The White House and congressional Democrats yesterday renewed their attacks on the House panel investigating campaign finance abuses in the wake of a dispute among its Republican staff members over the conduct of the investigation.

The Government Reform and Oversight Committee's chief counsel, John P. Rowley III, abruptly resigned Tuesday, complaining that he lacked the authority to run a professional investigation. His efforts had been undermined, he charged in a resignation letter, by "the unrelenting self-promoting' actions" of the panel's chief investigator, David Bossie. Two other staff members quit along with Rowley.

With the Senate about to begin televised campaign finance hearings next week that could put White House fund-raising efforts on embarrassing public display, uneasy Democrats were quick yesterday to seize on the Republican staff turmoil in the House.

"Of course, it's a concern when someone . . . who's been charged with the responsibility of fairly conducting this inquiry says he's not allowed to operate in a professional matter," said White House spokesman Michael McCurry. "In a way, it's flabbergasting."

The panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), said the investigation is in "complete disarray, and is facing a meltdown. . . . It's time to end the House investigation and let the Senate do the job."

For months, Democrats have challenged the ability of the committee chairman, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), to fairly investigate the fund-raising activities surrounding President Clinton's reelection campaign. In March, they demanded the chairman's resignation after a former lobbyist for Pakistan accused Burton of threatening his livelihood after he failed to meet the lawmaker's fund-raising goals among Pakistani Americans. Burton denied that allegation.

Bossie, a young conservative who has been involved in investigations of Clinton since the 1992 presidential campaign, also has been a favorite Democratic target. Most recently, Bossie served as an aide to Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) when Faircloth was a member of the Senate Whitewater committee.

A half-dozen Republican staff members on the House committee -- some allied with Rowley, some not -- said yesterday that the three resignations were the result of personality disputes, not fights over the direction of the probe.

Rowley, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Alexandria, was engaged in a power struggle with Bossie and another veteran of the congressional investigations of the Clinton White House, chief investigative counsel Barbara Comstock, committee aides said. The dispute boiled over Monday, several said, when Rowley tried to fire Bossie but was overruled by Burton.

"There was a clash of powerful personalities," said committee press spokesman Will Dwyer. "Barbara and Dave both enjoy the chairman's confidence, as did John Rowley. Reasonable people can disagree."

One Rowley ally described the flap as a clash of "Hill think" versus "prosecutor think." Rowley has been a proponent of keeping the panel's findings tightly under wraps in advance of hearings that might not begin for months.

Sources said he has repeatedly accused Bossie of leaking stories to the press, including a story late last week about a call list of big donors prepared for President Clinton. Bossie vehemently denied leaking the story, committee aides said, in a series of conversations that culminated in Rowley's effort to fire him.

Since then, the White House has acknowledged providing some of the information for the story.

A Rowley ally also said Rowley was angry that Bossie accompanied Burton to a working lunch last week with Sen. Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate panel investigating campaign finance abuses. Thompson's chief counsel, Michael J. Madigan, also attended.

In addition to Rowley, a staff attorney hired by Rowley, James H. Rodio, and committee investigator Edward Timperlake, who said he was concerned about Rowley's departure, also resigned.

With the Senate hearings scheduled to begin Tuesday, Democratic officials yesterday accused Senate Republicans of burdening the Democratic National Committee with huge expenses by issuing what they claimed were overly broad subpoenas for documents.

"There is a clear purpose to burden and harass the DNC that is not related to legitimate investigative functions," DNC general counsel Joseph Sandler told reporters.

DNC officials said they have paid out $1.8 million in legal bills and copying costs so far and have run up unpaid bills of $5.9 million. They said the DNC is paying legal bills of current and some former top officials, including former chairman Donald Fowler and former finance chairman Marvin Rosen, but not John Huang, a former DNC finance official at the center of inquiries into whether foreign money was funneled into the 1996 campaign. CAPTION: House committee Chairman Dan Burton, left, overruled chief counsel John P. Rowley III, right, on firing the chief investigator. Rowley resigned the next day.