At the end of last year, shortly before the holidays and as the federal government was careening towards a partial shutdown, one of Donald Trump’s more enterprising supporters took it upon himself to fund the president’s vanity project along the U.S. -Mexico border.
Brian Kolfage, a longtime supporter of Donald Trump and conservative causes, launched a campaign on the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to privately raise the $5.7 billion that Trump was hoping to get from U.S taxpayers to pay for his wall.
Within days, his campaign surpassed $10 million, as thousands of supporters blindly threw their money at the project, unperturbed by the fact that private citizens can’t just write a check to the U.S. Treasury to pay for government projects.
Conservative lawmakers in Congress took the reins, attempting to introduce legislation that would clear a path for a privately-funded wall. And the far-right media giddily watched as the dollar amount rose higher and higher, certain that the outpouring of support was evidence that the public approved of the president’s ambitious construction project.
Two weeks later, the campaign has hit a concrete wall.
On Friday, GoFundMe announced that it would be refunding donations, since the campaign fell just $5,679,720,582 short of its ultimate goal of $5,700,000,000.
Kolfage is one of the fringier stars in the constellation of far-right internet personas. A war veteran and triple amputee, he has managed to leverage his military service into a cottage industry of deceit and corruption.
Prior to his crowdfunding gimmick, Kolfage was best known for running a network of fake news sites, largely through Facebook. Employees who worked with him told BuzzFeed News earlier this month that he would personally attack anyone who questioned the ethics of his business practices.
He also has had a long track record of raising money for veterans groups via sites like GoFundMe, pocketing the funds for his lavish lifestyle.
In 2015, Kolfage raised over $16,000 from small, private donations to fund a veterans mentorship program. But according to Buzzfeed, none of the three military hospitals he named in his fundraising pitch ever saw a dime. Instead, GoFundMe says the money went directly to Kolfage.
He appears to be attempting the same grift again with the wall fundraiser. Although GoFundMe has stated publicly they will refund all donations for the failed effort, Kolfage is urging donors to redirect their contributions to his own private organization.
“WE ARE BUILDING THE WALL! You can still donate right now on this Gofundme!!” reads the latest update on the fundraising page, which is still active. “The media is falsely reporting all money is being refunded and it’s over. They are WRONG. WE ARE BUILDING THE WALL and you can STILL donate or opt in if you donated before January 11th TO SUPPORT the plan.”
Kolfage instructs supporters to direct their money to his own non-profit instead.
“We have formed a Section 501(c)(4) non-profit Florida Corporation named “We Build the Wall, Inc.” to receive the GoFundMe contributions,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page for his wall fundraiser.
In his latest update, he includes links to a pre-filled GoFundMe contact form that purportedly instructs the site to redirect their contributions to his 501(c)(4). It’s unclear whether GoFundMe will honor any of these requests, but it seems unlikely.