Lee Radek, a lawyer at the Justice Department and former chief of its Public Integrity Section, died Feb. 2 at the Inova HealthPlex medical facility in Alexandria, Va. He was 69.
He had a heart attack, said his wife, Jill Radek.
Radek worked for the Justice Department for more than three decades, beginning in 1971 when he joined the criminal division as a trial lawyer. Five years later, he moved to the fledgling Public Integrity Section, which was created in the wake of the Watergate scandal and tasked with the investigation of corruption by public officials.
Over the next decade and a half, Radek helped handle high-profile investigations, including Operation Ill Wind, a Pentagon procurement scandal in the 1980s that led to dozens of convictions.
He rose to deputy chief before a two-year hiatus as head of the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture office.
In 1994, he returned to the Public Integrity Section as chief. In that role, he became entangled in a politically charged debate over the investigation of fundraising activities by the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign in 1996.
Among other allegations, Vice President Al Gore was accused of illegally making fundraising solicitations from the White House and, subsequently, misrepresenting his knowledge of how the funds were to be used.
The attorney general, Janet Reno, declined to appoint an independent counsel to pursue the case, over the objections of several Justice Department officials, congressional Republicans and Louis Freeh, then director of the FBI .
Reno was reported to have made her decision relying heavily on advice from Radek.
In testimony before a Senate subcommittee in 2000, Radek compared his office after Clinton’s reelection to a “a pressure cooker." But he added that the pressure was “to do the job, to do it vigorously and to do it well."