- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

The Clinton administration has handed out $180 million in bonuses to top Justice Department executives since 1993, including Lee J. Radek, head of the agency's Public Integrity Section, who vigorously opposed the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate Vice President Al Gore.
Bonuses also went to Robert K. Bratt, former head of the department's international police training section, and his top assistant, Joseph R. Lake Jr., who were accused last week of mishandling classified documents and improperly obtaining visas for two Russian women.
The bonus payments are outlined in an ongoing investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, which is probing the cash awards program.
Mr. Radek, who received $47,100 in bonuses between 1993 and 1999, including $12,000 last year, came under fire in June when FBI Director Louis J. Freeh suggested he recuse himself from the department's campaign finance task force probe after telling agents he was "under a lot of pressure not to go forward with the investigation" because Attorney General Janet Reno's job "might hang in the balance."
Mr. Freeh said Mr. Radek's office was not capable of conducting a thorough investigation and he should recuse himself in favor of aggressive outside investigators whom he referred to as "junkyard dogs."
Mr. Radek also ordered federal prosecutors just before the 1996 presidential election to stop an investigation into suspected illegal fund raising by Mr. Gore at a California Buddhist temple. He said in a Nov. 1, 1996, cease-and-desist order that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles "should take no steps to investigate these matters at this time."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen A. Mansfield immediately shut down the probe and turned over the case to officials in Washington. The order said that since outside counsel might be named, the inquiry would have to stop. No independent counsel was ever sought.
Last year, Mr. Radek also was criticized before the Senate Judiciary Committee by FBI agents Ivian C. Smith, Daniel Wehr, Roberta Parker and Kevin Sheridan, who said, in unprecedented public testimony, that Mr. Radek blocked a search warrant aimed at stopping the destruction of evidence by Democratic fund-raiser Charles Yah Lin Trie. The agents were barred from executing the warrant at Trie's Arkansas office even after learning that records were being destroyed.
Mr. Smith, former agent in charge of the FBI's Little Rock office, testified he was so angry over the search warrant he wrote personally to Mr. Freeh to say "the team at [the Justice Department] leading this investigation is, at best, simply not up to the task."
Trie pleaded guilty to election law violations. In 1996, he gave $640,000 to President Clinton's legal defense fund, which later was returned. The cash included checks with signatures matching those on other checks and money orders numbered sequentially, but from different cities.
Mr. Radek, who recommended on three occasions that no independent counsel investigation of Mr. Gore was warranted despite contrary views by Mr. Freeh and Charles G. LaBella, the task force chief, denied ever saying the pressure he faced was related to whether Miss Reno would remain as attorney general. He said that while the task force was in a "pressure cooker," the pressure he was referring to was to "do a good job, to do it vigorously and do it well."
It was Mr. LaBella who told Miss Reno in 1998 that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore were key players in a fund-raising scheme designed to "raise money by whatever means and from whomever would give it, without meaningful attention to the lawfulness of the contributions." He recommended an independent counsel be sought to probe their fund raising activities.
Mr. Bratt, who received $67,000 in bonuses between 1990 and 1993, was named last week in a report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General as having violated regulations relating to travel, security, the use of contractors, and the hiring and promotion of federal workers.
As head of the department's international police training section, he was accused of "serious, substantial and egregious misconduct." A report said he warranted the "imposition of discipline," although no sanctions have been sought by the Justice Department.
Mr. Bratt retired and has declined to comment. Now a consultant at Science Applications International Corp., a McLean defense contractor, he was one of Miss Reno's closest advisers.
Investigators said Mr. Bratt used his position to improperly obtain visas for two Russian women, including Yelena Koreneva, with whom he had a "romantic relationship." They said Miss Koreneva and a second woman, Ludmilla Bolgak, "socialized extensively" with Mr. Bratt in Moscow. Visas were obtained for the women, although they were not used.
The bonus program is questioned in a letter from Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde to Rep. Harold Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. It outlines bonus payments by the department between 1993 and 1999.
"The committee has requested further information from DOJ about how it awards bonuses and will continue to review this program to ensure that DOJ's cash award program is administered fairly and provides incentives and rewards for exceptional performance," Mr. Hyde wrote.
Bonus totals paid prior to 1993 were not available. Mr. Hyde asked Justice in December for information on bonuses paid prior to the Clinton administration, but was told the figures were unavailable. In February 1993, the Clinton White House publicly criticized former Attorney General William P. Barr, a Bush administration official, after he awarded $108,000 in bonuses to 37 Justice Department employees.
Mr. Hyde said bonus amounts under the Clinton administration averaged $19.5 million annually from 1993 to 1996, but increased in 1997 to $28.6 million. In 1998 and 1999, he said, the department approved $72.7 million in bonuses a jump he said was "not explained by a similarly proportional increase in employees."
The Illinois Republican also questioned the "distribution of bonus awards among certain individuals," saying several inside the department's justice management division, which oversees personnel and pay matters, received bonuses including Assistant Attorney General Stephen Colgate, who got $110,900; Deputy Assistant Attorney General Janis Sposato, $82,700; and Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Connor Vail, $74,680.
The report also said Mr. Lake, who received a $5,000 bonus in 1995, "willfully submitted a false statement" to help Mr. Bratt obtain visas for the Russian women. He left Justice in 1997 and has been unavailable for comment.

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