Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) sparred again yesterday with interrogators before the Senate ethics committee. But it was former attorney general Griffin B. Bell's folksy testimony on ethical standards that captured the attention of committee members.

DeConcini was the final senator to testify about the intervention by five of them with federal regulators for savings and loan operator Charles H. Keating Jr. Closing arguments in the case are scheduled Wednesday.

DeConcini said special counsel Robert S. Bennett was using hearsay evidence to ask accusatory questions on why DeConcini called a California state official about the sale of Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan in 1989. He also engaged in sharp exchanges with John Dowd, attorney for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), over whether DeConcini was trying to hurt McCain with his testimony.

Committee member Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said DeConcini should have seen "red flags saying this guy {Keating} could be trouble" by the time of the proposed sale in 1989, shortly before regulators seized Lincoln. DeConcini said he was trying to save 2,000 jobs in his state.

Bell, who headed the Justice Department under President Jimmy Carter and was vice chairman of a Bush administration ethics commission, triggered a wide-ranging philosophical discussion of the standards committee members might use in judging the conduct of their colleagues.

Sens. DeConcini, McCain, Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), John Glenn (D-Ohio) and Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.) have all denied there was any link between their actions for Keating and the $1.3 million he raised for their campaigns and causes.

Bell said that from his limited review of the evidence in the case, he did not think any of the senators acted improperly in their dealings with regulators for Keating. He said he wanted to testify for DeConcini because he was "worried" the Senate might end up with a rule that would prohibit citizens from seeking help from a member of Congress to whom they had made a donation. "I feel I have lost some of my rights in my life and I don't want to lose any more," he said.

Bell said that while he was attorney general, he was approached by many members of Congress, including Mississippi Democratic Sens. John Stennis and James Eastland, who asked him to review a Justice Department case on the eve of the proposed indictment of a shipyard in their state. He did so and let the indictment go forward. He agreed with Bennett that neither suggested how he should decide the case.

Bell said, when questioned by committee vice chairman Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), that senators have to be careful intervening in quasijudicial proceedings, which Rudman said included bank examinations.

And he agreed when Bennett read him a section of the ethics commission report that said government officials' conduct should both appear and be ethical.

Sens. David Pryor (D-Ark.) and Terry Sanford (D-N.C.) both asked Bell questions indicating they are unsure whether it is fair to use a standard based on appearance. Pryor asked if it is possible to devise a rule to cover all ethical situations. Sanford wondered how members of Congress "overcome the impression" that it appears improper if members accept contributions from constituents for whom they intercede.

Bell suggested to Sanford the amount of money one company can raise for a candidate should be limited. With such a limit, there would be a presumption that it is not improper to intervene for a donor, Bell said.

Bell said the ethical complexities of the "Keating Five" case are compounded by the "confluence" of events in the Lincoln Savings and Loan case: "If the regulators had been wrong, if Keating was the moral equivalent of Billy Graham, you wouldn't be here. But Keating got in trouble."