A new wrinkle was added to the debate over border wall funding this week when a Texas-based veteran launched a GoFundMe, known as GoFundTheWall, which was meant to raise funds from individuals to go towards construction of the wall. The campaign had raised over $11.6 million as of Friday morning, although that places it well below its goal of $1 billion.
However, some are raising questions over whether the funds from the campaign may legally go towards wall funding.
According to the New York Post, which cited the Treasury Department, gifts to the federal government cannot be directed towards a specific purpose of the giver’s choosing. Such funds must be put towards general use, and not for a specific thing. For such money to be used for a wall would require a Congressional appropriation.
Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, a conservative longtime immigration hardliner, praised the campaign but also told the newspaper that he doesn’t agree with the concept behind it.
“Obviously, we can’t let citizens raise money and say, ‘The government will spend my money on this purpose.'”
In addition, “not using funds for their stated purpose” is a violation of GoFundMe’s terms of service. The GoFundMe campaign says that it will “refund every single penny” if they don’t reach their goal.
The campaign has a listed goal of $1 billion, but the wall itself would almost certainly cost many times that. The bill passed by the House this week makes available $5 billion in wall funding, but Trump in the past has asked for as much as $18 billion. So for the campaign to go forward and not lead to refunds, it would have to raise $1 billion, somehow get combined with existing Congressional appropriations, and also be deemed a legal donation for its stated purpose.
Brian Kolfage, the founder of that viral fundraiser for Trump's border wall, has questionable news past, including running a right wing news page that trafficked in conspiracy theories and was pulled down by Facebook. https://t.co/ECsr9kPtoq— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 21, 2018
Also this week, questions have been raised about the background of the man who started the campaign. NBC News reported Thursday that Brian Kolfage previously ran a network of fake news websites, which pushed false stories and conspiracy theories. The sites ran from the 2016 election until they were shut down earlier this year, after one of the sites was sued by a man who claimed the site had misidentified him as the driver of the car that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville protests in August 2017.
Kolfage’s sites also included stories with headlines such as “Obnoxious Black People Lose Their Minds When Victoria Secret Models Say This 1 Word On Live Video” and “Trump Just Released Embarrassing Vids Of Obama’s Muslim Friends That He Never Wanted Seen,” NBC added.