chaffee, most recently a budget examiner for the Office of Management and Budget, will oversee alcohol issues management and direct strategic planning and policy development for the council.

The American Paper Institute and National Forest Products Association have appointed Josephine S. Cooper as their assistant vice president of environmental and health affairs. Cooper previously was assistant administrator for external affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency, a post to which she was appointed by the president in 1983. Working out of the associations' Washington offices, Cooper will manage air-quality and solid-waste issues in addition to directing the groups' environmental and health programs.