Justice Investigates a Civil Rights Hero

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Ernie Green was one of the nine black students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957. Now he faces attention from a different quarter. The Justice Department's task force on campaign finance has stepped up its probe into $50,000 he gave the Democratic party in 1996, after allegedly arranging for a Chinese arms dealer to come to a White House fund-raising coffee. The rub for Green is that he told Senate investigators who were trying to determine if he had been illegally reimbursed by fund-raiser Charlie Trie that he'd never received funds from Trie, who had introduced Green to the Chinese official.

But when Representative Dan Burton subpoenaed bank records, he learned that Green had received $2,000 from Trie two weeks after the coffee. Around the same time, Green made 11 cash deposits totaling $30,000. He told Burton the $2,000 covered a bet and the deposits may have been speaker's fees. Burton asked Justice to investigate last year, but task-force activity has picked up with a new chief eager to wrap up investigating the 1996 campaign as a new one heats up.