Crowdsourced Border Wall Donors Unsettled by Fraud and Money Laundering Charges
Audio will be available later today.
Brian Kolfage and Stephen Bannon host a “wallathon” to raise money for a privately funded border wall.
On June 24, 2018, former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon stood on a ridge in Sunland, New Mexico, kicking off a 3-day telethon with a view of Cuidad Juarez, Mexico in the distance. “That is what seperates it,” he says, pointing to a tall metal fence climbing the hillside, “the wall, built by private money.”
That half mile stretch of wall had been completed with money donated to We Build the Wall, a crowdsource campaign started by purple heart veteran Brian Kolfage as a way for American citizens to bypass government redtape and build the border wall promised by President Trump. Through a viral Go Fund Me page and other fundraising efforts, Kolfage and Bannon, the chairman of We Build the Wall, raised over $25 million in private donations from people who were told that 100% of their contribution would go straight into construction.
Kolfage, Bannon, and two others now face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with We Build the Wall. But even before Thursday’s indictment, some donors had been raising questions about the project’s progress and demanding proof and photographs of new construction. One week before his arrest, Kolfage was still on the crowdsourcing page, asking donors for more funds to meet new deadlines, claiming to have recently broken ground on two more sections of border wall.
Donor Alan Ohlde feels disturbed by this abuse of the faith and good will, especially coming from these prominent conservative activists and organizers. “To me it’s no worse that a crooked politician and we have plenty of those in Washington DC,” says Ohlde, who contributed $50 to the fundraiser.
Leiren Hoyt also lost money to the crowdfund, but says she still believes in the cause, “because I’d like to have security at our borders”, she explains. Hoyt lives near the US border in New Mexico, and thinks “we’ve got to do something down at the border… This would help the Border Patrol from what I understand to limit the access of illegals coming across.” Despite the charges filed this week, Hoyt hopes the allegations prove to be untrue.
The Go Fund Me page has since been removed from the site, with Brian Kolfage laying blame on censorship and attacks from Black Lives Matter activists. A spokesman for Go Fund Me stated that the hosting platform has been cooperating with the investigation, and has already returned roughly $6 million to We Build a Wall donors.