The real story behind Brian Kolfage and 20 million private dollars for the wall
A couple of weeks ago, the liberal blog BuzzFeed "broke" a "story" about President Trump supposedly ordering his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress on his behalf, citing an unnamed "source" within the Robert Mueller investigation.
But the "news" was so fake that Mueller's office publicly disavowed it almost immediately after it appeared.
And re-appeared...practically everywhere.
Other media outlets picked up the BuzzFeed "story" — creating the false impression of smoke where there was no fire.
This has become the modus operandi of what Rush Limbaugh perceptively calls the drive-by media. Picture a Model A Ford full of Al Capone's hit men screeching around the corner, raking their enemy's hideout with machine gun fire.
A similar fact-free fusillade has been directed at Iraqi war veteran and triple amputee Brian Kolfage, the man who dared to try to fund The Wall — and is doing so.
The story began when Kolfage created a GoFundMe page back in mid-December of 2018 called We The People Will Build The Wall. His concept was to get the American people to voluntarily finance what Congress seems congenitally unable to: a southern border wall, to get a handle not just on the immigration problem, but also the equally serious problems of no-good-niks and cartel drugs flooding across the border.
It's something President Trump promised to deliver — but which the private contributions of ordinary citizens may ultimately pay for, at least partially.
Initially, Kolfage's concept was to transfer whatever came in directly to the federal government. He probably never imagined that within two weeks, millions of people would have donated almost $20 million to the cause.
This is a measure of the depth of grassroots support for building the wall — and, possibly, the trigger for the fake news fusillade claiming he'd been forced to refund all of it for some (sotto voce) unspecified violation of GoFundMe's terms of service. The obvious implication is that Kolfage had done something shady, that he was perhaps pocketing the proceeds, and that GoFundMe had stepped in to save the day.
"People donated money to a GoFundMe page to build a wall on the southern border, and now they're getting refunds," ululated one TV teleprompter queen.
"Now GoFundMe is refunding all that money," said another, in his best Serious Voice. "And he has to start again."
Literally dozens if not scores of others were just the same. But these stories — like BuzzFeed's piece about Cohen — have proved to be as accurate as the Hitler Diaries. In fact, Kolfage was not forced to return any contributor's money. The fact is, he had set up his page so that refunds would issue automatically in the event that the target — $1 billion — was not met by the original GoFundMe deadline.
When it wasn't, the refunds.
Those who sent in a contribution would have it returned after 90 days — if they didn't request a refund.
That is a very different thing from Kolfage being forced to return the money — or being ordered to do so by GoFundMe. It's just one of several critical parts of the story that was not reported. Another is that the vast majority have not so requested.
Here's the real story:
After the fake news fusillade, Kolfage — with GoFundMe's cooperation — reorganized his effort as a 501(c)(4) called WeBuildTheWall, with an advisory board that includes the president's former campaign adviser Steve Bannon, retired brigadier general Rob Spalding, and former Reagan administration official and congressman Tom Tancredo.
They and other heavy hitters in the public policy arena were brought on board to deal with the unexpected success of the project — which raised so much money, so fast, that actual construction of the wall became a real possibility. It was urgently necessary to begin the process of hiring contractors, arranging permits, and working with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to identify where to start work.
None of that got "covered," either.
Once WeBuildTheWall was up and running, people who had contributed to the original project were asked whether they'd like their contributions to transfer over.
It turns out more than two thirds of the people who originally contributed to "We The People Will Build The Wall" have opted in to WeBuildTheWall, which has raised almost $22 million so far over the course of the past two months. That sum includes about $15 million of the original contributions. They are still diligently reaching the other donors to get them to opt in as well and inform them of the campaign's progress. Currently, of those contacted, 94% are choosing to opt in, which is amazing.
Kolfage wasn't forced to return a penny of it. Most of the people explicitly rejected the refund offer that came along with their original donation.
GoFundMe hasn't blackballed Kolfage. It is actively helping him to undo the damage unfairly done to him by lazy, irresponsible, or simply malicious media organs.
None of the stories about this business got it right — and that kind of unanimity rarely happens by accident.
The good news, if you support the wall, is that at the rate donations are pouring in, it won't be necessary for Congress to authorize the funds — or for the president, who has openly blessed the work of WeBuildTheWall, to resort to exigencies.
The wall may get built despite Congress — and probably for less. Certainly sooner.
Eric Peters is a former editorial writer and columnist for The Washington Times who has written for numerous print and online media, including The Detroit News, Chicago Tribune, Investor's Business Daily, and National Review. His weekly automotive columns are published by Creators Syndicate.