As the “Three Cups of Tea” scandal continues to brew, Montana’s attorney general told the Associated Press Tuesday that he was scrutinizing a charity run by the book’s author, Greg Mortenson.
Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea is facing allegations that the charity he co-founded improperly helped him.
Mr. Mortenson is facing accusations that he made up large portions of the best-selling book, which recounts his failed ascent of K2 and subsequent decision to build a school in a Pakistani village that helped nurse him back to health. He’s also facing allegations that the charity that he co-founded to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Montana-based Central Asia Institute, improperly helped Mr. Mortenson by buying his books and paying for his travel and advertising costs.
“While looking into this issue, my office will not jump to any conclusions—but we have a responsibility to make sure charitable assets are used for their intended purposes,” Steve Bullock, Montana’s attorney general, told the AP in a statement.
The charges were made in a program aired Sunday by CBS’s “60 Minutes” program and in a 75-page story made available online Monday by Jon Krakauer, an author and mountaineer.
Mr. Mortenson denies the allegations, including that he fabricated his visit to the village in 1993 after coming off K2, although he has admitted to some conflation of discrete narrative events in the book.
CAI’s board told “60 Minutes” that an attorney it hired last year found no wrongdoing in the way it buys and advertises Mr. Mortenson’s books, as this brings in millions of dollars in donations.
The issue here is whether CAI’s actions amounted to a breach of U.S. tax codes which don’t allow executive officers or board members of a charity to receive excessive economic benefits from the charity. The charity’s board told “60 Minutes” that its attorney last year raised questions about the “excess benefits” issue. But after a review the attorney found that the benefit that CAI accrued in donations related to Mr. Mortenson’s books outweighed any benefit derived by Mr. Mortenson himself.
Mr. Mortenson said in an interview with Outside magazine that he’d hired a second law firm in January that had advised hiring other staff to make sure it is not Mr. Mortenson that makes decisions about how many of his books to buy. He also told the magazine that he, as executive director of CAI, had cut back advertising and book purchases by 80% since the start of the year, leading to a precipitous fall in donations to CAI.
Meanwhile, other commentators and blogs have questioned why there is a hullabaloo over Mr. Mortenson in the first place. True, CAI built 170 schools for 68,000 children but the idea that he had a solution for the educational problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan raised many eyebrows long ago.
Fuente: India Real Time