The Utah Republican Party seems to have taken lessons on putting a good spin on bad publicity from Boston Red Sox slugger Wade Boggs.

He's the man who said last year after his long, extramarital affair became public, "Hey, it's not like I killed anyone or robbed a bank."In other words, when accused of adultery, plead not guilty to murder and robbery.

The Utah Republican Party seems to be handling a negative story in a similar way.

It agreed recently to pay a $10,000 fine to the Federal Election Commission for numerous campaign violations in 1986 involving races of three current Republican office-holders - Salt Lake County Commissioner Tom Shimizu, Rep. Jim Hansen and Sen. Jake Garn.

When Rep. Beryl Anthony Jr., D-Ark., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blasted Utahns for what he called blatantly breaking the law, the GOP offered this spin control:

"Anthony's statement is irresponsible," said Greg Hopkins, the executive director of the party. "At no time did the FEC even hint that the errors were intentional, and they weren't. We simply paid for some advertising out of the wrong accounts. It won't happen again."

But the list of campaign violations is so long, the results so serious and the explanations weak enough that even casual observers have to wonder whether Republicans had even some tiny intent sometime to break the law.

Consider some of the violations:

- The party spent $51,885 more than legally allowed on mailings and radio ads for Shimizu, who ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and for Hansen. The party had assigned responsibility to make any such expenditures to the National Republican Congressional Committee but then spent the money anyway.

- Most of the money came from accounts that by law cannot be spent on federal races because they contain money from corporations and labor unions, which are not allowed to contribute directly to federal races but may do so for state races.

- The ads paid for by the money did not include required disclaimers saying who had financed them.

- The party did not report the expenditure to the FEC.

- After that was discovered, the party said it didn't have to report the expenses anyway because they were for work by volunteers - which is exempt from reporting rules. But those rules do not exempt paid political ads, just materials used to help foster work by volunteers - such as distributing brochures door to door.

But a report by the FEC counsel said volunteers only picked up mailings from the printer, stamped them with a non-profit organization seal and delivered them to a company whose employees attached labels, sorted, bundled and mailed them.

The report said Republicans "thus essentially argue that the touching of each mailer by an individual volunteer transforms an otherwise commercial operation into exempt activity. This is squarely at odds with the legislative intent."

- The party did not report an additional $5,059 spent on behalf of Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, who was also up for re-election in 1986. It was for a mailing asking voters to support both Garn and Shimizu. The letter cost twice that much, but the FEC counted half as among the earlier costs spent illegally for Shimizu.

On top of all that, when the story about the $10,000 fine first broke, the Republican Party put out a statement saying it had reported the violations to the FEC - which sounded strange.

Hopkins then more fully explained the party found the violations and reported them - but after the FEC had already initiated an investigation because of complaints by Owens' campaign.

The illegal spending did not hurt Owens - he won in 1986 and was re-elected in 1988. But it may have cost Democrat Gunn McKay the election in 1986, which he lost to Hansen by 3 percentage points. McKay said that illegal spending likely was the difference - because he ran out of money and couldn't reply to late charges by Hansen.

Republicans say the people responsible for the problems are no longer managing the state party, and the party has taken steps to see such problems do not recur.

And, hey, it's not like they killed anyone or robbed a bank either.