The $500 donated by U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Gasch to Virginia Republican Senate candidate John W. Warner was returned to Gasch yesterday by Warner campaign manager Judy Peachee.

A federal Judicial canon prohibits political contributions by U.S. judges, but Gasch has told reporters he was unaware of the prohibition when he wrote a check to Warner, a personal friend, shortly after the GOP candidate was nominated on Aug. 12.

"Had I known it was a violation, I would not have made the contribution," Gasch said in a telephone interview Tuesday after his gift was disclosed in a federal campaign finance report. He said then, however, that he would not ask the campaign to refund the $500. "I wouldn't if I could. I gave him the money" the Washington judge said.

Peachee said in an interview yesterday that she made the decision to return the money without consulting Gasch. "I wrote him a note thanking him sincerely for the contribution, but told him we didn't want to create a problem for him," Peachee said.

Peachee said Warner concurred with her recommendation to return the check.

A law clerk to Gasck said the judge would have no comment to make on the refund.