He raised $20 million with his viral border wall campaign. GoFundMe is sending it back

Brian Kolfage and his family.
Brian Kolfage and his family. GoFundMe

And just like that, the GoFundMe wall comes tumbling down.

Kind of.

The fund-raising website said Friday that it would refund the $20.3 million raised by 340,000 people to partially fund President Donald Trump’s $5.6 billion border wall.

Brian Kolfage, 37, who lives with his family in the Miramar Beach resort community of Sandestin, in the Panhandle’s Walton County, created the We the People Will Build the Wall GoFundMe page with the aim to raise $1 billion in mid-December.

He also said on the page that “100 percent” of the monies raised would be refunded if the $1 billion goal hadn’t been met or if it hadn’t “come significantly close.”

That’s part of the reason donors are getting refunds.

Another issue is that Air Force veteran Kolfage, a triple amputee who writes on his website that he lost both his legs and one arm during a Sept. 11, 2004, rocket attack on Balad Air Base in Iraq, has created a nonprofit corporation in Florida — We Build the Wall, Inc.”

That nonprofit wasn’t part of the original description of his GoFundMe campaign. Now refunds will be given unless donors specifically take steps to reroute their monetary gift to the corporation.

“This means all donors will receive a refund,” Bobby Whithorne, a spokesman for GoFundMe, told media outlets, including USA Today, on Friday. “If a donor does not want a refund, and they want their donation to go to the new organization, they must proactively elect to redirect their donation to that organization. If they do not take that step, they will automatically receive a full refund.”

Kolfage explained his reasoning for shifting gears and establishing the corporation. On Friday, he wrote the following on his GoFundMe page:

“The federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon.”

“We are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border.”

“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.

“Our team strongly believes that we can complete our segments of the wall for less than half of the government’s estimated costs on a per mile basis.”

A construction crew works as new sections of the U.S.-Mexico border barrier are installed on January 11, 2019 as seen from Tijuana, Mexico. President Donald Trump is holding off from a threatened national emergency declaration to fund a border wall amid the partial government shutdown. Mario Tama Getty Images

President Trump is still demanding that Congress fund his wall and partially shut the government down on Dec. 22, leaving hundreds of thousands of federal workers without pay. Democrats, headed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, remain steadfast in opposition to Trump’s border wall.

On Saturday, the shutdown officially became the longest closure in the nation’s history.

On his updated GoFundMe page touting his new corporation, Kolfage writes:

“If the Democrats won’t provide the funding for what the American people voted for in 2016 then we the people will. When Americans see us completing real miles of beautiful wall, we know that we will raise the many billions we need to finally secure the entire border. ... There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this has never deterred me in the past. With the help of our highly experienced team, and your support, we will make this work!”

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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