Well, it certainly sounded like a good idea to begin with. The wounded warrior who started that GoFundMe to raise money to fund the construction of the border wall pulled the plug on the entire project yesterday and said that the more than $20M he raised will be refunded to all the donors. The reasons given seem to vary from report to report and the entire project has become mired in controversy, but it’s still rather disappointing to watch the effort blow up. (Buzzfeed)
GoFundMe will refund more than $20 million in donations made by hundreds of thousands of people to an online effort to build President Trump’s border wall with Mexico, after the Iraq War veteran behind the crowdsourcing effort suddenly changed his plans Friday on what to do with the funds.
In an update to the “We The People Will Build the Wall” campaign, Brian Kolfage wrote that rather than donating the money raised to the federal government, it would instead be handed over to a private non-profit he said he had established in order to construct a wall himself.
“The federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon,” he wrote. “We are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border.”
Two different stories showed up in the press and on social media surrounding this announcement. One claim held that Kolfage didn’t like the revised design of the wall, changing from an actual concrete wall to steel slats or whatever. But the countering claim was that he’d grown frustrated with the process and the money wasn’t going to be able to be given to the government for this purpose so he was giving up. Neither sounds like much of a justification for ending the effort.
There’s already a piece of legislation pending which would allow the government to accept the money and put it toward wall construction, similar to the way people can donate money to pay down the national debt. Whether or not the Democrats in the House would block that bill is unknown, but it wouldn’t have hurt to wait around and give it a chance.
If the debate was over the barrier design, that’s rather weak tea as well. Wanting to fund the project is a noble cause, but what the final design looks like should really be based on the recommendations and requests of the CBP, as they know their own needs best. And at least in some cases, they prefer a barrier you can see through which makes sense, I suppose.
As to the controversy over some Kolfage’s previous web ventures and fundraising efforts, those are valid questions. But at least thus far there’s no sign that he’s pocketed a dime out of all this and is now committed to giving all the money back. If he doesn’t follow through we can certainly judge him on that account later. (And there will be plenty of people watching to see where that money goes, I’m sure.)
It still seems to me that there has to be a way to do this. If people really want to open their own wallets and kick in to improve border security we should have a mechanism to allow that. Granted, $20M doesn’t buy a lot of wall construction, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?