Uncle Sugar delivers today for most of the major presidential candidates.

An office at the Treasury Department is scheduled to transfer a total of more than $25 million in public funds to their campaign bank accounts.

This is the first injection of federal "matching funds" into the campaign and it will provide a needed financial boost for several of the hopefuls as they prepare for the first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The initial matching fund receipts also are the payoff for the work of scores of campaign aides around the country who have mastered the details of a federal manual known in the election business as PIG-O.

This Federal Election Commission rulebook, the Guideline for Presentation in Good Order, lays out in seven chapters and 22 appendices exactly how campaigns should prepare the stacks of paperwork needed to qualify for matching funds.

The first step is raising $5,000 in each of 20 states in amounts of $250 or less. Every donation in that first $100,000 submission is checked by FEC auditors, and, when certified as valid, matched dollar for dollar. Then candidates can file additional documentation and have up to $250 of any donation matched.

By applying for matching funds, a candidate agrees to abide by spending limits and to open his books to post-election audits by the FEC.

This year, the FEC projects that candidates will receive more than $64 million in the primaries. Candidates are limited to raising about $22 million this year and half that amount can be matched from the pool of public funds.

In addition, the nominee of each major party will get another $46.75million each in public funds to spend for the general election, and the Democratic and Republican parties will receive almost $9 million each to help put on their conventions.

The year-end certifications for matching funds already has caused a commotion. Gary Hart's low-budget reentry into the campaign got a lift last week when his application for the first of what should be $1million in matching funds was approved by the FEC, while Jesse L. Jackson's eligibility was delayed and Pat Robertson said he wasn't sure he wanted the $4.5 million for which he was certified.

A few other candidates, most notably Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), have borrowed heavily against this first installment of public funds and will have to use the money to pay off old debts rather than finance new campaign efforts.

The matching funds process is a Xerox salesman's dream. But Karen Kelly, a 22-year-old Boston College graduate who runs the matching funds program for Gov. Michael S. Dukakis (D-Mass.) said she doesn't find the rules onerous. "We're going by the book," she said. "We want to do what's right."

Kelly said the campaign committee makes two photocopies of each check that arrives at its Boston headquarters, one to submit to the FEC and one to keep on hand for a later visit by FEC auditors. When the donations arrive at the office, her small staff and a cadre of volunteers check them to see which are "immediately matchable," Kelly said.

That means it is clear from the face of the check that details such as amount, date and signature are correct, and that it is drawn on a personal rather than a business, trust or corporate account. About 80 percent of the checks meet the standard, Kelly said.

If the staff discovers errors, donors are sent a letter and a form to fill in so the campaign can submit the check for matching funds later. "Most people {donors} are very cooperative," Kelly said. About 5 percent of the checks fail to meet FEC criteria, she added.

It took 18 days for her staff to process the names and checks of 9,500 contributors so they could be submitted to the FEC last Monday, Kelly said. The campaign expects the submission will mean an additional $1 million in matching funds, bringing Dukakis' total to about $3.5 million, double that of any other Democrat.

The latest Dukakis filing included three boxes of photocopied checks, in alphabetical order, and another box containing the name, address and occupation of each donor so they can be spotchecked by FEC auditors. After the first several submissions, Dukakis had the lowest error rate of any candidate, less than 1 percent.

That painstaking effort is not unique. Vice President Bush's campaign has set up an elaborate process where it puts each donation that comes in through a checklist of 100 items in an effort to maximize the number of matchable dollars, according to a campaign official.

The biggest single matching fund submission came Dec. 14 from Republican contender Robertson. His staff had to rent a 16-foot truck to haul the paperwork from his headquarters in Chesapeake, Va., to Washington. A Robertson staff member said at the time that the truck contained 51 boxes of documentation, including a 9,287 page list of nearly 71,000 contributors.

Robertson declines to check off the box on his federal income tax return that sets aside $1 of taxes to go to the "matching fund" pool at the Treasury. FEC spokeswoman Sharon Snyder said that fewer than a quarter of American taxpayers contribute to the fund, even though the $1 comes out of the taxes they owe and is not an additional tax.

The public financing of presidential elections was started in the aftermath of Watergate and reports of huge cash donations to former president Richard M. Nixon.

The first publicly funded campaign in 1976 also caused the greatest scandal of the new era. Investigators found that the campaign of Democrat Milton J. Shapp, then governor of Pennsylvania, cheated in making its matching funds submission. It did so by making up the names of contributors in several of the required 20 states. Shapp's finance coordinator and her husband were prosecuted, fined and received a suspended prison sentence. Investigators couldn't prove that the candidate knew of the scheme, so Shapp wasn't punished. But he did pay nearly $300,000 back personally to the Treasury.

Another memorable case of matching funds enforcement involved the 1980 Carter campaign and the so-called "Chinese waiters" caper. The FEC found in an audit that the campaign used the names of more than a score of Chinese waiters and cooks who worked at the Silver Palace restaurant in New York City as donors who gave to a fund-raiser there. The campaign paid back $7,130 in improperly received matching funds plus a civil penalty because the waiters hadn't made the donations.