GoFundMe Campaign Raises Millions for Trump's Border Wall - NBC Chicago
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GoFundMe Campaign Raises Millions for Trump's Border Wall

"We will hold all funds and not release a single penny until we have all legal aspects covered to ensure our money goes only to the wall," the "We The People Will Fund The Wall" campaign page says

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    GoFundMe Campaign Raises Millions for Trump's Border Wall
    Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images, File
    This Oct. 5, 2017, file photo shows prototype sections of a border wall between Mexico and the United States under construction near Tijuana, Mexico.

    As President Donald Trump struggles to get funding for his wall along the southern border, a wounded veteran is trying to crowdsource money himself — and it's rapidly gaining steam, though it's got a long way to go until it gets to its $1 billion goal.

    The "We The People Will Fund The Wall" campaign on GoFundMe had raised more than $5.5 million as of Thursday and was gaining hundreds of thousands of dollars by the hour as the president continues to press Congress to fund his signature campaign promise.

    The GoFundMe campaign is led by Brian Kolfage, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who lost three limbs in an explosion in Iraq in 2004.

    "If we can fund a large portion of this wall, it will jumpstart things and will be less money Trump has to secure from our politicians," he wrote.

    The page collects donations through GoFundMe but also lists an address for Kolfage where people can send checks, made payable to GoFund The Wall. The page attempts to answer several questions about the project's trustworthiness, including whether it's a scam — Kolfage asserts he uses his real name and information, so he's accountable. It meets GoFundMe's terms of service, a spokesman said.

    The page also says that organizers are contacting the Trump administration to secure a place where the money can be sent when the goal is reached and cites private donations for a recent restoration of the Washington Monument as precedent. The White House did immediately respond to a request for comment.

    "We will hold all funds and not release a single penny until we have all legal aspects covered to ensure our money goes only to the wall," the GoFundMe page says, adding that all the money would be refunded "if we don't reach our goal or come significantly close."

    Kolfage hasn't responded to a request for an interview, but he told The Washington Post that his campaign was "giving the people the power."

    A Facebook page touted on the GoFundMe as the campaign's official one stopped working on Thursday. NBC has reached out to Facebook for comment, but has yet to receive a reply.

    Kolfage has previously had activity banned on Facebook. According to a post he wrote on the Right Wing News website in October, Facebook took down the outlet's verified page, which Kolfage managed, as part of a crackdown on disinformation ahead of the midterm elections. He called it a "malicious coordinated" attack on what he and others have fought for.

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    Democrats and Republicans are showing no sign of compromise as a crucial deadline to avoid a government shutdown looms. President Trump is demanding $5 billion for a border wall; Democrats have offered about a third of that in border security, and nothing for the wall.

    (Published Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018)

    Kolfage lost his legs and part of his right arm in a mortar explosion while serving as an airman in Iraq. He received a Purple Heart and, after he began giving back to the community, the Wounded Warrior Project's George C. Lang award for courage.

    He attended the 2012 State of the Union address with former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who the year before called him a friend and an inspiration in her recovery from being shot in the head.

    Trump has been seeking $5 billion for his border wall in this year's budget, which only allocates $1.3 billion for it. He's threatened to shut down the government, whose funding runs out Friday night, and called Republicans to the White House Thursday for crisis talks on a bill that would keep the government funded through the first week of February.

    The money Kolfage has raised so far on GoFundMe is less than 1 percent of the campaign's goal, Kolfage wrote on the page, though giving has sped up as it's gotten more news coverage.

    He wrote that he's trying to have GoFundMe raise the maximum goal of $1 billion and calculated that, "If the 63 million people who voted for Trump each pledge $80, we can build the wall." That would be total over $5 billion, enough to cover a year of the funding Trump is seeking.

    The Better Business Bureau recommends that people hoping to assess whether a GoFundMe campaign is a scam reach out to GoFundMe on the site or the organizer themselves through the envelope next to their name. Anyone can report the campaign as well.

    Charity Navigator, which evaluates nonprofits, suggests several ways to learn more about fundraisers.