An Iraq war veteran canceled his plan to crowdsource $1 billion to help President Donald Trump build a wall on the Mexico border Friday after raising only $20 million and drawing questions about his online activities.
Triple-amputee veteran Brian Kolfage launched a GoFundMe account in December, quickly piling up donations as Trump was unable to get Congress to fund the wall -- leading to a now three-week-old partial shutdown of the government.
But donations slowed and Kolfage said the group had concluded that the government won’t be able to make use of them in the foreseeable future.
In addition, Kolfage was put on the defensive late Thursday by a BuzzFeed News article that raised questions about his use of funds from a previous GoFundMe campaign, and alleged he ran an operation to fabricate fake news against liberal groups and politicians in order to generate traffic and profits from advertising.
Kolfage said on his GoFundMe page that he will refund donations or, if donors agree, will put them toward a new company that will build sections of the wall itself on private property along the frontier.
“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,” he wrote on his fundraising page.
The non-profit company, We Build the Wall, Inc., is led by Kolfage and other prominent anti-immigration activists including private security expert and regular Trump consultant Erik Prince; David Clarke, the former Milwaukee sheriff, and Kris Kobach, the conservative secretary of state of Kansas.
Kolfage announced the move Friday after condemning the BuzzFeed article as “absolute lies to trick Americans” to not support the new venture.
BuzzFeed noted that Facebook had cancelled accounts he had for pages that promoted right-wing views that Facebook deemed “inauthentic activity,” its term for spam and click-bait focused pages, often known for fake news.
BuzzFeed also said that a 2015 GoFundMe campaign started by Kolfage raised over $16,000 for a veteran mentorship program.
But it reported that three military hospitals named by Kolfage said they never received any funds from him.