Last year, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into conservative causes: $256,000 to the Heritage Foundation; $330,000 to the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation; $90,000 for the research work of Charles Murray, author of "Losing Ground."

The Fred L. Lennon Foundation did not have as much cash to spread around but it shared a similar ideological thrust: $46,000 to Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum; $15,000 to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund; $45,000 to Free Congress; $20,000 to Hillsdale College.

This year, these two Midwest foundations with ties to the political and intellectual right are part of a small network of conservatively linked companies, individuals and charitable groups channeling money into a different cause: encouraging the creation of majority black and majority Hispanic congressional and legislative districts.

The Bradley and Lennon foundations have given $100,000 and $25,000 respectively to Fairness for the 90s, an organization that is seeking to create some of the strangest political bedfellows in recent memory: the Republican National Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union, right-leaning foundations and the NAACP, GOP mega-fat cats and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).

Fairness for the 90s is serving as conduit or broker between the Republican Party and the minority and civil rights communities. A tax-exempt foundation first set up with $50,000 from the Republican National Committee (RNC) and run by Bill Crump, a former aide to RNC Chairman Lee Atwater, the group is seeking to establish an alliance of convenience between minorities and the GOP. They each have a stake, for very different reasons, in creating majority black and Hispanic districts and decisively white ones.

"We really want to help these guys {the minority and civil rights groups}, it's something we really want to do," said Robert Freer, a Republican lawyer who coordinates many of the activities of Fairness for the 90s.

"It's the pizza pie versus the doughnut theory," said Mario Mareno, Northeastern regional director of MALDEF -- and his group comes down on the side of the doughnut.

Blacks and minorities are generally concentrated in the center of cities, he pointed out. If the city and surrounding suburbs are districted into pizza-like slices, then Democrats have a core base in each district, but there is no guarantee that a black or Hispanic will be elected. If instead, the center city areas are turned into a separate district like the center of a doughnut, the suburban, more-Republican vote ringing the city is fortified.

The unlikely alliance means that after a generation of repeated success in presidential elections but constant frustration in the struggle to make substantial gains in contests for lower offices, the Republican Party is finally heeding the advice offered 21 years ago by Kevin Phillips, an early architect of the conservative revolution. In his 1969 book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," Phillips wrote:

"Negroes are slowly but surely taking over the apparatus of the Democratic Party in a growing number of Deep Southern Black Belt counties, and this cannot help but push whites into the alternative major party structure -- that of the GOP."

The strategic logic of these trends, according to Phillips, is that: "Maintenance of Negro voting rights is essential to the GOP."

From Richard M. Nixon to Ronald Reagan, Republican presidents rejected Phillips's reasoning and sought to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the key tool of black, and later Hispanic, political empowerment. Now, however, some Republican strategists have recognized the Voting Rights Act as a potentially powerful tool for the GOP.

Through legislative action and court decisions, the scope of the Voting Rights Act has steadily been expanded to guarantee the right of minorities "to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice," as the Supreme Court ruled in 1986.

The result has been the establishment of a near mandatory requirement that when new districts are created, every opportunity must be taken to forge a "majority minority" district, often with a target of a 65 percent black or Hispanic population. In addition, court rulings have made it increasingly difficult for legislative bodies to create multimember districts when there is a substantial minority bloc of voters in the district who could, in a single-member district, "elect candidates of their choice"; blacks could elect a black, or Hispanics a Hispanic representative.

These rulings, and the current GOP strategy, have placed the Democrats in an awkward position. Mark Bohannon, director of election analysis and planning for the Democratic National Committee, recently stressed to black and Hispanic groups the party's commitment to the Voting Rights Act. But, he added, "One goal of empowerment is to gain influence in as many elections as possible. . . . Beware of plans that pack you into super-minority disticts, that ghettoize minorities."

For Democrats, the problem with such districts is regularly reflected in statewide elections in the South. In close contests, the Democratic Party depends on a coaltion of solid black support and a minority -- often about 40 percent -- of the white vote. Such coalitions are difficult to achieve in districts that are overwhelmingly white or black.

In the South, where most of the new black congressional districts are expected to be created after the 1990 census, the Voting Rights Act and legal rulings already have turned into a bonanza for blacks and the GOP, and voting trends suggest that this will continue strongly into the 1990s.

The state legislative delegations of cities such as Birmingham and Columbia, S.C., were once dominated by white Democrats when elections were held at large in multimember, racially mixed districts. Now, with separate, single-member districts usually dominated by one race or the other, the delegations are increasingly becoming polarized by race and party. White Republicans and black Democrats are steadily turning white Democrats into an endangered species in the South.

Exit poll data from the 1988 presidential election show that the GOP in the South has gained an overwhelming margin among young, white voters. As they get older, and as more elderly, white Democrats die, there is likely to emerge a growing partisan division of white Republicans and black Democrats.

These trends are a driving force in the Republican Party's willingness to use Fairness for the 90s to offer civil rights and minority organizations free access to a $400,000 computer software package. The package permits construction of any type of political district: congressional, legislative, city or county council, judicial, school board. The program shows the racial and ethnic composition, voting history and other demographic data for each segment of a district as it is pieced together.

The program can be instructed to achieve a district with a specific percentage of minority voters. A central map would show which blocs could be added, and which could not, for example, to enlarge a district and keep it at least 65 percent black.

Last month, officials of a wide range of civil rights and minority organizations gathered at a conference sponsored by Fairness for the 90s and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Specialists in voting rights took careful notes while David Winston, director of strategic planning for the RNC, demonstrated the RNC's computer program.

Although a few civil rights leaders appeared somewhat wary, the GOP strategy appeared to be working. "I think people are very pleased to get that stuff {the computer program}. It will certainly be a great benefit," said Laughlin McDonald, director of the southern regional office of the American Civil Liberties Union. "There may be a bunch of Republicans who are very cynical about it, but I'm not concerned about it. As a civil rights lawyer, I would use the software to advance the cause of civil rights."

"From our perspective, it's great," said Mareno of MALDEF. "We are just concerned with enfranchising a community. We've long since come to terms" with the fact that Democratic incumbents will be hurt.

Fairness for the 90s has raised $465,000 in addition to the $50,000 from the RNC with a goal of $5.3 million. The fund-raising operation is being run by Sandy Baxter, an RNC employee. A dozen corporations, foundations and individuals have donated to the group, although Crump and Baxter said they had permission to identify only three, the Bradley and Lennon foundations and the Loren M. Berry Foundation, the president of which is John W. Berry, a $100,000 donor to the 1988 Bush campaign's soft-money fund and a regular contributor to GOP causes and candidates.

"Republicans have now put their money where their mouths are," Benjamin Ginsberg, chief counsel of the RNC, told civil rights, minority group and business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce. "We believe the Voting Rights Act mandates that the first districts drawn under any plan must be majority minority districts. This is a profound change, because normally incumbent districts are the first ones drawn."