Republican mayoral condidate E. Brooke Lee said yesterday he will make the federal investigation of Youth Pride Inc. -- an organization cofounded by Mayor Marion Barry -- a chief issue in his general election campaign.

"I think every night we're going to bring it up," said Lee, who also charged that there was "a conspiracy of silence" by city politicians and the news media not to question Barry more closely about the defunct organization.

Federal prosecutors sent Barry a letter last year telling him he was not a target of their 2 1/2-year investigation into the self-help organization, which Barry cofounded with his former wife, Mary Treadwell. Barry testified before a grand jury in the case last Sept. 22.

Treadwell and four other officials of PI Properties Inc., a real-estate spinoff of Youth Pride Inc., were indicted in February on charges that they used PI Properties to defraud the government and low-income tenants of thousands of dollars and used the money for personal expenses and to finance private, profit-making ventures. A trial in the case is scheduled to begin Feb. 1.

Lee, who said he did not know anything about the investigation other than what he has read or heard in the media, told reporters at a meeting of the D.C. Republican State Committee that "everybody is talking about Marion and Pride."

Lee, a wealthy realtor and former Scott Paper Co. executive, said at one point that he would not have to make the Pride case an issue, claiming that it was "a self-inflicted wound." He added: "I'm only going to bring it up between now and Nov. 2."

Lea Adams, a campaign spokeswoman for Barry, said the mayor would have no comment on Lee's statements. "Mr. Lee will have to make his own issues," Adams said. "The mayor will continue to make competent, compassionate leadership for all our citizens the issue in his campaign."

Lee, who defeated James E. Champagne in Tuesday's Republican primary with 2,497 votes to 1,585, named Pride as the first of three issues that he would use in his campaign against Barry.

Lee said he believed that funds have been wasted during the construction of the city's new convention center, which is scheduled to open in January, but he offered no details. He said he was awaiting information on the project that should be released when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Lee said his third issue would be the operation of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, which has been criticized for failing to compile an accurate list of registered voters. On Tuesday, about 20,000 of the approximately 121,000 persons who voted had to cast special challenged ballots because their names were not on computerized lists at the precincts.

"I say the Republicans were not allowed to vote. That deserves a Justice Department investigation," Lee said, adding that he would await final results from the elections office before asking for such an investigation.

Lee also said he plans to revive a suit he filed earlier in the year, but subsequently dropped, asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to require reregistration of all D.C. voters.