The American Society of Association Executives, trying to fend off a congressional attack on political action committees, has released a survey that it says shows that association PACs are expressions of the will of a broad-based group of individuals -- not a few large contributors.

James J. Albertine, the ASAE's director of government affairs, said the survey is the first of its kind, coming at an opportune time in light of growing criticism of PACs from Congress and the private sector.

"The association community has never done anything real in response to unfair charges and misinformation about association PACs," said Albertine. He added that the notion that the association community has a handful of dominant PACs, funded by a small number of large contributors, "is a misconception at best."

Association PACs were the second-largest campaign contributors in the 1983-84 elections, donating $26.58 million to federal candidates, $8 million less than corporate PACs.

Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.) has introduced legislation expected to be voted on this spring that would further limit the amount of money a PAC can contribute to each candidate. Currently, PACs can contribute $5,000 to a candidate in a primary and another $5,000 if he reaches the general election. Boren's bill also would place a cap of $100,000 on contributions to candidates for the House and between $200,000 and $750,000 to those for the Senate, depending on the size of their home state.

ASAE, the largest association representing trade and professional groups in the country, contracted with Civic Service Inc. of St. Louis to conduct the survey. Civic Service polled 698 association PACs currently listed with the Federal Elections Commission and received 196 responses.

The two most relevant findings from the survey were compared with the results of a similar survey released last year about corporate PACs. The corporate PAC survey was jointly sponsored by the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Public Affairs Counsel and the National Association of Business PACs.

The corporate survey, which polled 1,100 corporate PACs (excluding those of banks and financial institutions) and received responses from 268, showed that 90 percent of corporate PAC money is contributed at the request of a joint PAC board. ASAE's survey found that 65 percent of the association PACs surveyed made contribution choices via a similar board. According to Albertine, the data undermines the belief that PAC contribution choices are made by a "single person sitting behind a desk."

The ASAE pointed out that the association PACs surveyed had an average of 3,197 donors per PAC, who gave an average of $116 per year. Fifty-two percent of the respondents donated about $230 each, while the rest gave less than $100, according to the findings. In contrast, corporate PACs averaged 432 donors per PAC, who contributed an average of $224.

Groups such as Common Cause have lobbied to abolish PACs because of their large contributions and strong influence on candidates. Anne McBride, senior vice president of Common Cause, discounted the ASAE findings, saying that, even if PAC money is contributed in small amounts, it is given to candidates in large chunks to "buy access" for the specific groups' interests -- which McBride called very narrow.

Associations annually give awards to members for their contributions to their industry or field of expertise. Following are a few of this year's winners:

*The Consulting Engineers Council of Maryland recognized the environmental engineering firm of Lombardo & Associates for its creation of a wastewater treatment facility in Anne Arundel County. The firm, which has offices in Annapolis and Boston, was awarded first prize for the planning, design and construction of the Mayo Peninsula Wastewater Management Plan. The $33 million project integrated three wastewater treatment sites, saving Mayo Peninsula residents $8 million, an association spokesman said. The council nominated Lombardo for the national competition held April 18 by the American Consulting Engineers Council, and the firm won an honorable mention.. A Gaithersburg firm, Kamber Engineering Inc., also won an honorable mention.

*The National Association of Bank Women, a 30,000-member group based in Chicago, will present its top achievement awards to two Washington women and a man at its April 29 conference in Washington. At the "Salute to Senior Financial Women" dinner, Katherine D. Ortega, U.S. treasurer, and Julia M. Walsh, of Julia M. Walsh and Sons Inc., will be recognized for their contributions to the financial services industry during the past year. John G. Heimann, vice chairman of Merrill Lynch Capital Markets, will be given the group's pacesetter award for his consistent support of women in the financial services industry, a spokesman said. The group also will honor six Washington women for their contributions to the financial services field: Margaret Maguire Egginton, executive vice president of Secura Group and former deputy to the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.; M. Kathryn Eickhoff, associate director, Office of Economic Policy, Office of Management and Budget; Shannon Fairbanks, executive staff director and chief of staff, Federal Home Loan Bank Board; Aulana L. Peters, commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission; Martha R. Seger, governor, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System; and Margaret D. Tutweiler, assistant secretary for public affairs and liaison at the Treasury Department.

*Alexandria's National Air Transportation Association will give out 71 awards to members, 67 of which are for membership services. The awards ceremony will take place April 24 at the 1986 convention and trade show in Dallas, where George E. Haddaway will receive the William A. Ong Memorial trophy in recognition of a lifetime of dedication to the general aviation industry. Haddaway is former editor of Flight Magazine and founder of the Aviation Heritage Foundation at the University of Texas. The group's distinguished service award will go to the United States Aircraft Insurance Group for its leadership in an antimisfueling campaign and its support and contributions to a safety poster series. Lee G. Barnes, founder and president of Sky-Life Foundation, which trains new pilots, will receive a plaque from the association for his efforts in training and safety. The aviation journalism award will be presented to R. Spencer Brent, publisher of A/C Flyer magazine, for his editorials.