January 19, 2010, - 4:06 pm
Pop singer and native Haitian Wyclef Jean came under fire for his Wyclef Jean Foundation, Inc. a/k/a the Yele Haiti Foundation. Yesterday, Jean held a press conference to defend himself against charges made by The Smoking Gun. And Rush Limbaugh defended him on his nationally syndicated radio show.
Wyclef Jean & His “Charity”: Pimpin’ Out the People of Haiti
While I agree with Rush on most issues, he’s completely wrong on Jean. I’ve looked at his foundation’s tax forms for 2005, 2006, and 2007, and there is not only a lot of self-dealing, but not enough of the money he raised actually goes to charity in Haiti. In fact, the vast majority of the money goes to pay consultants and himself.
And, frankly, TSG was soft on Jean and his charity. Here’s my analysis:
Normally, a charity is considered to be an illegitimate charity if more than 25% of the money raised goes to expenses. That’s the standard guideline. But more than 50% of Jean’s charity’s money goes to pay consultants and caterers at parties, etc. In fact, only 47% of the money went to charity at most. In 2007, the last year for which taxes were filed (in summer 2009), the charity spent $569,050, and only $270,000 of it went to “program services” in Haiti. In 2006, it’s even worse, with the charity spending $1,038,528 in total, and only $324,500 going to charity in Haiti. That means that only 31%–or less than a third–of the money spent that year went to charity.
But the biggest joke is 2005, in which only $1,281 (a tiny fraction of one percent) went to charity in Haiti, out of $549,991 spent on “expenses”–consultants, catering, travel, office expenses, etc. A “hurricane relief benefit” held that year in New York raised $50,000, but cost $40,301 to put on, netting less than $10,000 in revenue for the charity.
And you wonder–since Jean has had a lot of fundraisers attended by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and other movie stars–how much of the $79,126 the charity raised in 2007 was contributed by him. Even if he contributed the whole thing, it’s peanuts, since the foundation pays him and his partner, Jerry DuPlessis –they are both officers of the charity–$31,200 in rent, each year, in 2006 and 2007, for using office space in a building they own through their company, Platinum Sound, which owns and operates recording studios. Their excuse is that they are renting the offices “below market value.” But why aren’t they donating that space–you know, the same way they are asking all of us, who aren’t wealthy pop stars, to donate to Haiti?
And, then, there’s an additional $100,000 paid to Platinum Sound in 2006, which isn’t explained at all. Add to that the $250,000 Jean’s foundation paid to Telemax, S.A., in which, the 2006 tax form says, Jean and his partner DuPlessis own a controlling interest, to buy airtime and production services. If you add it all up, Jean and his partner made more money from the charity in 2006–a total of $381,200–than the actual intended recipients (the people of Haiti) did–or $324,500. Again, they use the excuse that the price paid was “below market value.” Uh-huh. Sadly, that excuse doesn’t hold water when, in fact, 37% of the money spent by the charity that year went to line Wyclef Jean’s and his partner, Jerry DuPlessis’ pockets.
Oh, and by the way, in each of those three years for which tax forms were available online, a good deal of the money spent on “charity” went to “Hip Hop En Sante – Hip Hop Musicians Promoting HIV/AIDS Awareness to Rural Youth.” Hmm . . . how helpful do you think that was in a country where their houses were so fragile, they pancaked upon an earthquake?
Clearly, Mr. Jean’s “charity” is a scam and a waste of money. Best to give elsewhere if you’re planning to donate to Haiti relief. And sometimes, even radio hosts with the best of intentions and who are usually right on target, are misinformed.
Look at a charity’s tax forms and get the information for yourself. You don’t need to be a forensic accountant to figure it out, and all it takes about 15 minutes on a site like Guidestar.
By the way, if you think this is bad, you should see the paltry amount of money Sean Vannity and his Freedom Concerts give to their intended recipients. Vannity makes Wyclef Jean look more generous than Santa Claus. Stay tuned.
Tags: Charity, Haiti, Hip Hop En Sante, HIV/AIDS, Jerry DuPlessis, Platinum Sound, rip-off, scam, self-dealing, Telemax, Telemax S.A., Telemax SA, Wyclef Jean, Wyclef Jean Foundation, Yele Haiti Foundation