Daniel Popeo, the founder of the Washington Legal Foundation and a well-known advocate for businesses and free markets, died on Feb. 21, the organization announced. He was 61.
The foundation posted a notice about Popeo’s death on its website, saying he will be remembered “as a visionary leader, a tireless advocate, a compassionate colleague and a wise and generous mentor.” There were no other details immediately available.
Popeo, who served on the White House legal staffs of the Nixon and Ford administrations, started the WLF, which is generally seen as conservative, in 1977. He attracted some prominent legal minds to tackle issues that impact the free enterprise system and individual rights. The group has been zealous in filing amicus briefs across the country in business-related litigation.
“Dan was a giant in that field,” said former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, the chairman of WLF’s Legal Policy Advisory Board. “The array of talent he could assemble on a given question was amazing.”
Thornburgh, of counsel at K&L Gates, said Popeo assembled discussion panels that had every top advocate who had argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Popeo “spoke in no uncertain terms” when criticizing government policies in newspaper opinion pieces, but in private “he was a very self-effacing kind of guy, he was not a self promoter,” Thornburgh said.
And Popeo was persistent, persuasive and engaging. “I think he felt he had a good product to sell,” Thornburgh said. “He was a good guy.”
The WLF announcement said the organization will continue “its 34-year mission of defending free enterprise as the leading public interest law and policy center.”
Popeo worked at the Department of Justice, and practiced as a federal trial attorney in the honors program of the Department of the Interior, according to an author profile on Forbes.com.