Wednesday, April 23, 2014
What's New in the New West
Home » New West Network Topics » Books & Writers » The Greg Mortenson We Knew
My wife and I met Greg Mortenson sometime in the early 90s, long before he was famous or the Bozeman-based Central Asia Institute had any financial legs. He had come to Ketchum, Idaho, to tell his story and raise funds for girls’ schools in Pakistan. As I recall, his presentation at the Community Center consisted of a modest slide show about how he tried to climb K2, was befriended by local villagers after his failure, saw the crying need for education there and decided to launch a school building effort. At the conclusion of the meeting, Jean Hoerni, the wealthy Silicon Valley transistor pioneer and Greg’s early financial backer, made a brief appeal for support. Having just returned from an extensive trek in remote areas of Nepal, my wife and I needed no convincing that education, particularly education of young girls regularly sold off into virtual slavery and worse, was a crying need in that part of the world. Along with others at the meeting, we wrote Greg a modest check on the spot, all of $40. What impressed us was what Greg said he could do with that check -- employ a full-time teacher for a month. And although we had no way to check out the veracity of his claim, we were hardly betting the farm.

The Greg Mortenson We Knew

My wife and I met Greg Mortenson sometime in the early 90s, long before he was famous or the Bozeman-based Central Asia Institute had any financial legs. He had come to Ketchum, Idaho, to tell his story and raise funds for girls’ schools in Pakistan. As I recall, his presentation at the Community Center consisted of a modest slide show about how he tried to climb K2, was befriended by local villagers after his failure, saw the crying need for education there and decided to launch a school building effort. At the conclusion of the meeting, Jean Hoerni, the wealthy Silicon Valley transistor pioneer and Greg’s early financial backer, made a brief appeal for support.

Having just returned from an extensive trek in remote areas of Nepal, my wife and I needed no convincing that education, particularly education of young girls regularly sold off into virtual slavery and worse, was a crying need in that part of the world. Along with others at the meeting, we wrote Greg a modest check on the spot, all of $40.

What impressed us was what Greg said he could do with that check — employ a full-time teacher for a month. And although we had no way to check out the veracity of his claim, we were hardly betting the farm.

Over the next few years, we gave him additional modest donations to help get schools built and talked friends into doing the same. In response, we occasionally got thank you notes from somebody, perhaps his wife in Bozeman. It wasn’t Greg, who was presumably off doing good works on site. But the reports we got off and on about how our money was being used for the cause were quite convincing.

At some point, as Greg became more prominent, we stopped giving — partly because we never did receive any organized solicitations, partly because we figured he no longer needed the money now that he was on the best seller list and was hobnobbing with the rich and famous, and partly because we moved to more mundane things like trying to save horses in southwest Idaho from slaughterhouses in Mexico.

We did, however, continue to follow his career with interest and were very pleased that his ideas about education in Third World countries were finally being taken seriously by serious people as an alternative to the endless, bloody, pointless wars that were and are bankrupting our country.

At no point, from the day we met him in Ketchum as he was operating out of the trunk of his car, to the recent allegations by “60 Minutes” and Jon Krakauer that he fabricated many things in his books, exaggerated the number of schools, or used his charity for personal gain (a charge reportedly being investigated by the attorney general of Montana) did we ever imagine, or believe, we had been hoodwinked or lied to by this man or that our money wasn’t used well in a noble cause.

Of course, we are not investigative reporters, and we could be dead wrong. What we do know from observation and limited experience, however, is that being a “do-gooder” can be a perilous occupation and the more prominent and successful you become, the better the likelihood somebody, somewhere, for whatever reason, will try to bring you down, if not destroy you. And nobody is immune, not Greg Mortenson or Bill and Melinda Gates, the plaster saints of do-gooders.

Let’s face it: We are all imperfect human beings and have feet of clay. Our human failures can range from sexual indiscretions by presidents, priests and preachers to you and me padding our resumes just a little to get a big job.

In the end, all we can do as ordinary people who want to help improve the world in some small way is to make our best judgment about a person or organization and put our money down and take our chances. Whether Greg Mortenson deserves all this abuse or whether, in the end, it turns out he’s done far more good than harm, is an open question at this point. As for us, we will always believe Greg Mortenson put our money to good use back then helping innocent children get an education and a passport to freedom, and we’re glad we gave it to him.

And, if it turns out that in the ensuing years, he was less than truthful, cut financial corners, and misrepresented his accomplishments, it could hardly be worse than the gross misrepresentations that got us into Iraq in the first place, or the ongoing endemic corruption and waste of American lives in Afghanistan.

Dennis Higman is a freelance journalist and writer. He and his artist wife, Lee, own a small horse ranch in the mountains near Mackay, Idaho.

About Dennis Higman

Comments

  1. Tom Smith says:

    Interesting offering by Mr Higman.

    On one hand I agree that we are all human beings; even Mother Teresa had her shadow side, as we all know now. Yet…let’s be careful not to brush the Mortenson allegations aside as Mr Higman appears to do by simply contrasting it with admittedly much greater falsehoods and contradictions like the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Should we not draw a line at some point? I really think it’s ethically frightening to adopt a position of “well, at least it’s not as bad as (insert worse behaviour here)”. I hope Mr Higman and others will listen to the full extent of any wrongdoing and not sweep it aside because Mortenson happens to “be on our team”.

  2. PattiP says:

    Thank you for a calm and insightful article. I would just like to know when “60 Minutes” became judge and jury? why didn’t Mr. Krakauer go straight to the authorities or IRS to report a supposed discrepancy? Why does Greg’s wife hold a fulltime job if he is “skimming millions?” Why haven’t we had any documentation/seen any damning photos of the results of his personal gain in all this? But mostly – why are the words “fraud” and lies” being thrown around so carelessly when a man’s reputation is at stake? When Donald Trump is caught in an outright lie – that he admits to – that is called a “misstatement” in the headlines? Jon Krakauer is a rival climber/writer…does that say anything? Think about it!

  3. Dave Skinner says:

    I went to Guidestar (which was locked up for a couple of days over Mortensen’s Form 990) to look at the numbers. If you know what you’re looking for, it was quite revelatory.
    And not that unusual.
    I guess it boils down to whether Krakauer or Mortensen will have any credibility when this is over, and I bet on Jon.

  4. CTB says:

    So what does Iraq have to do with Mortensen? Oh, I get it – two wrongs do make right….as long as I personally know the wrong doer and like him. It’s ok for him to be bad because there are badder people and after all the some good came out of all the harm. Bullroar the first rule is do no harm. Not do some good and then let your ego run riot. If you find you are a good spokesperson but not a good administrator then hire someone who is. There wasn’t a little fraud going on here but a lot and whether Mortensen personally leads a modest life is irrelevant as is whether there are other corrupt people in the world.

  5. Brian says:

    Mistakes by priests, presidents and getting involved in wars, compared to a book of lies and taking people’s money. Let’s keep with comparing apples to apples. Please. If mr mortenson was so innocent or had nothing to hide, I’m sure he would have spoke with 60 minutes. Actions speak louder than words. Looked like pretty damning evidence exposed by Steve Croft and CBS.

  6. Max says:

    It is worth noting that even Mortenson’s chief accuser, Jon Krakauer, believes in Mortenson’s cause. If you learn anything from Mortenson, learn to place principles above personalities.

    Teaching children that they can make the world a better place is something I will ALWAYS support, and I hope you will too. In our society where a penny is considered virtually worthless, both children and adults need to hear that EVERY penny makes a difference. Given the choice between bombing a nation or educating its daughters, I will choose education EVERY time–and again, I hope you will, too.

    I support the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s focus on global health, NOT Bill and Melinda Gates. I support Pennies for Peace, not Greg Mortenson.

  7. Ann Miller says:

    Nice article and I do hope your donations went to schools and teachers. But, saying Mortenson is “on our side” regarding the ensuing military invasions, occupations, and bombings of other people’s countries, doesn’t seem remotely accurate. After reading “Three Cups of Tea” I came away with the empty feeling that Mortenson was missing the point and avoiding mentioning the obvious – we needed to get OUT of Afghanistan and Pakistan and quit killing people! Wonderful to build schools but doing so without even tentatively speaking out against our dropping bombs and maiming and murdering innocent men, women and children didn’t ring very “true” for me. When I saw that the Pentagon and Generals Petraeus and MacChrystal backed the book I knew something was amiss. Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit” is very informative reading and not simply a list of minor allegations. I think Mortenson probably had the best of intentions and a good heart, but that he’s also a chronic liar (often lying when there was absolutely no reason), and I think he enjoyed the fame and wealth that came from his story…. and very much of it was simply that – a story. I hope that more good than harm came from his work, and that the work of true humanitarians, those who help others without fame or monetary benefit (like commenter Greg Zaller), isn’t harmed by his story.

  8. Greg says:

    Not so easy. The most recent revelations pretty much indicate that there is something more sinister going on with Mortenson rather than the somewhat easily dismissable excuse of “we all embellish a bit.”

    Just as L. Ron Hubbard (as a failed novelist) invented a religion to make his riches, it is appearing that Mortenson invented himself as this great humanitarian to make his. Oh sure, some money has been funneled over to an organization to build schools for impoverished children in villages far, far away that no one can investigate, but in the name of what? In the name of great humanitarianism and giving back? Or in the name of covering for the riches that he, Mortenson, has amassed himself, built on lies, fabrications and a blatant misrepresentation of who he actually is and what actually transpired?

  9. jed says:

    What writer worth his salt has always been able to resist putting a finer point on a fact–or a more rewarding interpretation on an event?
    Mortenson has fallen victim to the same inclinations which have made Obama’s birth certificate the primary political issue in this country…

  10. James says:

    PattiP, did you actually read the Krakauer article?

  11. James says:

    Anyway, all the people on this thread trying to characterize it as “Mortenson versus Krakauer and 60 minutes” are missing the point. It’s “Mortenson versus a string angry donors, ex-employees, and people he distorted in print.”

    Krakauer and 60 minutes are just reporting what others are saying.

  12. Greg says:

    Jed,

    The point of nailing these authors on accuracy of their supposed memoirs is to call them out on intent. They didn’t start out as writers and had not previously been published authors. They supposedly had some adventure they wanted to share with us. They then used the book medium to share with us. We’ve taken the non-fiction account as truth at that point.

    When exposed as being liars and fabricators, it is obvious that they used us and the medium to pad their wallets, not to share an enlightening adventure with us. It’s deceitful and sinister, in my humble opinion, because it involves making money off of supposed hardships and triumphs that didn’t actually occur.

  13. Helena says:

    “Of course, we are not investigative reporters . . .”

    Duly noted. Which makes you someone with an opinion.

  14. Tom Chamber says:

    Right out of a TV evangelist’s (or the Emperor Has No Clothes) playbook:

    1) Identify a group of folks who are desperate to feel good, or be included in a celebrated cause.

    2) Seduce them with charismatic performances and extraordinary stories, thereby heightening their adoration for your persona. At this point, they either won’t check facts or irrationally dismiss them as a conspiracy.

    3) Plead for tax-free money. Intoxicated by wealth and fame, you keep an unfair portion for yourself.

    Are they corrupt?…Yes. Do they help people?…Yes. Can you get a better bang for your charitable buck?…YES

    In September 2000, according to Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson supposedly visited the cloth draped corpse of his “hero” Mother Tereasa. (She died in 1997…hmmm.) I’ll bet she kept HER hand out of the cookie jar. Just not her style!

  15. James says:

    “Are they corrupt?…Yes. Do they help people?…Yes. Can you get a better bang for your charitable buck?…YES”

    Tom, thanks for that fleeting moment of actual nuance on an internet message board. Few things are either/or.

  16. rykart says:

    You can find plenty of people involved in charity work who are NOT high class criminals.

    It is however, difficult to find high class criminals who did not contribute–often handsomely–to charities. Bernie Maddoff gave millions for lymphoma research. Enron’s Ken Lay, Ivan Boskey, Roland Arnal (The Ameriquest parasite who brought down the housing market), even Al Capone (he ran soup kitchens).

    It is wrong to suggest Mortenson did not enrich himself. He bought himself the most coveted luxury item of all: a halo. Those are pricey!

    Further, it’s not entirely accurate to set the horrors of Iraq against what Mortenson is responsible for. In point of fact, he has contributed to the US imperial mindset, happily posing for pictures with military vermin like Mullen and Patreas and selling the public on the comforting illusion we are in Afghanistan to fulfill our humanitarian mission to the long-suffering people there. Small wonder Mortenson’s books have been required reading for the military and are so beloved by Pentagon riff raff.

    Finally, I think there are a few real saints in the world and once in awhile, we can read about them in books. But when the saint being described is also the AUTHOR of the book in question, watch out!

  17. Jen Grace says:

    I love this article and couldn’t agree more. We are a country of hypocrites and its acceptable to financially reward some professions and not others. WIth no bearing on who is doing good things and who isn’t.

    The CEOs of our nation’s largest banks pocketed100 million dollar bonuses while wrongfully foreclosing on millions of americans. And no one blinks an eye. Why? Because we EXPECT it of them.

    Why do we expect people who do good things to not even make a living? If we can’t make a living doing charitable things that help others, then doing good is not sustainable.

    I don’t care if Greg Mortenson exaggerated how many school he built. He built more than Bank of America. And he’s paid more taxes than google. But he’s one man that is easier to take down than an entire corporation with a team of lawyers and a billion dollar marketing campaign.

    I too am not an investigative reporter. But I stand behind Greg Mortenson.

  18. James Bowen says:

    So far I haven’t seen where anyone has fact checked CBS’ allegations.

  19. Emily says:

    This article is a joke. Mortenson turned a non-profit into a multi-million dollar company. If you read the Kraukauer article you will learn there are hundreds of people who back up his investigation. Mortenson lied from the beginning and made an enormous profit on his lies. I hope Steve Bullock (MT attorney general) makes him pay back the millions (Kraukauer claims could be as much as $23 mil) back to the CAI. The sad thing about the whole situation is the truth would have made the CAI and Greg just as much money. As much good as Mortenson has done it doesn’t change the fact that he is a liar and a thief.

  20. Carolyn says:

    Until all the facts are in, including what, exactly, were Jon Krakauer’s motives, and until all evidence is weighed, including 60 Minutes Mr. Kroft visiting all the schools that have been built with the help of the CAI, Greg, and the money contributed to the CAI and Pennies for Peace, I see no reason why many of the human race race to decide that Greg is guilty of bad motives.

    This article is well written and well thought out.

    For those who probably attend public hangings if we still had them, why not go visit the remote war torn and Taliban scared countries where Greg has gone. Put your own lives in danger, help hundreds of girls and women have an education, better their lives.
    I know the women who has traveled with Greg on several trips – put her life in danger to accompany him – including having been in the location where the journalists were killed by Taliban just shortly before the heinous event happened. She would know if
    schools were not built or if Greg had not helped the communities build schools.
    In many cases the elders of the communities asked that Greg let the local men help build the school – That he didn’t have to do most of the work himself. That they knew what was best and appreciated his help.
    At any time in the past “Mr.” Krakauer could have blown the whistle – or his whistle. Why didn’t he? Why is no one, including 60 Minutes asking him?
    The human race seems to be racing to believe the worst of everyone these days – the innocent, those who have helped others. Tearing down any one good, shooting good people, accusing others– what is going on?
    I would like to believe that as a race we can do better.
    Some of the commentors in this space prefer to choose guilt without having checked all the facts from all angles. Why?

  21. Carolyn says:

    Tom Chamber and rykart – what is your motive in choosing to find someone guilty until proven innocent? Have you met Greg? His family? Others in his community? His wife, children? Don’t you realize that you are contributing to ill health of his family? The girls he did help?
    Halo? really – You are projecting on another something you want for yourself.
    Evil? How can you be sure. Your proof that he is a high class criminal – easy words to write on a comment page.
    Emily – What is your motive? jealousy? frustration? Can’t stand that anyone other than you gets limelight?
    I’m on the 60-40 side that you would all attend public hangings if we still had them. So easy to cheer at another’s troubles.

  22. Jan Stephens says:

    Dennis, I was so glad to read your article. You wrote what I’ve been thinking. Not only are those waiting to believe the worst and take someone down, some go beyond just character asassination. Thank you for your article.

  23. Emily says:

    Carolyn, unlike Mortenson I have no motive, do not seek any limelight and am far from jealous of a man who lied to the world to make millions. You were right on one guess I am frustrated it took so long for the truth to come out. I recommend you take the time to read Kraukauer’s investigation entitled “Three Cups of Deceit” which is on byliner.com and maybe you will get a better understanding of how many lies Mortenson told to make his millions.

  24. Carol says:

    As a donor to the CAI who sits on the board of three non-profit organizations, I found Krakauer’s e-book well worth reading. Nobody, including Jon Krakauer, denies that Greg Mortenson has done a tremendous amount of good. But clearly, transparency and accountability issues exist and no charity can afford to be less than forthcoming, especially when they have significant assets, as does the CAI. The fact that they have only three board members, and Mortenson is one of them, is deeply troubling in itself. For the sake of its very important mission–educating impoverished girls in troubled places–let’s hope the CAI takes the steps necessary to get its financial house in order before it is too late.

  25. krakauer's folly says:

    how soon people forget

    krakauer has his own detractors and allegations of spinning his own facts, namely sherpas who felt his book was so spun praising himself, that a sherpa and another leader wrote their own books about the same event

    krakauer of all people

  26. rykart says:

    Sorry, but if you want to try to muddy Jon Krakauer’s reputation, you’ll need to do better than that.

    As to Mortenson, I repeat: it is no defense whatsoever to say that he may have done some good or even a lot of good, unless you are willing to extend the defense to the likes of Bernie Maddoff, who also used a portion of his wealth to fund worthwhile charities.

    I find the self-serving tone of Mortenson’s books quite repellent, but there’s certainly no crime in being a megalomaniac. Having a supposed non-profit charity foot the bill for your megalomania however IS criminal.

    What really sent me over the edge however was Mortenson responding to the charges by saying in essence that anyone who questioned his tawdry fabrications or his gross financial dealings was ‘hurting innocent girls in Afghanistan.’

    That seems to me a worthy candidate for a Nobel Prize in Chutzpah!

  27. Mahmood says:

    Dear friends! I was following and reading articles, comments and blogs about recent investigation carried out by “60 Minutes”. I am an Afghan citizen and working in the province of Badakhshan (where Central Asia Institute is active for the last many years). Let me share with readers some of my observations from Badakhshan.

    1. There is no doubt, CAI has constructed many schools in Badakhshan and hundreds of thousands of students are benefiting from these schools.

    2. The CAI doesn,t seems to an INGO. It has got one small office in Ishkashim district and is headed by a Pakistani guy (sarfraz- an educated person) who was working as a skilled labour in Pakistan and is now heading the organisation in the biggest province of Afghanistan.

    3. For the construction of schools in Badakhshan Province , CAI brings all skilled labours from Pakistan without a work permit and valid Afghan visa. They cross to Afghanistan illegally. Greg knows about all these illegal practices but he never tried to stop it.

    4. I have visited CAI office in Ishkashim district several times. They don’t have the finance, logistic, procurement, program and administrative teams.The Pakistan person is responsible for everything. He pays to labors less than the market rate and he does,t keep any record for this. According to many reliable sources, he was used to be a poor guy and now have become a millionaire. He is owning many properties in Pakistan. Just recently he has bought a house in Islamabad (at the cost of 200,000 USD)

    5. CAI has built relationship with a local police commander in Ishkashim district who is a serial killer and is one the biggest drug smugglers in Badakhshan. CAI has rented his private vehicles for official use in Badakhshan. According to some people, CAI staff members are also involved in drug smuggling

    6. I am 100 % agreed with the investigation carried out by “60 Minutes”. Rather I would say it is a tip of the iceberg. I would recommend for a thorough investigation into this matter. You will come across many other hidden stories about corruption. According to the NGO law, all INGOs should submit their detailed financial and narrative reports to Ministry of Economy on a regular basis. CAI has never done this. We have not seen any CAI staff attending coordination meetings in Faizabad Badakhshan.

    7. The two books of Greg (three cups of tea, stones into schools) have written on fabricated stories. The projection is more than the real success.Good school buildings will not bring about a change in Badakhshan until you produce good quality teachers – provide students with good quality education. Otherwise, these buildings will not serve the purpose. Some of the constructed buildings are empty and these have been built without needs assessment.

    8. Two months back, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle published a fabricated story about CAI activities in Badakhshan: See the link: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/article_dd1688e4-1c55-11e0-bda…. According to this newspaper, CAI was declared the best NGO in Badakhshan by the Provincial Government. In reality, no such ceremony had been happened in Badakhshan. You can reconfirm this with the Governor Office

    I would recommend to Obama administration seriously and carry out a comprehensive investigation. The people of America have given a lot of money to CAI but they have the right to know where it has been used and how?

    Mahmood

  28. jay says:

    However the Greg Mortenson we thought we knew survives the current imbroglio, we can rest assured that the CAI will lose out to those fundamentalists who will not rest until all women are again chattel.

  29. Gabby Johnson says:

    Now it’s in the courts in Missoula:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-06/greg-mortenson-sued-for-fraud-and-racketeering-for-three-cups-of-tea/

    “In a sign of how Mortenson’s fall from grace is roiling former fans in his home state of Montana… both plaintiffs, Michele Reinhart and Jean Price, are state Democratic legislators in Missoula.”

  30. Susan says:

    Mr. Higman: Thank you for the simplicity of the phrase “open question at this point.” It does seem that many Americans cannot stand a pause of a month, a week, or even a day between published / broadcast accusations of some kind and the need to state, “They’re true! He’s a thief and a liar!” Some will even say, “I knew it all along!”

    Certainly everyone’s opinion is equally valid, but not every comment is; the ones that ask new questions and/or add new sources and information help develop a sane discussion while we wait to read reports from the MT Atty Genl, from Penguin / Viking Books, and any other investigations triggered by those accusations.

    Thanks to those above who’ve added in some way instead of spouting or regurgitating. Here are my current questions:

    >>David Oliver Relin always said that he is the author of “3CofT” but that when he got the galleys, Viking had put him as co-author. His remonstrations bore no fruit. WHAT DOES HE SAY ABOUT THE NUMBER AND DEGREE OF INACCURACIES? Has anyone heard or read any input from him since 4/17?

    >>Those who opine that Mr Mortenson has hugely enriched himself have apparently provided NO EVIDENCE regarding WHERE the money is. (Not talking on-the-ground corruption at this moment, but the accusation of personal enrichment.) Bozeman folk report no evidence of lavish living there. High-cost travel expenses cetainly can’t account for the many millions. Hidden bank accounts? unknown real estate? mistresses?

    We’ve got an Internet, folks ~~ start researching!

  31. Jay Greene says:

    Demanding that a thorough search be performed strikes me as the wrong way for you to go, Sue. My long experience with the species homo sapiens has led to to think our expectations are rarely met. I’m thinking that Greg will end up looking like he has feet of clay–just like most of us would.

  32. Susan says:

    To: Jay

    First, the name is Susan. Thank you.

    Second, “my long experience.” You are, what, Methuseleh?

    Third, why does one (“our expectations are rarely met”) preclude the other (“a thorough search”)?

    Balancing all of the continuing accusations and rush to judgement by so many around the world with a little work by each of us and a lot of work from the experts sounds fitting and proper to me:

    About the money: WHERE IS IT? About the first book: WHAT DOES RELIN SAY? Certainly you wouldn’t begrudge CAI and Mr. Mortenson that effort?

  33. Jay says:

    Having ruffled your feathers that badly by calling you Sue, I expect it would be well not to address you as little suzy!
    But I will say, nevertheless, that however objectivbe your search may be:
    Greg will emerge from your labors as a man with feet of clay; and his organization will be seen as perhaps not just self-serving–but as one of compromised integrity.
    It is always well to go into these things with a clear understanding that good is never an absolute…

  34. EyeNeverSayNo says:

    If you really want to know if 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer’s allegations are true, take a few minutes and look over Mortenson and CAI’s 2009 Form 990 tax return for CAI’s 2008/09 fiscal year, available here: https://www.ikat.org/wp-includes/documents/Financials/990FYE9-30-09.pdf

    Once downloaded, proceed to page 25, Schedule J, and note Mortenson’s additional “Compensation Information.” See the two boxes checked ‘yes’ for CAI having paid for private jet charters for Mortenson and his “companions.” Now go to page 10 where CAI lists its “Functional Expenses.” Note now the $1.4 million spent on such ‘travel’ (line 17) for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 2009. Think about that for a minute. $1.4 million of CAI’s precious dollars, donated to help poor kids get an education, spent instead on private jet charter travel in support of Mortenson’s book tour in just 12 months. And who benefits from the sales of all these books? By CAI’s own admission, not one penny of the royalties from the sales of millions of copies of ‘Three Cups’ and ‘Stones’ comes back to the charity.

    Want more? Check out page 29, where CAI notes that it spent more than $1.7 million on “book related expenses,” promoting a book which the royalties from sales go directly into Mortenson’s pocket.

    Put simply, this is a form of theft called ‘conversion,’ in this case, Mortenson converted dollars donated to his charity into book royalties and appearance fees for himself. And in a tacit admission that this was so very wrong, CAI now says that in January of this year Mortenson began paying for his own book tour travel. Which of course begs the question: Is he still flying charter? (lol) And more seriously, will he repay the millions of dollars CAI has already spent promoting the books from which he personally receives the only direct financial benefit?

  35. EyeNeverSayNo says:

    Susan wrote: “Those who have opined that Mr. Mortenson has hugely enriched himself have apparently provided no evidence regarding where the money is.”

    Only Greg Mortenson and whomever works for Mc Consulting, Inc., the Bozeman-based corporation Mortenson wholly owns, and formed in 1998 to shelter his personal wealth, knows the answer to that question. But we do know from the Nielsen company Bookscan that, based on his publisher’s standard royalty rate, his half of the royalties from ‘Three Cups’ totals at least $3 million and from ‘Stones’ more than $2 million. And according to CAI’s 2009 Form 990, that one year alone his charity paid $1.4 million in book tour travel expenses and another $1.7 million in “book related expenses.” I’ll say it again, what we have here is the crime of ‘conversion,’ Mortenson has been converting donations to CAI into book royalties and appearance fees, reaping millions for himself in the process.

  36. Susan says:

    @eyeneversayno
    @Jay

    Stipulated: We all have feet of clay.
    Stipulated: Conversion of funds occurred.

    Requested: eyeneversayno acknowledge that anyone with the slightest interest in this brouhaha has had the opportunity to read his explanation of evidence in CAI’s ’08-09 Form 990 and that he can now stop copying it onto every related website.

    Appreciated: eyeneversayno’s new info brought to the discussion, i.e., Mc Consulting, Inc. of Bozeman founded and wholly owned by Mr. Mortenson. Keep up the good work.

  37. nica says:

    I thought it was odd when I phoned his organization and asked if there were opportunities to volunteer at the schools allegedly built and operating in Pakistan. I was told that once each school is completed is turned over to the local people to operate.
    Realizing the exchange rate of Pakistan rupees and the US$, why would it take so much US money (millions of US dollars)to build schools in Pakistan? I have volunteered in Pakistan twice, and the purchasing power and the amount that one can achieve in Pakistan is amazing!
    Once an officer of a NGO told me what he wanted to accomplish in Pakistan. While at first impression it sounded great, after thinking about it I came to the belief that this individual (in no way related to Greg Mortenson) was more interested in what he thought should be built than what the people of the town in Pakistan truly needed. When I asked him ho much money he needed he quoted me an outrageous sum!!!! Then I knew it had no virtue or merit. Accountability should not be a problem given all the software programs and technology, websites and information.