There have been a few times over the past couple of years when I found myself asking whatever happened to that “We Build the Wall” fund. It initially ran into some fits and starts, but eventually, sections of the wall were actually built. But the news today is far less encouraging. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced this morning that the group’s founder, Brian Kolfage, and others had been indicted on charges of defrauding their donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also caught up in the alleged scheme was former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon, along with Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea. They are accused of funneling donations away from the project to cover Bannon’s personal expenses and finance Kolfage’s “extravagant lifestyle.” (Bloomberg)
Stephen Bannon, one of the architects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, was arrested over his involvement in an online fundraising group that raised more than $25 million to help fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Despite portraying “We Build the Wall” as a volunteer organization, Bannon received more than $1 million from the group, some of which was used to pay for his personal expenses, prosecutors said. He is expected to appear in a New York courtroom Thursday. Three others were also charged in the matter, including the group’s founder, Brian Kolfage.
“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press release Thursday.
As I mentioned above, there were always questions surrounding this project, though they mostly centered on Kolfage. The disabled veteran had been caught up in previous online scams before launching this venture as we discussed last year. At the time, I pointed out his past indiscretions but allowed myself to conclude that there were no signs that he was up to something this time. They had committed to ensuring that none of the funds raised for the border wall construction would be going to Kolfage, with all of the money going to build as much of the wall as possible.
If the charges being brought today are proven to be true, this is more than disappointing to be sure. The wall was one of Donald Trump’s biggest and boldest campaign promises and it generated a lot of excitement among his base. After he ran into a stone wall with the Democrats and their objections to funding the project, We Build the Wall became something of a rallying point and the money flowed in quickly. To find that the project was at least partly operated in a fraudulent manner by someone who was given a second chance after his past misdeeds is frustrating in the extreme.
Watching the early coverage of this story on cable news, however, you barely hear Kolfage’s name mentioned. All of the focus is on Bannon. He’s long been a target of liberals in the media who have obviously despised him since his days at Breitbart. The CNN crew looked like they could barely contain themselves as they prepared to dance on Bannon’s political grave. Of course, we’ll have to wait to hear what all of the men involve have to say when they’re arraigned. They’re expected to appear in a New York courtroom later today.