I’ve been reading about Wyclef Jean, like you, and his charitable efforts. I also read what looked like a damning report about his foundation from the Smoking Gun, a site that usually gets things right.
Tomorrow Wyclef will be live on “Oprah” from Chicago to discuss everything. On Friday, he’ll co-host George Clooney’s telethon from New York. On Saturday, Wyclef will return to Haiti, where he’s already been and witnessed the destruction. Believe me, he’s not going there because he has nothing else to do, or because he needs attention. Last week, Wyclef and his family were knee deep in dead bodies. This isn’t for fun.
The Smoking Gun was right, and it was also wrong. I’ve known Wyclef since the Fugees first came on the scene, and I’ve seen him evolve as a very important political activist for Haiti. Before this earthquake, he’d already given heart, soul and a lot of money to a country that is incredibly poor and in constant need of aid.
His Yele Foundation, which also is known as the Wyclef Jean Foundation, did file three tax returns last August for years 2005, 2006 and 2007. They were just under the statute of limitations, but they got them in under the wire.
What’s interesting about these returns — and readers of my column know that we often look into these things — is that they’re totally upfront about everything. For some reason, the Smoking Gun published only the 2006 return. But the more recent one, for 2007, is also available. And what that one shows is that the Foundation was running in the red. This means that their expenses exceeded their donations. Who covers these deficits? Wyclef Jean, of course.
The biggest bone of contention seems to come from a concert Wyclef held in Monaco to raise money for Haiti. The concert took in $150,000. The Smoking Gun points out that there were $97,000 in expenses. True enough — expenses for the production, which were too high. On the other hand, $53,000 went to Haiti. That, they did not mention.
We can all send money to Yele Haiti for Haiti — or the Red Cross or Partners in Health or any number of organizations. That was always the point of Wyclef Jean’s work. It was to raise awareness, not to make money. Believe me, Wyclef earns a lot of money as a musician and composer. He is quite a brilliant artist. His income is not derived from cheating Haitians. That’s ridiculous. So let’s applaud him for being there before this disaster, and during it.