The GoFundMe Campaign to Build Trump’s Wall Crashes and Burns

The crowdfunding effort that raised $20 million came to a predictable end.

Donald Trump inspects border wall prototypes last year in San Diego, California.Mandel Ngan/Getty

“We The People Will Build the Wall,” the effort to crowdfund President Donald Trump’s border wall, has run into a barrier.

Brian Kolfage, an Iraq War veteran with a history of peddling fake news, started the campaign in December to raise $1 billion of border wall funding through GoFundMe, the crowdfunding platform. On Friday, after raising more than $20 million from 337,000 people, Kolfage brought the campaign to a close. “The federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon,” he wrote.

A GoFundMe spokesman tells Mother Jones that Kolfage told potential donors on the campaign page, “If we don’t reach our goal or come significantly close we will refund every single penny.” Kolfage also said, “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,” the GoFundMe spokesman says. Because the target figure wasn’t reached, donors to the campaign will receive a refund.

But there’s a twist. Kolfage has organized a dubious new nonprofit called “We Build the Wall, Inc” that will allegedly build parts of the wall on its own. As Kolfage argues, “We are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border.” The new nonprofit’s advisory board includes noted nativists such as former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo and recently defeated Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach.

Donors must proactively choose to transfer their money over to We Build the Wall, according to GoFundMe. If they don’t, they will receive a refund. Donors can ask for a refund now or be automatically refunded in April. 

Potential donors to We Build the Wall may be interested in the results of a BuzzFeed investigation published on Thursday:

[Kolfage] used GoFundMe to collect $16,246 for a veteran mentorship program. The campaign closed in February 2015, and the funds went directly to Kolfage…But representatives for all three medical centers told BuzzFeed News that they have no record of any peer-mentoring programs or Kolfage working with patients at their centers.

Kolfage’s GoFundMe campaign lasted 25 days, four days longer than the ongoing government shutdown that began after Trump also failed to fund a border wall.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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