President George W. Bush is warning Americans not to fall for scams trying to raise money off the disaster in Haiti.
"I need to put a pitch in for the clintonbushhaitifund.org," Bush told NBC's David Gregory. "One of my concerns around any crisis is that shysters show up and take advantage of people's good will and generosity. So for people who want to help, one avenue besides the established NGO's would be to tap on that website and we'll help make sure your money is spent in a transparent accountable way," he said.
Celebrity foundations, credit card companies and Twitter hoaxes have drawn attention away from the efforts of reliable groups like Paul Farmer's Partners in Health, the Dalembert Foundation or Doctors Without Borders whose cargo plane was not allowed to land in Port-au-Prince around the same time Bush was being interviewed this morning.
Ansel Herz, an American journalist on the ground in Haiti says that in the hours and days immediately following Tuesday's tragic earthquake, Haitians could only count on themselves. He writes:
"In the absence of any visible relief effort in the city, the help came from small groups of Haitians working together. Citizens turned into aid workers and rescuers. Lone doctors roamed the streets, offering assistance."
While the criticism that The Red Cross spends too much money on overhead is nothing new, reports about musician Wyclef Jean's popular Yele Haiti Foundation have been startling. The Smoking Gun reports the organization has "repeatedly had its corporate status dissolved for failing to file required state disclosure reports" and in August 2009 the group "filed overdue tax returns for 2005, 2006, and 2007, documents showing that Jean paid himself at least $410,000 for services provided to the foundation."
The New York Times reported Friday that the nation’s largest credit card companies — Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover — announced that they would waive fees for some Haiti contributions, after being criticized for siphoning off up to 3 percent of charitable donations for transaction fees.
Twitter hoaxes spread news of free flights to Haiti provided by American Airlines and free packages shipped to Haiti by UPS. CNN debunked both Thursday.
Meanwhile, the IMF has typical neo-liberal conditions attached to its $100 million dollar loan, and TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson told Democracy Now! that Bush himself was responsible for "destroying Haitian democracy" when he backed the violent coup to overthrow President Aristide in 2004.
This video is from NBC's Meet the Press, broadcast Jan. 17, 2010.