The March 6 Wall Street Journal (if you subscribe) offers a day-after-Oscars look at how celebrities are manipulating the tabloids. Is it a surprise that charities are also involved? The story recounts this incident, first reported in the New York Post, about Ms. Jolie's arrangement to give a charity the first photo shot of her pregnancy, which then sold it to People magazine for a reported $400,000.
The Post article is archived, but there's another version of the story from the Daily News that ribs other celebs for not geting nearly as much mileage out of their charity ventures. (As WMN pointed out on Valentine's Day, you don't get anywhere with a run of the mill charity.) The WSJ explains:
By arranging the Haiti photo, Ms. Jolie reaped several benefits. She ensured the picture was flattering. In diverting the money to charity, she put a twist on a tactic used by celebrities in recent years in which they arrange to be paid for wedding or baby photos with the proceeds going to charity [WMN notes: magazines like People will not pay sources directly]. And Ms. Jolie reminded fans of her devotion to humanitarian causes. She had taken a hit months earlier when she struck up a relationship with Mr. [Brad] Pitt shortly after his marriage to actress Jennifer Aniston broke up.
Now, what is this Haiti charity? It's called Yéle Haiti and is a project of Haitian hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean. It has gone well beyond the typical celebrity charity model, for instance working in partnership with the Pan American Development Foundation (itself affiliated with the Organization of American States) on a project to clean up the streets in Haiti—literally—with garbage trucks and an ad campaign promoting civic pride.
The PADF, at $20 million a moderately sized international development agency receiving funds from USAID, is using the relationship with Wyclef Jean as part of a strategic focus on the Haitian Diaspora as a source for development funds. As PADF director John Sambrailo pointed out at a hearing of the US House International Relations Committee, 20% of the Haitian population and most of its skilled workers have emigrated, and their annual remittances of $1 billion represent 17% of the Haitian GDP.
A Guidestar search on Yéle Haiti Foundation (the name on the website) turns up no organization by that name, but other sources suggest that it is an operating name for the Wyclef Jean Foundation. There is a record in Guidestar for Wyclef Jean Foundation, but unfortunately the most recent IRS Form 990 on Guidestar is from 2000. It would be a shame if this organization, which otherwise seems to be transcending the stereotype of superficial celebrity charity, stumbles for a lack of basic IRS reporting.