Shortly after he resigned in early 1985 as Vice President Bush's chief of staff, retired admiral Daniel J. Murphy flew to the Bahamas in an attempt to persuade that nation's prime minister, Lynden O. Pindling, to retain his services in negotiations with the United States on a proposed treaty against money laundering.

The two did not hit it off and, as Murphy explained in recent Senate testimony, Pindling "kind of threw me out of the office."

But Pindling -- whose government has been repeatedly accused of cozy relations with drug traffickers -- recognized he needed well-connected U.S. representation anyway. He soon turned to another firm with close ties to Bush: Black Manafort Stone & Kelly, which received $1 million in fees from Pindling's government in 1985 and 1986 after promising to mount "a counteroffensive to Pindling critics" and improve the beleaguered prime minister's sullied image in the United States.

The relationships between some of Bush's senior campaign aides and Pindling, coming on the heels of similar disclosures about Bush adviser Stuart Spencer and Panamanian leader Manuel Antonio Noriega, this week have flared up as a seemingly made-to-order Democratic campaign issue.

House Democrats attacked the lobbying ties as another example of the Reagan administration's "sleaze factor," noting that the Black, Manafort lobbying firm -- which had openly touted its "personal relationships" with senior Reagan administration officials -- includes three advisers to the George Bush-Dan Quayle presidential campaign, including director of scheduling Paul Manafort.

"It's no wonder that George Bush has been losing the war on drugs," said Leslie Dach, the communications director for the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis. "His headquarters was working for the other side."

But Republican campaign officials yesterday cried foul and pointed out that, in the high-powered world of Washington lobbying, where success hinges on the perception of bipartisan influence, the issue cuts both ways.

"We didn't work for Pindling, we worked for the government of the Bahamas," said Charles Black, a principal in the Black, Manafort firm, who is serving as an unpaid Bush adviser. "They came to town and said they wanted to improve their relations with the U.S. and we told them, if your goal is to be cooperative, we can help you.

"We accomplished a lot in furthering the war on drugs," he added. "The reason all this is coming up is this is a political campaign and the Democrats do not have issues they can work on so they're taking cheap shots at the people that are working for Bush."

The Black, Manafort firm has collected hefty fees from a number of foreign lobbying clients, including the anticommunist Angolan rebels lead by Jonas Savimbi. But Republicans pointed out it is far from an exclusively Republican firm because it also includes a number of prominent Democrats, such as Peter Kelly, a former Democratic Party treasurer and a Dukakis fund-raiser.

In addition, well-known Democratic campaign consultant David Sawyer -- one of whose partners is helping to coordinate Dukakis' media -- acknowledged yesterday that his firm worked with Republican Spencer in Panama at a time Noriega was coming under fire in the United States.

Sawyer, who heads the Sawyer-Miller Group media firm, said that one of his then partners -- Joel McCleary, the former Democratic Party national treasurer -- provided "assistance" to Spencer in meetings with Noriega.

Although Democrats have accused Spencer of collecting $359,627 in fees from Noriega, Sawyer said yesterday that the flap was a "nonissue" because the goal of both firms that worked on the contract was "to persuade Noriega to restore civilian authority" after Noriega had fired that nation's elected president, Nicolas Ardito Barletta.

Sawyer said he does not recall how much his firm was paid and the figure has not been publicly reported because the Sawyer-Miller firm did no lobbying work for the Panamanian government in the United States. Nevertheless, Sawyer -- whose partner Scott Miller is coordinating Dukakis' media -- said he does not distinguish between the work his firm did and the work Spencer's firm, Hecht & Associates, performed.

"We were not working for Noriega . . . and I think it's unfair to categorize him {Spencer} as a lackey of Noriega," said Sawyer, whose firm also represents the government of Colombia. "I don't think it's a legitimate issue."

Consultants on both sides said yesterday the campaign flap over foreign lobbying could expand into other areas that could be embarrassing.

Aside from the work he did for Panama, for example, Spencer during the early 1980s was a registered lobbyist for South Africa. The firm he later merged with -- Hecht & Associates -- received about $350,000 in fees for lobbying for the South Africans against economic sanctions in 1984 and 1985.

But several firms headed by well-known Democrats also have lobbied for the South Africans. And one of Pindling's closest allies in the United States has been Jesse L. Jackson, who compared the Bahamian to Jesus Christ and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech at a 1986 banquet in Nassau.

Nevertheless, several Democrats said the most egregious aspect of the Black, Manafort arrangement was the unusually blunt language it used to sell its services to the Bahamas. In a 20-page proposal, the Black, Manafort firm touted its "personal knowledge" of top Reagan administration officials and claimed that its "personal relationships" with State Department officials could be used "to upgrade a backchannel relationship" to the Bahamians' advantage.

"That proposal was a sales pitch," said Black, "and frankly, it had some hyperbole in it and it wasn't as carefully edited as it might have been had we known it was going to be a public document."