'Three Cups' charity pledges 'full transparency'
HELENA — The family friend of Greg Mortenson who has stepped in to run the Central Asia Institute while the "Three Cups of Tea" co-author is hospitalized promised Wednesday "full transparency" into how the charity's finances are managed.
AP Photo/Department of Defense, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
In this July 15, 2009 file photo released by Department of Defense, "Three Cups of Tea" co-author Greg Mortenson shows the locations of future village schools to U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the opening of Pushghar Village Girls School 60 miles north of Kabul in Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan. Montana's attorney general on Tuesday told The Associated Press that he has launched an inquiry into the charity run by Mortenson, following investigations by "60 Minutes" and author Jon Krakauer into inaccuracies in the book.
Mortenson has been hospitalized in Bozeman and is awaiting surgery next week for a hole in his aortic ventricular wall. He checked into the hospital in the aftermath of reports by "60 Minutes" and author Jon Krakauer that Mortenson lied about events in several parts of his best-selling book and may have financially benefited from the Central Asia Institute.
Anne Beyersdorfer, an independent public relations professional from Washington, D.C., has volunteered to run the Central Asia Institute's operations while Mortenson is hospitalized.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Beyersdorfer declined to speak about Mortenson's condition, but she said he has been overly extended for months and "all that is in in his heart is the mission and the kids."
"He is an amazing human being. He'll be OK. He has a broader perspective than most people I know. We will let him heal and he will probably see this as a teaching experience," she said.
She said attorneys for the Central Asia Institute have spoken with Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock's office, which opened an inquiry into the charity after the reports surfaced questioning how its finances have been managed. She pledged cooperation with Bullock and his staff and said financial information going back years are posted on the charity's website.
"We are all about full transparency and communicating with whom we need to be clear about the works we do," she said.
Beyersdorfer said much of her time has been spent responding to concerns by donors who contributed money to build schools and promote education in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Central Asia Institute also has received a large volume of calls and emails in support of Mortenson, she said.
Beyersdorfer's public relations clients have included political candidates, nonprofit organizations, corporations and industrial firms, she said. She volunteered because of her ties to Mortenson and because she cares about the work he does, she said, but she acknowledged her professional experience will be useful in helping the charity deal with the aftermath of the "60 Minutes" and Krakauer reports.
"Three Cups of Tea" was released in 2006 and sold more than 3 million copies. That notoriety helped Mortenson grow the Central Asia Institute by generating more than $50 million in donations.
According to the charity's website, it has "successfully established over 170 schools" and helped educate over 68,000 students, with an emphasis on girls' education."
Krakauer wrote in his recently published "Three Cups of Deceit" that Mortenson lied about events in his books and about the number of schools he built. Krakauer also reported that charity proceeds were spent on chartered jets, equipment and advertising for Mortenson's books, even though the charity doesn't receive any royalties.
"60 Minutes reported that only 41 percent of the Central Asia Institutes income goes toward schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A larger percentage is spent on travel and appearances across the U.S., and on advertising and purchases of Mortenson's books.
In a recent interview with Outside magazine, Mortenson said he had done nothing wrong and that much of that money goes toward educating people in the U.S. about the need for the schools.