RICHMOND, FEB. 6 -- State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman, a top political adviser to Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, is working as a paid lobbyist on behalf of legislation that could turn over some Virginia prisons to private operators, a relationship that is being criticized by some lawmakers in both parties.

Three bills promoted by Goldman on behalf of Corrections Corporation of America, the largest of 14 companies that operate prisons for profit in a dozen states, passed the House of Delegates on Monday and are scheduled for a hearing next week before the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services.

The bills were sponsored by Del. Franklin P. Hall (D-Richmond), who has used the services of Goldman's political consulting business.

Hall, chairman of a joint legislative subcommittee that recommended private operation of prisons, said his political connection to Goldman has not influenced his position in the issue.

"I don't see any conflict at all," Hall said.

Hall said Goldman advised him at no charge in his successful 1989 reelection campaign, and "did it for every Democrat who asked."

Goldman, a lawyer, said he sees no conflicts in his lobbying for Corrections Corporation, his political consulting business and his roles as state party chief and adviser to the governor.

Goldman was hired by the Nashville-based company last year, a few days after Wilder tapped him as party chairman. For his work during the 1990 session, Goldman was paid $17,648. His lobbying helped lead to a legislative study recommending the private operation of prisons, an idea that had been rejected by two earlier studies.

Goldman's lobbying fees have not yet been reported for this session. He joked that his fee would depend on "how well these bills do."

Goldman pointed out that his predecessor, Lawrence H. Framme III, also worked as a lobbyist while he was state party chairman. Framme is now the state's economic development secretary.

"Why didn't you ask Framme about his lobbying?" asked Goldman, as he paced outside the House Courts of Justice hearing room while the bills were considered there last week.

Unlike most lobbyists who sit in the front of the room and watch legislators while their bills are being debated, Goldman remained "in the wings," noted Del. J. Samuel Glasscock (D-Suffolk), an opponent of the legislation on the subcommittee, who said he is concerned about Goldman's lobbying.

"Just report that I raised my eyebrows," said one Democrat, who had been unaware of Goldman's role in the legislation.

Another Democrat, reluctant to be publicly identified as challenging his party's chairman, said he sees "tremendous" problems with Goldman's multiple roles.

Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Mount Vernon), the second-ranking member of the Senate committee that will consider the prison bills, said "a lot of inferences" could be drawn from Goldman's lobbying on the legislation. "It would behoove Frank {Hall} and the administration to clarify Goldman's interests and his relations" with the bills' sponsor, he said.

Gartlan added, "Because Goldman is not a state employee, on the face of it there is no conflict of interest. The law doesn't apply."

Wilder said today that Goldman "doesn't lobby me. I'm not aware of his activities; he doesn't discuss them with me."

But Glasscock said he is worried that Goldman's work "possibly may reflect adversely on the governor, and while not merited, can have the appearance" of a conflict of interest.

Del. Clinton Miller (Shenandoah), who was among six House Republicans who helped the bills survive a 12 to 7 committee vote, said Goldman might have "undue influence" on some lawmakers, "but not on me."

On Monday, the final day for consideration of the legislation in the House, when most proposals went virtually unchallenged in a hectic session, the three prison privatization bills easily passed. But they were not without significant opposition, advancing on votes of 74 to 24, 71 to 26 and 74 to 24.

Aides to Wilder are worried that prison privatization could face the same fate as Wilder's call last year for a study of switching state-run liquor stores to private operation.

Wilder canceled that plan after reports that his son, Larry, and two longtime Wilder associates were partners in a chain of wine-and-beer stores that stood to benefit if the state stores were closed.

A spokesman for one of Corrections Corporation's competitors, Pricor Inc., of Murfreesboro, Tenn., said his firm has not lobbied for the bills.

The spokesman, Laws McCullough, said he wasn't aware of Goldman's lobbying, but said he wasn't concerned. "I'm confident there will be a level playing field" if the state decides to seek proposals for private operation of prisons, he said.