A GoFundMe campaign raised $20 million for a border wall—now all of the funds will be returned

Posted at 3:33 PM, Jan 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-12 18:33:26-05

The U.S. government shutdown has now lasted 21 days, tying for the longest shutdown in U.S. history. If it continues to Saturday, it will be the longest.

Much of the shutdown can be attributed to a standoff over President Donald Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion in appropriations to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In December, Brian Kolfage, a veteran and self-described motivational speaker, launched an ambitious GoFundMe campaign to raise $1 billion for the proposed wall. The campaign, titled “We The People Will Build the Wall,” raised $20 million from 337,518 people in 25 days, and has been shared nearly 100,000 times.

But Business Insider reports that the funds will now be returned to donors. Bobby Whithorne, a GoFundMe spokesman, told the publication that Kolfage promised donors at the campaign’s outset that donations would be used to fund the wall, if the proposed $1 billion was raised. “However, that did not happen,” Whithorne said. “This means all donors will receive a refund.”

“When I created this fundraiser, I said if we did not reach our goal we will refund donors,” Kolfage wrote in an update posted to the campaign’s page earlier today. “I am honoring that commitment today. If you want a refund for your donation, no need to do anything. You will receive your refund a few weeks after the 90 days expires and GoFundMe will notify you once your refund has processed. If you would prefer a refund now, you can request that here:”

Kolfage writes that he consulted with “politics, national security, construction, and finance” experts and came to several conclusions, including that “The federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon” and “We are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border.”

For this reason, Kolfage says that he has now established a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization named “We Build the Wall, Inc.” He lists several controversial conservative figures as members of the organization, including former Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach and Sheriff David Clarke.

Kobach has been described as an anti-immigration hard-liner and was revealed to have hired three members of white nationalist group Identity Evropa during his campaign for governor of Kansas. Clarke has repeatedly been accused of advancing racist rhetoric and once told told Glenn Beck “blacks sell drugs and involve themselves in criminal behavior instead of a more socially acceptable lifestyle because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt.”

Kolfage writes that members of the organization “have provided us with critical guidance on the legal, engineering, contracting, environmental, accounting, maintenance and real estate issues required to build a wall on the southern border.”

CNBC Make It contacted Kolfage and GoFundMe but did not immediately receive a response.