A GoFundMe campaign to raise $1 billion for President Donald Trump’s wall on the southern U.S. border must refund the more than $20 million it has raised so far, after the campaign changed the way it intends to use the donations.
Brian Kolfage — a 37-year-old Air Force veteran who received the Purple Heart after losing three limbs in Iraq — set up the GoFundMe. He posted on the campaign’s page Friday that the approximately $20,480,000 raised by more than 340,000 donors would no longer be donated to the federal government.
Instead, the funds would go toward a non-profit organization he has set up to build the wall without the government’s help.
Bobby Whithorne, director of North America Communications for GoFundMe, announced not long after the funding change that all donations will be refunded unless donors specifically choose otherwise.
“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,’” Whithorne said in a statement to Air Force Times. “He also stated on the campaign page, ’100% of your donations will go to the Trump Wall.'”
Because that is no longer happening, all donors will receive a refund on April 11 unless they elect to redirect their donation to Kolfage’s new non-profit, Whithorne said.
“Eight days before Christmas I started this GoFundMe campaign because I was tired of watching the U.S. government’s inability to secure our southern border,” Kolfage wrote on his campaign page. “The plan of action was simple and straightforward — to raise money to construct a wall.”
However, Kolfage’s team eventually determined that the federal government would not be able to accept the donations anytime soon due to inaction within the legislative branch.
“Do you really think the Democrats in Congress will take the money you donated and put it toward the southern border wall?” Kolfage said in a video update over the weekend. “I doubt it. That’s why we are changing our mission from ‘we fund the wall,’ to ‘we build the wall.’”
Kolfage has since created a Florida-based non-profit called “We Build the Wall Inc.” to take donations.
“We are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border,” he wrote. “Our highly experienced team is highly confident that we can complete significant segments of the wall in less time, and for far less money, than the federal government, while meeting or exceeding all required regulatory, engineering and environmental specifications.”
Kolfage said his team believes it can complete its segments of the wall for less than half of the government’s estimated costs on a per mile basis.
He added that he consulted with leading experts on U.S. border security and construction prior to making this decision. Kolfage has not said whether he is coordinating this new endeavor with the Trump administration.
The new non-profit is already identifying the most densely crossed areas of the border and soliciting affected landowners along the border, according to Kolfage.
He said it is studying the most feasible solutions based on terrain, barrier styles, environmental impact and efficacy, and ascertaining the willingness of border landowners to provide no or low-cost easements on their property for wall construction.