Twenty consultants made more than $5.7 million over a five-year period for lobbying the Department of Housing and Urban Development to approve 51 moderate rehabilitation projects, the HUD inspector general reported yesterday. A disproportionate amount of the money went to build projects in states that had comparatively little demand for low-income housing and to developers who had hired consultants, the study found. Nearly half of the 20 consultants were former HUD officials and most of the others had close ties to the Reagan administration. "In earlier hearings we identified the rats," said Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). "Now we're starting to identify the cheese that attracted these rats." Until 1983, HUD dispensed moderate rehabilitation money through a "fair share" formula that was based on each state's housing needs. "With the waiver of the fair share provisions, there was no accountability," HUD Inspector General Paul A. Adams testified yesterday before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs subcommittee on housing, noting that HUD decisions became strictly discretionary. According to Adams's calculations, Florida and Puerto Rico led the list of states that received more than their "fair share" of HUD funds between 1984 and 1988. Both states also had the highest number of projects that were funded with the aid of consultants. California and New York received the shortest shrift, according to Adams's study. "It is obvious that HUD was used as a political slush fund where political appointees gave favors, amounting to millions of dollars of taxpayers' money, to politically well-connected individuals," Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) said yesterday on the Senate floor. New studies completed by the General Accounting Office, the Congressional Research Service and HUD's inspector general offer the clearest evidence that influence-peddling was a costly component of the moderate rehabilitation program. In many cases, the developers increased their profit margins by building in depressed markets, selling off low-income tax credits and using government-backed insurance to minimize risk, the reports said. John Ols, director of housing issues for the General Accounting Office, faulted the 3-year-old low-income tax credit program, which he said allowed many developers who were already receiving hefty HUD subsidies to increase their profit margins by selling the credits to syndicators for cash. In one 209-unit Denver project, the Winn Group -- a consortium of developers who were former HUD officials -- earned nearly $2 million up front by offsetting the costs of land acquisition, development costs and other fees with the proceeds from syndication of tax credits. "If they hadn't been raking it off this way, we could have been building more units for people in need," Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) said. Joseph Strauss, a former special assistant to HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce who formed his own consulting firm that did business with former interior secretary James G. Watt, earned $1.7 million in consultant fees, according to Adams's study. Other former HUD officials and Republican insiders who earned consultant fees included: Michael Karem, a former HUD assistant ($360,000); Reagan and Bush political adviser Paul Manafort ($348,500); former Kentucky governor Louie B. Nunn ($594,000); Richard G. Shelby, the political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($442,000), and developer Judith Siegel, who also worked with Watt ($361,000). In a related matter, R. Hunter Cushing, the former HUD deputy assistant secretary who has emerged as a key figure in the HUD affair, resigned yesterday from his current job as deputy assistant secretary for loan programs at the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration. Cushing, who took the $76,400-a-year job in May after leaving HUD, submitted a one-paragraph resignation that cited "personal needs." He had come under fire from members of Congress for continuing to hold a government job while refusing to testify before the House committee investigating HUD. "He needed time, and I think he thought it was appropriate to let the department fill the position and get on with work," Cushing's attorney, Randall Turk, said. The House Government Operations subcommittee on housing and employment voted to subpoena another former Pierce aide, Lance H. Wilson, to testify on Sept. 27. Wilson said yesterday his lawyer will accept the subpoena but that he had always planned to appear. Staff writer Chris Spolar contributed to this report. THE CONSULTANTS AND THEIR TAB Consultants have received $5,719,469 from HUD's Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation program since 1984, HUD Inspector General Paul A. Adams told Congress yesterday. This list shows payments to consultants as of last Monday. The names of those who served as HUD officials during the Reagan administration appear in boldface: Joseph A. Strauss, former special assistant to HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce, $1,684,875. Louie B. Nunn, former Kentucky governor, $594,000. Richard G. Shelby, political director of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, $442,000. Judith Siegel, developer, $361,000. Michael Karem, former deputy assistant HUD secretary for multifamily housing programs, $360,000. Paul Manafort, Republican campaign strategist and Washington lobbyist, $348,500. James G. Watt, former secretary of the interior, $300,000. Gerald D. Kisner, former HUD deputy general counsel, $282,500. Frederick Bush, chief Bush campaign fund-raiser, $215,000. Edward W. Brooke, former U.S. senator, $183,000. William Taylor, former Florida Republican Party chairman, $146,000. Daniel Hughes, former HUD deputy undersecretary, $145,000. Carla A. Hills, HUD secretary in the Ford administration, current U.S. trade representative and Washington lawyer, $138,445. Rick Price, former special assistant to the HUD assistant secretary for housing, $125,149. R. Carter Sanders, former HUD associate general deputy secretary for field operations, $110,600. Philip Abrams, former HUD undersecretary, $100,000. Lynda M. Murphy, former director of state agency and bond financial programs, Washington lawyer, $83,400. Ron Gatton, former HUD Chicago regional administrator in the Carter administration, Redevelopment Services Co., $70,000. Louis Kitchin, Republican campaign adviser, $25,000. Jerris Leonard, former Justice Department official in the Nixon administration, $5,000. SOURCES: Inspector General Paul A. Adams, Congressional Directory and Federal Staff Directory