January 19, 2010, - 4:06 pm

Yes, Wyclef Jean’s Haiti “Charity” is a Self-Serving Rip-Off

By Debbie Schlussel

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.

wyclefjean

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.

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28 Responses

Someone needs to tell 60 Minutes that Wyclif Jean is not the salvation of Haiti. Their puff piece on this singer was an veritable advertisement for his “foundation”.

Tim on January 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

When I hear of a disaster, the first thing I think is… “here come the rip off artists.” Every disaster has its con artists.

goldenmike4393 on January 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Charity Navigator.org states: “We find it odd that the charity filed all three 990s (for fiscal years 2005, 2006 and 2007) in August of 2009. Charities are often not especially timely in filing these documents, but this is beyond late.”

Fred Taub on January 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Debbie how dare you ever question a Black Man? LOL. He is just like a PIMP who will tell all his prostitutes he will take care of them as long as they hand over all the money. Sadly this is the mindset of African Americans when they screw over their own in the name of African Americans. This isn’t the first and isn’t the last. How many third world dictators have took the money and run?

Thank You for the article. This post needs to forwarded. Especially to those who are making donations. Many people want to help and this scammer must not get a dime of anyone’s money.

As for Rush, I think he doesn’t want anymore Haiti controversy after his boneheaded comment about Obama trying to get street cred with dark skinned Blacks.

CaliforniaScreaming on January 19, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Here’s my take on it, Wyclef Jean’s charity if for the arts. I think Haitian’s citizens’ well-being is more important. That’s why I donated to the American Red Cross.

Matthew on January 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Outstanding investigative reporting.

‘Market value’ is always a red flag. That is the rationale that the banks and their accountants used to overvalue the toxic assets that led to so many bankruptcies and irresponsible use of taxpayer funds. Market value, especially in the thin, ill-defined markets that are relevant to this ‘charity’ is whatever the entity wants it to be.

I wonder if this charity, or Hannity’s concerts for that matter, were audited by CPAs? If not, additional scandal. If they were, how come the accountants missed this?

I also think you should affix your name, etc. to this post, since it is very likely to be plagiarized.

Little Al on January 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm

I heard during one of Rush’s shows that you emailed him a correction. I’m hoping you did it again.
Laters

Ed on January 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I can’t wait to hear about the Freedom concerts!!

cirrus1701 on January 19, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Ed

dittos on that!! Debbie is right, Rush!! Time to correct the record on the golden EIB microphone.

You folks who listen to Rush know that he says he “is documented to be accurate…..98.6 percent of the time!…” well, this is that 1.4 of the time.

BB on January 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for keeping us informed and your investigative reports. I’ve also heard the red cross is not the best to donate to…that 911 families were not given all the money they were suppose to receive. Perhaps you know more details on this as well? It’s a shame when those we look to for honest reporting can also be corrupt [ie Hannity] or misrepresent the wrong organizations [re:Yele&Rush].

freedom4usa on January 19, 2010 at 7:47 pm

I heard Rush’s show and I thought he was comparing this to the government charity that the president told us we could donate to(I don’t know between the two, who would donate the most of my dollar). I laughed when I heard him say it, I thought he was joking. Thanks, Debbie for setting me straight.

Penelope27 on January 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I have to disagree on this one.. Wyclef has not pocketed anymore money from the foundation.. Lets be honest most of us did not care nothing about haiti before the earthquake.. Wyclef has always tryied to present his people. You can donate to any charity you wish too. Because I think execs on most charities gets paid more than half a mil.. I do not see juststification to that.

yelefan on January 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Yawn….and the point is?? I mean really, who cares? No matter which amount of funds Haiti received, it was more than they had. You racists are just upset that the world is showing so much support for a poor black country. Get over it. Next!

Everybleedsredblood on January 19, 2010 at 10:15 pm

It is interesting and a shame that when a charity outside of the Red Cross is raising a significant amount of money, everyone wants to “investigate” them; especially when the organization is of color. The Red-Cross is NOT the only relief aid organization that can help people…ADRA was on the ground in Haiti long before The Red-Cross; and they are always helping. Also the catholic backed Red Cross is a rip of with all of its over-head and consultation pays to it workers…So before you “investigated” Wyclef’s foundation… you should have done looked into The Red Cross’s charity’s tax forms and get the information for yourself.

Nightwing24 on January 20, 2010 at 6:02 am

Yawn to you everybleedsredblood. I think that we are upset because we want the money to go to the Haitians…NOT in the pockets of people who pretend to care. Pay attention before you call people racist. You liberals (obvious by your screen name) love to scream “racist!” when you do not have any valid points to argue with. It is all getting a little old…and boring.

Angela04 on January 20, 2010 at 6:25 am

I see the race-baiters are coming up from the sewers again.

Shy Guy on January 20, 2010 at 10:49 am

Well from hearing him i want to believe what he said, that after this Haiti disaster he will make sure all donations will help Haitians. I gave Yele some money, I don’t really feel like a fool though. Guess I’m just trying to believe there is still good in people. *shrug*

Hayley on January 20, 2010 at 11:44 am

He was on Oprah today. I had stopped watching her last year after she shoved her lord and savior Obama down my throat..

I saw Wyclef, so I stopped to see whAT HE HAD TO SAY.

He did not like the way food was being “dropped” down to HIS people. He further added they were not animals.

He also confirmed he needed money for his charity and that ALL OF THE MONEY was going to the people in Haiti.

I do dnot believe a word of it. I am sick of people slamming our great country. I wonder how the supplies could be distributed since the airport was not an option.

Wyclef, go back to Haiti and stay there. You are a disgrace as an Americian. Take Danny Glover with you too.

Pat on January 20, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Debbie – Which day last week did Rush “defend” him. I listen to Rush every day and I didn’t hear him defend WJ. I heard him say he didn’t know why others were attacking him because he [Rush] didn’t know anything about his charity or whether or not the money would actually go to those who need it, but he wasn’t defending him. Rush warned about donating to anyone who wasn’t credible.

BT: Rush specifically defended him the day before the post is dated, thus the “yesterday” in the post. I even sent this to Rush. He specifically singled out Wyclef Jean and criticized everyone for criticizing him. And, yes, he defended him. Clearly you missed that part. You might wanna check the audio of his show on RUSh 24/7. He specifically defends him. DS

BT in SA on January 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I did listen to the show of the 18th. He didn’t defend him to the extent that you seem to think he did. I’m going to find the particular clip and listen again. I still say his defense of JW [who, by the way, I had never heard of until Rush brought him up] was that he didn’t know why he was specifically being singled out. He said “be very careful who you donate to.” He didn’t say, “JW’s charity is safe. Don’t donate to wh.gov” or anything like that.

    I’m glad you already e-mailed Rush. I was going to as well.

    BT in SA on January 21, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Check him out on FL Sunbiz, under his name or YELE HAITI FOUNDATION INC. Note the directors – one expert on offshore Tax shelters. Where have you seen this charity pattern before?

SIngh on January 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm

This just goes to show once again, that you just don’t rubber-stamp someone just because he is black. That is also a form of prejudice. Some rich people believe that they are the elites of the earth and because they are so smart,they are entitled to rip off the rest of us. As Througood Marshall said before Clarence Thomas was swiftly rushed into the Supreme Court. A snake is still a snake.(snakes come in all colors).Parenthesis mine.

William A. Goode on January 23, 2010 at 11:28 am

They are giving more than the required 25%. Is it wrong to charge for time and services? Some may say yes, but I disagree. NOBODY works for free. Salaries must be payed and yes even rent for office space is not an unreasonable concept. ALL charities have expenses. Nothing is free.

It’s up to the giver to look into these organizations and hopefully give to the ones where their money will have the most impact. Guidestar is a great place to do that.

I’ve read so much about the controversy with Yele. There are indeed other groups who are putting more money directly into Haiti. I’d like to see a well researched list of the organizations who are putting a high percentage of contributions directly into Haiti. Then let’s do what we can to promote THOSE folks.

Great article if for no other reason than the Guidestar link!
Thank you so much.

T Clark on January 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm

what a scumbag, should have seen that coming? like a 747 in a coffeehouse, he’s broke right? hum hummmmm…. con artist are broke,,,, walks like a scumbag! hummmmm would i let heathcliff handle my finances? hell no

ken on February 6, 2010 at 11:44 am

Anyways, what do you think of the “We are the World” remake?

Matthew on February 23, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Who goes on extended holidays to Las Vegas, the Bahamas and Ireland? Who pays for the good times and a general gravy train trail?

Parish priests who are monarchs of their Parishes, Bishops who are monarchs of their Diocesses, and the religoius generally who enjoy the greates freedoms in doing nothing else but counting the millions subscribed by the public to the alleviation of poverty.

The best game in any town — and that is any town in the Western world — is the religious game: and the bishops and their parish priests are the most strategically placed individuals to manage both parish and diocessan funds. But even more important than the structured donations to the ‘holy ones’, there are the endless billions accruing to the charities, most often unregistered charities, charities that the state could not be bothered monitoring or supvervising. And when the state and its secular agents fail or refuse to monitor these charities, then the priests are totally in control of all the funds that are meant to go to all kinds of charitable ends, but which never quite reach beyond the private accounts of the priests.

Priests, after all, like the two recent ones in Florida, work a world-wide business in extracting monies from the public, the state, and other institutions. They are always working behind the guise of doing the good work for others. So much can be done for this charity and that charity,and which is never really scrutinised or examined.

No one doubts that the RC Church is probably the richest institution in the world. No one doubts that the Pope — except for Jesuits, Opus Dei, and other privileged groups — doesn’t pay that much for the dedicated work they perform. And in the end of the day, all this Christian work goes to put Catholic money in Vatican banks. So, what if they decide to re-write the Pope’s contract? The Pope , after all, does not spare the horses when it comes to expenditure on either himself or his curia. As far as the Vatican is concerned the Vows of Charity, Obedience and Chastity do not apply to those closest to the top of the hierarchical pyrimid. So, why shouldn’t the workers of the parishes, especially the rich sunshine parishes in America, Australia, Mexico, the Phillipines and South America — parishes in which the Chruch has more money than good sense, and where people would prefer to put themselves on a cross rather than ask the parish priest a direct question as to how they manage the millions they collect.

Isn’t it time for the secular state to do its duty and stop pussy-footing with its privileged citizens. Priests have no secular responsibilities; they have abjured woman, children and family life. Why should they run these charities with impunity? And why should they be above the tax-paying public and above the law of the land?

It’s time for the negligent secular state to do its duty by its citizens and obey its own laws.

Seamus Breathnach

seamusbreathnach on April 26, 2010 at 4:36 pm

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