Haste Makes Waste: What was intended as a public relations coup became a minor embarrassment for two Democratic presidential candidates who raced ahead of the pack in January to claim that they had qualified for federal matching funds.

Auditors for the Federal Election Commission found technical violations with the initial applications of former vice president Walter F. Mondale and Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.). As a result, the auditors have asked both campaigns to submit new checks or more detailed information about the checks they already had filed with the FEC.

The campaign law gives matching funds for presidential primaries to candidates who raise at least $5,000 in contributions of $250 or less in each of at least 20 states.

Some contributors failed to sign the checks, some wrote in the wrong dates and in some cases there were checks from a husband and wife that were counted as two contributions.

The Mondale violations apparently stemmed from its hurry to make a submission to the FEC, which it did on Jan. 6. At the time it was considered a virtuoso feat of fund-raising because only money raised after Jan. 1 can be matched for federal funds.

But in their haste, said Mondale treasurer Michael Berman, some Mondale solicitors accepted checks that were dated in late December. When the problem was discovered, Berman said the solicitors had the checkwriters replace the earlier dates with January dates. The FEC rejected those checks.

Some checks also were rejected, Berman said, because they contained a post office box address, when a complete residential address is required by the FEC. The Mondale campaign resubmitted its application last week, with new checks.

There is no practical effect in the delay in approval.