WASHINGTON – The $20 million that have been donated to a GoFundMe page to help fund President Donald Trump's wall along the southern border are going to be refunded.
Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage Jr., who started the campaign, announced on Friday he had formed a non-profit in Florida to receive money from GoFundMe contributions to build the wall himself with a team of officials without the help of the federal government.
"We are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border," Kolfage Jr. said in his announcement of the new plan. "Our highly experienced team is highly confident that we can complete significant segments of the wall in less time, and for far less money, than the federal government, while meeting or exceeding all required regulatory, engineering, and environmental specifications."
But GoFundMe said due to a change in where the money would actually be going, from the federal government to a non-profit, the $20 million will be returned to the more than 337,000 who donated.
"This means all donors will receive a refund," said Bobby Whithorne, a spokesman for GoFundMe. "If a donor does not want a refund, and they want their donation to go to the new organization, they must proactively elect to redirect their donation to that organization. If they do not take that step, they will automatically receive a full refund."
Kolfage Jr. directed those who donated to a page where they can tell GoFundMe they're OK with their donation being given to his non-profit. Those people have 90 days to take action, he says, before donations will be returned.
He also announced a board of directors for his new non-profit organization, titled "We Build the Wall, Inc."
Those working on the project include Kris Kobach, who just lost a bid for Kansas governor, and David Clarke, a former Milwaukee County Sheriff and fierce supporter of Trump's immigration policy who works at a pro-Donald Trump super PAC.
As part of the rationale to refund money, GoFundMe cited Kolfage Jr.'s original statements on the campaign page when it was started, saying that "100% of your donations will go to the Trump Wall. If for ANY reason we don't reach our goal we will refund your donation." The campaign has a $1 billion goal listed on its page.
Kolfage Jr., in announcing the changes, said it was clear that the "federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon." When the campaign was started, Kolfage Jr. noted he was working with lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow funds raised in the campaign to go specifically to funding a border wall.
But construction of a wall is at the heart of a contentious disagreement between parties that has been at the center of the partial government shutdown that's now in its 21st day.
Homeland Security, along with other government agencies, can't simply accept money without the explicit approval of Congress. In its policy, the agency cites a federal law that states "gifts may not be accepted, used, or disposed of unless specifically permitted" by Congress.
Much of the policy is wrapped around ethical concerns and aims to halt outside money from swaying the agency's decisions.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: $20 million donated to viral border wall GoFundMe set to be refunded