A GoFundMe campaign with the stated goal of raising money for President Donald Trump's proposed wall on the southern U.S. border had raised over $11 million as of Friday morning, but can the federal government actually accept the money?
Over 185,000 people had donated to the fundraiser, titled We The People Will Fund The Wall. The campaign was created Sunday by Brian Kolfage, a Purple Heart recipient and triple-amputee veteran who is also a motivational speaker.
However, many people wondered how the federal government will actually be able to receive the money and use it specifically for the border wall.
“I think it’s admirable, and I think that the country should respond,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) told The New York Post. “Obviously, we can’t let citizens raise money and say, ‘The government will spend my money on this purpose.’”
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the borders, won't be able to accept the money without explicit approval of Congress. Federal law states that "gifts or donations of services or property of or for the Department may not be accepted, used, or disposed of unless specifically permitted" by Congress.
Even with permission from Congress, gifts to Homeland Security that have conditions attached must be reviewed by the Office of the General Counsel, according to policy.
Private citizens may donate money to the federal government, but these contributions are put into a specific account called "Gifts to the United States" to be used for general purposes.
In other words, Kolfage won't be able to simply write a check to the federal government and ask that it be used for a border wall. These policies are put in place to prevent outside money from swaying the decisions of government agencies.
Kolfage assured potential donors that the government does accept private donations for such projects, citing a large donation made by a billionaire in 2012 to fund repairs on the Washington Monument. However, that money was funneled through the Trust for the National Mall, a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, which operates such monuments.
Kolfage stated that he is working with Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on a bill dubbed the "Border Bonds for America Act of 2018." The legislation would direct the Treasury Department to turn the money into savings bonds, which would allow the donations to be used for the border wall.
"This legislation would allow for the patriots of today’s era to help support American security in the same way as previous generations," Palazzo told USA Today, comparing his bill to war bonds used during World War II. "The American people are fed up with the political games fueled by the Democrats’ inaction to secure our borders and protect our citizens."
Kolfage said this is one of several options being discussed.
GoFundMe prohibits "not using funds for their stated purpose," so if Homeland Security is unable to accept the money, Kolfage will likely have to send refunds to his campaign's donors.