House Republicans are downplaying a $12,000 fine levied against them by the State Ethics Commission. The Commission found that the House Republican Campaign Committee failed to disclose $185,000 pumped into 17 House races in 1998. House Republican Leader Catherine Hanaway of Warson Woods calls it a dispute over when contributions had to be reported. She denies Republicans tried to hide the contributions. The state Democratic Party points out the fine is the largest ever levied by the Ethics Commission. It adds the Democrats might have responded differently in tight races had they known the G.O.P. was pumping money into those campaigns during the stretch run.