In January, in the winter of our historic government shutdown, the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congress, claiming it would need $5.7 billion to pay for 234 miles of steel slat barriers along the border, which equates to a sound investment of $24.4 million per mile. To help get there, triple-amputee veteran Brian Kolfage founded a GoFundMe called We Build the Wall, raising $20 million to help secure the southern border — or at least four fifths of a mile of it.
But after four progressless months from We Build the Wall, Trump supporters who donated to the crowdfunding effort want to know where their money went. A woman asked on the We Build the Wall Facebook page: “I am very disappointed in you Brian Kolfage, where are the progress photographs?” “Why no updates on the status of the wall?” one user asked on Twitter. “I have a feeling this is a scam.”
Considering the online history of Brian Kolfage, the question is a valid one. As the Daily Beast reports, Kolfage “was a prolific operator of hoax pages on Facebook, and money he raised in the past to help veterans’ programs in hospitals never actually went to those hospitals.” The vet, who lost three of his limbs in a rocket attack in Iraq in 2004, founded sites including FreedomDaily, which ran headlines like “Obnoxious Black People Lose Their Minds When Victoria Secret Models Say This 1 Word On Live Video.” The site was shuttered after it was sued for misidentifying a Michigan resident as the driver of the car that killed a protestor in the Charlottesville riot.
To help promote his crowdfunded wall-building effort, Kolfage recruited Trump-world all stars like Steve Bannon; former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach; pitcher and the bane of Rhode Island Curt Schilling; Blackwater founder Erik Prince; and ex-Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke to join the group’s advisory board. In January, Kobach told the New York Times that We Build the Wall would “be hopefully breaking ground within weeks.” That timeframe has been pushed back on a few occasions. In March, Kolfage said they would “start breaking ground” in April, but he also told Politico that “we should be turning dirt on this thing by May 1, June 1 at the latest.”
In addition to the timeline, other major problems remain. To avoid possible issues of sovereignty, Kolfage intends to build on private land in Arizona. In the Politico interview, he mentioned that he had eight locations lined up, but did not name them, citing “liberal groups who want to sue us and impede our progress.” But as the Phoenix New Times points out: “The vast majority of the border in Arizona exists on land owned by the federal government — land where private citizens cannot build their own walls.” Then, of course, is the inevitability of answering to donors, like the anonymous person who gave We Build the Wall $50,000 and might want an update on how their money is being allocated.