By: Katie Smith | CBS News
January 11, 2019
A GoFundMe campaign to subsidize what it called "the Trump Wall" will refund all money to donors because it did not meet its $1 billion goal, said Bobby Whithorne, director of North America Communications for GoFundMe. Donors will receive their money on April 11, unless they choose to donate their contribution to the campaign creator's new venture, GoFundMe said in an email to the campaign's participants.
Brian Kolfage, a triple-amputee Air Force veteran, raised more than $20 million on the crowd-funding platform to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. At the onset of the campaign, Kolfage said he would only collect the funds if the campaign hit its goal of $1 billion -- about one-fifth of what President Trump has been demanding from Congress to build it.
"However, that did not happen. This means all donors will receive a refund," Whithorne said in an email to CBS News.
The refund announcement came a day after BuzzFeed News reported that Kolfage pocketed money in a previous GoFundMe campaign intended to help other wounded soldiers. Kolfage raised $16,246 for a veteran mentorship program, but BuzzFeed News reports that after collecting the funds, he didn't use the money as promised: none of the partners he claimed to have worked with -- including Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany -- have any records that Kolfage worked with their patients or donated money, according to representatives at the centers that BuzzFeed News spoke to.
In an update to donors Friday, Kolfage did not say missing the goal was the main reason for the refund. Instead, he pointed to government inefficiencies and the fact that the federal government "won't be able to accept our donations anytime soon."
Kolfage gave donors the option of giving their GoFundMe contribution to himself and a team he assembled to privately construct the border wall. The group, a 501(c)(4), is called "We Build the Wall, Inc.," according to an email from GoFundMe to contributors.
"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 wrote in his update.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, a 501(c)(4) is an non-profit "operated exclusively to promote social welfare."
Donors will have to proactively opt to give the money to Kolfage; if they do nothing the money will automatically be returned, according to Whithorne.
A spokesperson for Brian Kolfage, Jennifer Lawrence, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.