A senior federal regulator told the Senate ethics committee yesterday that Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) was "negotiating on behalf" of Charles H. Keating Jr.'s Lincoln Savings and Loan Association when DeConcini joined four other senators in a "full-court press" in 1987 to get the regulators to go easy on Lincoln.

Michael Patriarca's description of DeConcini's role at the senators' April 9, 1987, meeting with West Coast regulators was in line with an earlier charge by Edwin J. Gray, former chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, that DeConcini offered Gray a "deal" for Lincoln at a meeting the week before on April 2.

But the testimony by Patriarca, a San Francisco-based regulator in charge of investigating Keating's failing thrift in Irvine, Calif., was by far the most pointed to date in identifying DeConcini as "negotiating" for Lincoln, a role the Arizona senator repeatedly has denied.

Patriarca testified before the Select Committee on Ethics in its eighth day of hearings on whether DeConcini and Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), John Glenn (D-Ohio), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.) improperly went to Keating's aid in return for more than $1.3 million in contributions to their campaigns and political causes.

During yesterday's hearing, the committee released a 270-page transcript of an earlier deposition by Cranston in which he acknowledged repeatedly soliciting funds from Keating and sought to defend Keating's nearly $1 million in gifts to him, mostly for voter registration groups that Cranston sponsored.

Cranston said he had to raise huge sums continually to campaign successfully in a state like California, and described the groups he set up as a "competitive operation . . . oriented toward Democratic concerns" to counter others already organized to register conservative Republicans.

"I see nothing ethically, morally or legally wrong with the amounts that were involved," Cranston said. "I will grant that it turned out to be politically stupid and unwise because it's caused an uproar that I regret. But being politically stupid or unwise is quite different from being ethically improper."

As to why Keating, a conservative Republican, would contribute to a liberal Democrat like him, Cranston said in the deposition, "He believes in participation. He contributes to participation. He is a patriot . . . ." When a senator faces an opponent who can raise over $15 million, as Cranston did in 1988, "You can't know what is in the mind of everybody who is contributing to you," Cranston said.

In his nearly day-long testimony, Patriarca painted a vivid picture of the roles of the five senators at the April 9, 1987, meeting, which was held in DeConcini's office not far from the ethics panel's hearing room in the Hart Senate Office Building.

"Senator DeConcini seemed to be the host or master of ceremonies for the meeting. I think he talked more frequently than anyone else. He -- well, it was my impression, quite frankly, that Senator DeConcini was negotiating on behalf of Lincoln," Patriarca said.

Asked what he meant by negotiating, Patriarca said: "Attempting to get us, the regulators, to change our position on the . . . examination, finding and conclusions, to more closely align with the position that Lincoln espoused."

The regulators not only were highly critical during the meeting of Lincoln's soon-to-fail operations, but also warned the senators bluntly that they were planning to refer Lincoln's case to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.

They also cold-shouldered the proposal aired by DeConcini, as recorded in a virtually verbatim memo by another regulator at the meeting, in which the Home Loan Bank Board would withdraw a tough new rule against high-risk investments in exchange for Lincoln's agreement to make more home mortgage loans.

Patriarca described the other senators as playing lesser roles, although he said all of them appeared to have "made up their minds" before the meeting that the regulators were wrong. "Basically we got the full-court press," he said.

Cranston made a "cameo appearance," dropping in, shaking hands, saying he "share{d} the concerns of the other senators" and then leaving because of duties on the Senate floor, Patriarca said.

He said Glenn was "blunt, got to the point very quickly, seemed to have also made up his mind that our behavior was somehow wrong, and well, that was it: he was blunt."

McCain appeared "uncomfortable being at the meeting and made statements to the effect of wanting to establish that it was okay to be there and to be having this meeting," Patriarca said.

"Senator Riegle did what I would characterize as a cross-examination, to really probe the basis" for the regulators' findings, Patriarca added.

Patriarca, who is now western regional director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, also described subsequent efforts by Lincoln to have its case transferred out of the jurisdiction of his office on grounds that it was being unfair to Lincoln.

When he protested, Patriarca said, he was told by Jim Boland, then chief of staff for M. Danny Wall, Gray's successor as head of the bank board, that political considerations justified the shift to the Washington office, which was subsequently made.

"You don't understand. There are things you don't know," Patriarca quoted Boland as saying. "We're doing this for your own good. These guys are so well-connected they can get you in ways you'll never know you've been gotten."

Robert S. Bennett, special counsel to the committee, interjected that Boland has denied making such a comment.

During final questioning of Gray earlier yesterday, Bennett read from committee interviews with Glenn and McCain that appeared to undermine DeConcini's case that all the senators at the April 2 meeting disagreed with Gray's contention that DeConcini had made a "quid pro quo" offer on Lincoln's behalf. Glenn and McCain said they did not recall one way or the other.