- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2018

Congress isn’t the only place battling over border wall money.

The crowdfunding website GoFundMe also has turned into a major battleground, with the president’s supporters asking average Americans to pony up — and some enterprising opponents seeking ways to foil whatever wall emerges.

Luke O’Neil started a page Thursday to, in his words, “build a giant escalator over the wall.”

“The wall is never going to be built, but just in case it is, we will build a series of giant escalators that are spaced out a half-mile along the wall on either side, and if that doesn’t happen, we’ll just give the money to people who care about the well-being of human beings no matter where they’re from,” Mr. O’Neil said.

He also was quick to note that the escalator is “a metaphor,” and he pleaded with authorities not to investigate him for aiding immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

His effort came just days after Brian Kolfage started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $1 billion that he says will go to the wall.

He’s a long way from that target, but he has made a serious start, with more than 260,000 people pledging nearly $16 million as of Sunday afternoon.

One anonymous donor pledged $50,000 Thursday night, but the vast majority are low-dollar contributions.

Mr. Kolfage, who is a wounded veteran, says he has been in contact with the administration to figure out how to turn the money over.

His effort has been featured on Fox News, helping earn eyeballs and, presumably, more cash for the endeavor.

It also has sparked the reply campaigns like Mr. O’Neil’s escalators or another effort to fund ladders to climb the wall.

Ladder campaign organizers said they are hoping to tap “the coalition of reasonable adults” to show their opposition to the border wall. They, like Mr. O’Neil, said if no wall is built, they will donate their cash to immigrant-rights groups.

Mr. O’Neil told The Washington Times he didn’t think anyone would send money, but once they did, he figured it could be put to good use by donating to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

“Usually it’s impossible to parody the delusions of the Trumpist cult but something about the idea of thousands of MAGA nanas with terminal Facebook brain wasting the last of their Christmas gift money and red faced dads taking out a second mortgage on their hot tub dealerships to own the libs and support Mr. Trump’s imaginary racism wall seemed too good to pass up,” Mr. O’Neil told The Times in an email. “It’s the perfect encapsulation of the intersection of loneliness and cruelty that binds all these weirdos together.”

Those on the immigrant-rights side of the issue had previously had some success using crowdfunding to help pay application fees for “Dreamers,” immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, who seek to claim protection under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or to raise money for legal fees to fight deportation.

But until now, the pro-Trump side has been struggling online.

A number of build-the-wall campaigns had popped up on GoFundMe over the years, with little success.

One of the more successful ones had been started in August by Steve Sprague — and had raised less than $1,000 as of Sunday.

Mr. Sprague told The Times earlier this year that he had investigated and found out that private citizens can gift money to the government. They can’t earmark it for a specific project, but they can direct it to a department, he said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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