SAN DIEGO — A Florida veteran’s GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a border wall will be refunding money to its donors after falling short of the $1 billion goal.
Brian Kolfage, 37, created the fundraiser titled “We The People Will Fund The Wall,” which had raised around $20 million as of Friday afternoon.
Kolfage, a triple-amputee Air Force veteran, has since created a 501(c) (4) nonprofit “We Build the Wall, Inc.,” and is asking people to send their donation to the new organization instead. Kolfage blamed Washington gridlock in part, saying that “the federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon.”
GoFundMe Director of North America Communications Bobby Whithorne said in a statement that all donors will automatically receive a refund unless they decide to send the money to Kolfage’s nonprofit, which is classified by the IRS as a “social welfare organization.”
“There was a change in the use of funds,” Whithorne said. “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.'”
Among the members of “We Build the Wall,” Kolfage names former Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, Blackwater founder Erik Prince and former Kansas Secretary of Sate Kris Kobach, among others.
Kolfage believes the organization can complete “significant segments of the wall” faster than the government, according a statement he added to the GoFundMe description.
Kolfage, who urged donors to look him up to make sure the campaign was legitimate, was running a page titled Right Wing News – along with affiliated sites – which was purged by Facebook for publishing false news and conspiracy theories, according to NBC News.
He also operates a website Fight4FreeSpeech that was created shortly after Right Wing News was taken down, according to NBC News. There is a GoFundMe campaign owned by Kolfage under the same name with the update, “We have moved our campaign to a new website,” with a link to an outside site.
Kolfage told NBC he didn’t disclose the fundraising effort in the wall GoFundMe because he didn’t want to “mix the two,” saying, “my personal issues have nothing to do with building the wall.”