MR. DOOLEY observed that "th' supreme coort follows th' illiction returns." He may have overstated the case. But what he said could surely be applied to the members of another institution, political action committees.

In fact, if our old friend the future historian should be somehow deprived of election statistics for the current decade, he will be able to find out who won simply by checking the files at the Federal Election Commission. Take, for example, the campaign of Republican Sen. Mack Mattingly of Georgia, who was the upset victor last November over veteran Democratic senator Herman Talmadge.

Between Election Day and Nov. 24, the Georgia Power Company's political action committee, according to Mr. Mattingly's campaign records, made three contributions totaling $1,850. One week before the election, Mr. Mattingly reported receiving $500 from the Better Government Committee of Atlanta's C&S National Bank. When it became apparent that there would be no recount, senator-elect Mattingly could report a Nov. 24 check of $1,000 from the same folks at C&S.

But perhaps the most symbolically intriguing contributions to Senate winners came not from groups in any single state, but rather from a national political action committee -- that of the American Optometric Association. One could even say that this group demonstrated 20-20 hindsight in making its November contributions. On Nov. 24, the Mattingly campaign reported receipt of a contribution of $2,000 from the American Optometric Association of 1730 M Street NW, of this city. Freshman Democrat Sen. Alan Dixon of Illinois also reported a "late hit" from the optometrists. Mr. Dixon received, according to his records, a check for $500 on Nov. 20.Freshman Republican Sens. Dan Quayle of Indiana and James Abdnor of South Dakota also received, according to the optometrists, post-election contributions of $500 each.

These office-holders are most definitely the rule and not the exception in accepting post-victory contributions. It is an established if not honored practice, just as the PACs listed are not alone in making such late contributions. In fact, New York Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato reported a Nov. 13 contribution of $1,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, generally considered to be one of the most "liberal" labor unions.

But certain eyebrows are understandably raised when virtually all of the post-election contributions flow only to the winners. Post-elections contributions to victorious candidates are really different in kind from pre-election contributions. You don't have to be practicing optometrists to see the difference.