The GoFundMe campaign raising money to build Donald Trump’s wall on the southern U.S. border never had a chance of succeeding. And now it is undead, an officially failed effort that somehow lives on. On Friday, the crowdfunding site announced that it will issue refunds to donors, citing the campaign’s failure to achieve its donation goal.
In December, conservative activist Brian Kolfage launched a GoFundMe page called “We the People Will Build the Wall” with the goal of raising $1 billion to help get the U.S. government started with construction of the wall. Kolfage is an Air Force veteran who fought in Iraq and is a triple amputee. The audacious plan and Kolfage’s background created a perfect storm of publicity, and the campaign managed to raise $20 million. That puts it among the most successful GoFundMe efforts of all time, but still far short of its goal. From the beginning, donors were promised that if the billion-dollar goal was not met, everyone would get their money back.
Earlier today, Kolfage posted an update to the GoFundMe page explaining that his “highly experienced team” is “better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border.” In light of this revelation, Kolfage said that money from GoFundMe donors who elect to participate will be redirected to a new 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation based in Florida and never given to the government.
In an email to Gizmodo, a GoFundMe spokesperson quoted Kolfage’s promise to refund donations if the campaign did not reach its goal, saying that automatic refunds will begin to roll out soon. The spokesperson wrote:
When the campaign was created, the campaign organizer specifically stated on the campaign page, “If we don’t reach our goal or come significantly close we will refund every single penny.” He also stated on the campaign page, “100% of your donations will go to the Trump Wall. If for ANY reason we don’t reach our goal we will refund your donation.”
However, that did not happen. This means all donors will receive a refund. If a donor does not want a refund, and they want their donation to go to the new organization, they must proactively elect to redirect their donation to that organization. If they do not take that step, they will automatically receive a full refund.
At the moment, donations are still rolling in on the GoFundMe page (which complicates the official story of what triggered the refunds) and Kolfage is far from done. It remains to be seen just how many previous donors will choose to pass their money to the new effort, but Kolfage has assembled a rogues gallery of prominent conservative grifters to serve on his new border wall construction company’s advisory board. Some of the board members include:
- David Clarke, the disgraced former sheriff of Milwaukee who is the subject of numerous lawsuits related to abuse of inmates. Clarke is also a big fan of wearing shiny trinkets that look like military medals, but are not.
- Kris Kobach, the Kansas politician who spreads fantasies about voter fraud. Kobach oversaw Trump’s election integrity commission which was shut down without issuing a report after it failed to find evidence of widespread voter fraud.
- Erik Prince, the founder of the Blackwater security group. Prince is one of the shadiest people on the planet and oversaw Blackwater when its mercenaries were indiscriminately committing war crimes in Iraq.
It seems the only person missing from Kolfage’s impressive board of imposters and sadists is Sebastian Gorka.
However this plays out in the future, Kolfage has created an incredible model for funding a business that may or may not do anything. And though he has pledged to “not take a penny of compensation from these donations,” by shifting the goal posts along the way, he’s made it far more likely he will get away with profiting off this stunt.
And let’s face it, he learned from the best. President Trump started with claiming he’d build a concrete wall paid for by the Mexican government. Today, he said that he needs money from the American taxpayer and he’s no longer worried about whether it’s concrete or a wall, or whatever. “They can name it peaches,” he said.