In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday, former Fugees star Wyclef Jean has emerged as one of the most prominent advocates for charitable giving in his home country. His nonprofit, Yele Haiti Foundation, has already netted more than $2 million in contributions via text messages. But that charity has a "lackluster history of accounting for its finances," and it has paid at least $410,000 to businesses tied to Jean in past years, The Smoking Gun reports.
Though it was incorporated 12 years ago, Yele filed tax returns for the first time in August 2009, and only turned over records for the period between 2005 and 2007. In that three year window, Yele paid a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and business partner Jerry Duplessis $100,000 for the musician to play at a benefit for his own charity, as well as $62,400 in rent. The nonprofit also paid $250,000 for "airtime and production services" on a Haitian TV station that the duo "own a controlling interest" in.
Gawker points out that "[n]one of this means that Jean, Duplessis, and Yele Haiti aren't doing important work in Haiti, or that they can't play a constructive role in responding to the earthquake crisis," but "[i]t does mean that, if the past is any guide, they are unlikely to wisely manage any of the money they are currently collecting from concerned Americans on behalf of the victims in Haiti." To donate to Jean's foundation, text "Yele" to 501501 and $5 will be added to your next phone bill. You can also text "HAITI" to "90999" to donate $10 to the Red Cross. For other ways to donate to the relief effort, U.S News and World Report has compiled a round-up of nonprofits working in Haiti, while the American Institute of Philanthropy gives letter grades to charities based on the "portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency."