Haitian-American multi-platinum musician, rapper, record producer, and sometime guitarist Wyclef Jean.
Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean seems to be taking in stride weekend charges of fiduciary irregularities and personal profiteering from his not-for-profit Yéle Haiti Foundation.
The tiny charitable organization, founded by Jean in 2005, is finding itself with a sudden embarassment of riches. Almost unheard before it was lauded by the popular website about politics for young people, Rock the Vote, following last week's tragic, devastating earthquake in Haiti, Yéle Haiti raised more than $2 million – in $5 contributions -- in just two days, via text messaging.
A spokeswoman for Rock the Vote, through an e-mail in reply to my query this morning, denied any formal affiliation with Jean or Yele Haiti.
“Wyclef has been a longtime supporter of Rock the Vote and during this time we were happy we could support his foundation by encouraging our membership to donate,” she said.
She referred me to this written statement from the president of the foundation:
Statement by Hugh Locke, President of Yéle Haiti
Wyclef Jean, the founder of Yéle Haiti has never profited from his organization. It’s a shame that during this international emergency, we have had to divert resources away from our response efforts to address these allegations.
Yéle Haiti Financial Facts
Fact: Yéle Haiti, originally called the Wyclef Jean Foundation, filed a tax return in 2000 and then suspended activities until 2005 and so was not required by law to file a tax return until it resumed operation.
Fact: Yéle Haiti received a clean bill of health in independent external audits conducted in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by the firm of Tempesta & Farrell, P.C..
Fact: Yéle Haiti was guided by the firm of Grant Thornton LLP to ensure that all transactions involving board members Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis were conducted to fully comply with both the spirit and letter of the law governing such matters.
Fact: Yéle Haiti offices are located in Platinum Sound, the recording studio owned by Wyclef and Jerry Duplessis in order to save money. The organization pays only $2,600 a month for the space and a shared reception service, instead of considerably more for the same arrangement in midtown Manhattan.
Fact: Wyclef Jean was paid $100,000 in connection with a benefit concert in Monte Carlo in 2006, which was organized by a for-profit organization. The vast majority of that amount went towards costs related to the performance, including the hiring of backing musicians and other costs related to the production.
Fact: Yéle Haiti purchased $250,000 of airtime on the commercial television station Telemax in Haiti that is owned by Wyclef and Jerry. We have documentation allocating the hundreds of hours of Yéle programming, over several years, that addressed a wide range of development and social issues in Haiti.
Meanwhile, Jean himself yesterday denounced the attacks on his foundation in a YouTube video, and has announced that he will co-host George Clooney's “Hope for Haiti” telethon on Jan. 22. CNN’s Anderson Cooper will also participate, direct from Haiti.
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