Gary Hart's debt-ridden 1984 presidential campaign has failed to account for almost $60,000 in apparently excessive and possibly illegal campaign contributions, despite repeated efforts by the Federal Election Commission to settle the accounts, according to FEC computer records and documents.

FEC files also show that Hart's campaign received $30,000 from two California fund-raisers the morning after Hart's second-place finish in the 1984 Iowa caucuses in sale and leaseback transactions that are generally prohibited by federal election law.

In addition, the records raise questions about the Hart campaign's explanation of how a California video producer, Stuart Karl, underwrote thousands of dollars in campaign expenses in July 1984 in apparent violation of the law.

A Washington Post computer analysis of FEC records for Hart's 1984 race disclosed that $59,745 in excessive contributions from 74 individuals have neither been refunded nor otherwise cleared from the books.

Federal law prohibits individuals from contributing more than $1,000 to a candidate in each election. Campaigns routinely receive contributions from individuals who have reached the $1,000 limit, The Post analysis disclosed.

Many of those excess contributions typically are returned immediately by campaign staff workers, said Fred Eiland, an FEC spokesman. Others are deposited in campaign bank accounts, but the excess amount is later refunded and the refund reported to the FEC. Hart did return a number of excess contributions from his 1984 campaign, which is still at least $1.1 million in the red.

Documents obtained from the FEC show that, beginning in March 1984, election officials repeatedly asked the Hart campaign to explain dozens of contributions made in apparent violation of federal election laws.

"A sample review of your itemized receipts . . . discloses a significant amount of apparent excessive contributions," Benita Marcus Adler, then an FEC senior reports analyst, wrote the Hart campaign about its July 1984 contributions report.

More than a year after the first FEC warning, Hart's 1984 campaign treasurer Michael Moore responded to the FEC by saying an internal review of apparently excessive contributions was under way.

"We are in the process of preparing a detailed analysis of potentially over-limit contributions noted by the {FEC} auditors during their review," Moore wrote in a letter dated Aug. 7, 1985.

Moore also wrote that only $3,023.50 in excessive contributions had "not yet been fully resolved, either by reattribution of the contribution to another person . . . or by refund."

FEC officials said yesterday that they had no record of the report promised by Moore, or of any other committee filings that resolved the challenged contributions.

Hart's 1988 campaign has been scrambling to explain his finances since The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that Stuart Karl had paid some of the 1984 campaign expenses in apparent violation of the law.

Reporters questioned Hart about the campaign finance issues at several campaign stops in New Hampshire yesterday. He referred to the 1984 payments by Karl as "loans" and noted that the FEC had approved the repayment arrangement with Karl.

"I'd like to challenge {The Miami Herald} to put as much effort into covering my budget and my policies as they do to questions like this," Hart said in Laconia, N.H. "We'll see whether or not they're willing to report to their readers serious issues as well."

The Hart campaign said Wednesday that the $15,802 in checks Karl wrote to vendors for material for a rally at the Democratic National Convention in 1984 was billed to the campaign as part of a nearly $96,000 debt appears to be incorrect. The FEC records show a $95,000 Hart debt to "Karl Video" of Newport Beach, Calif., as of June 30, 1984. Karl did not write his checks for the convention until July. The next Hart campaign finance report showed the debt to Karl was $95,520. The Karl debt was settled for 10 cents on the dollar nearly two years later.

At Hart headquarters in Denver yesterday, Bernard Schneider said that all the checks written by Karl were included in reports to the FEC. He noted that the campaign's initial report listing a debt to Karl was not prepared until July 20, 1984, that it was updated in the report on Aug. 20, 1984, and again in 1986 to show additional debts to Karl.

Neither Schneider nor Hart campaign manager Sue Casey was familiar with the sale and leaseback of computer equipment and furniture that took place after the 1984 Iowa caucuses.

FEC records show $30,000 in receipts to the 1984 campaign the day after the Iowa caucuses in February for the "sale and leaseback" of the campaign's furniture and computer equipment. The payments were $20,000 from David Stein, an Orange County, Calif., developer who was a major Hart contributor, and $10,000 from Karl.

FEC rulings generally have barred campaign requests to sell equipment during campaigns because it might be seen as an effort to raise funds. Hart's records show that the campaign made lease payments to Stein and Karl in March and April, but none thereafter and the money owed was not listed as a debt.

Stein said yesterday, "I was looking to help get the campaign some funds, but I wanted to make sure it was legitimate." He said his lawyer told him the transaction was permissible.

On the issue of excessive contributions, Schneider said that every campaign received contributions from people who have already "maxed out." He said it was the campaign's practice to reimburse such contributors as soon as the campaign realized the situation.

Schneider said that there could have been some cases where the campaign failed to spot an excessive contribution but "if there are 50 or 60 like that, we're going to be very surprised." He said he would need details about each case to respond specifically.

Schneider and Casey both emphasized that Hart's 1984 campaign has been audited by the FEC. "The FEC already audited our 1984 records," Casey said. "They didn't come up with these things. They came up with some minor problems and those were corrected."

The Hart audit states that "certain matters noted during the audit have been referred to the Office of General Counsel." Eiland declined to say if the FEC is investigating excessive contributions as part of that probe.

Federal election law requires campaigns to make such refunds of excessive contributions in a "reasonable" but unspecified period of time, and to report each transaction in quarterly or monthly campaign reports to the FEC.

The total amount of extra contributions to the 1984 Hart campaign likely is larger than $59,000. In most cases, the contribution limit was exceeded when one person made several contributions to Hart that totaled more than $1,000 rather than single contributions in amounts greater than the maximum. To avoid overstating individual contribution totals, The Post analysis only added together contributions when both names matched exactly. For example, contributions from a John P. Doe and a John Doe were not aggregated, even if the addresses matched.

A review of documents filed by the Hart committee disclosed that Hart campaign staff workers had noted "apparent excess contribution under review" on about two-thirds of the questionable contributions. The remainder contained no such notations.

In 1985, treasurer Moore described in his letter to the FEC the method he said the committee had followed to clear apparently excessive contributions from the books.

"Periodic reports of apparently over-limit contributors were investigated by reference to check copies for each of the items attributed to the donors. Some items were corrected by this second check of original documentation. Most, however, required contact with the donors," Moore wrote.

"If, through telephone confirmation, the excess contribution was properly attributable to a related person, the designated additional contributor was entered into the system, and written confirmation of the reattribution was solicited. If the donor could not be reached by telephone, a written request was made. We normally sent at least two letters in our attempts to resolve the situation, before initiating a refund."

Staff writers T.R. Reid in Denver and Edward Walsh in New Hampshire, data processing senior staff analyst Edward J. Dolbow and polling analyst Kenneth E. John contributed to this report.