The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A group raised over $20 million to ‘build the wall.’ Now its supporters want answers.

President Trump on April 24 claimed building a border wall will help curb the flow of drugs into the U.S., and talked about the role of dogs in drug detection. (Video: The Washington Post)

A December fundraising campaign brought in more than $20 million over the course of a few weeks, its thousands of donors united by a common goal: the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, oft-promised by President Trump.

Some four months later, a contingent of those supporters is ready to see what their money has built.

The now-famous border wall GoFundMe was conceived by Purple Heart recipient Brian Kolfage, who wrote at the time he was upset by “too many illegals . . . taking advantage of the United States taxpayers,” and the “political games from both parties” when it came to border security. Kolfage, a triple amputee, pressed onward despite falling short of his $1 billion goal — launching a nonprofit to build portions of the wall on private land for a “fraction of what it costs the government.”

While the majority of donors continue to believe in Kolfage’s efforts, the nonprofit’s clandestine operations and assurances of progress are insufficient for others. Some have taken to social media, seeking photos, videos — anything — for evidence they aren’t being misled.

Border wall GoFundMe to refund $20 million — unless donors want to give to it again

“I am very disappointed in you Brian Kolfage, where are the progress photographs?” one woman posted to the We Build The Wall Facebook page.

“Quit talking about it and do it,” another commented.

“I’ve been away for FIVE months,” one person tweeted in April. “When’s the groundbreaking?”

Reporting on the apparent lack of progress on the private wall, published early Friday by the Daily Beast, drew criticism from Kolfage. The veteran called out the story’s author, Will Sommer, who indicated he’s repeatedly asked Kolfage for proof they were close to a groundbreaking.

“Omg this is PERFECT timing by the liberal rag news site. They are about to look more stupid than @hillaryclinton on election night 2016!” Kolfage wrote. “I guaranteed we would build the wall . . . and I’ll leave it at that!"

Kolfage did not respond to an email and message from The Washington Post requesting comment Friday. While the nonprofit has floated various groundbreaking dates in the past, it’s not exactly clear when, or if, construction will begin.

“We should be turning dirt on this thing by May 1, June 1 at the latest, according to our experts,” Kolfage told Politico in February. In a March 21 interview with American Family Radio, however, the veteran asserted they were going to “start breaking ground” in April.

Pentagon will shift an additional $1.5 billion to help fund Trump’s border wall Add to list

In the interview, Kolfage said his nonprofit had identified eight locations to build along the border, but failed to name them, stating that his efforts could be thwarted by liberals if they were revealed.

“I wish I could name where it’s at, but we can’t name it because of the ACLU, these other liberal groups who want to sue us and impede our progress,” he said. “But it’s actually happening, the process is happening . . . the project is moving forward.”

He continued, “But as soon as we start breaking ground, we’ll be putting that information out there to show the American people what they’re doing.”

Kolfage has previously indicated that We Build The Wall Inc. seeks to develop segments of the wall on private property, which he told The Washington Post in January would cost $2 million to $3 million per mile. His GoFundMe says he’s visited the border to scope out potential sites and negotiate with private land owners. Kolfage has also enlisted the help of several high-profile politicians, among them former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and Kris Kobach, the former Secretary of State for Kansas, who sit on the group’s advisory board.

Back in January, Kobach told the New York Times they’d hopefully be breaking ground “within weeks.”

Some critics noted Kolfage was accused of shady behavior in the past, including allegations of misusing funds he raised. NBC and BuzzFeed investigations earlier this year alleged that Kolfage peddled false articles and conspiracy theories with the intent of harvesting reader email addresses. The purported scheme would draw people back to his websites and Facebook pages, generating hundreds of thousands in advertising revenue, Buzzfeed reported.

Facebook removed several of the pages he operated last year, according to NBC, in a purge of pages that were used to “drive traffic to their websites.” In response, Kolfage created a new campaign, “Fight4FreeSpeech,” which also accepts donations.

BuzzFeed looked into Kolfage’s previous crowdfunding efforts, which included an initiative to mentor wounded veterans at military hospitals — among them Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Center. He raised thousands for the project, according to BuzzFeed, but spokespersons for the medical facilities told the outlet they have no record of him working at the hospitals or donating money.

Asked about the story in January, Kolfage told The Post that BuzzFeed “100 percent lied” and had fabricated the investigation to slander him. He said the money was raised to cover his travel expenses, and that he only used them for that purpose.

On Friday, many supporters of Kolfage called the Daily Beast story fake news intended to stymie donations. We Build The Wall occasionally replied in agreement, reassuring commenters the wall was on its way.

“This is what we call FAKE NEWS,” they wrote in a post. “We didn’t stop anything and we are full steam ahead. The wall is being built."

As of Friday night, the group said they’ll be breaking ground “shortly.”

In a separate comment, one woman indicated she’d heard enough.

“Saying it doesn’t get it done,” she wrote late Friday. “Do it.”

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