“Greed is alright, by the way. Greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”-Ivan Boesky, 1986
It’s an inspirational story tailor-made for our time. An airman working the night shift at Balad Air Base in Iraq is severely wounded in a rocket attack, losing both legs and an arm. Surviving his terrible injuries and learning to use prosthetics, he returns to the US and completes a university degree. Tempered in the fires of adversity, he finds success in private life…as a fake news entrepreneur.
You’ve heard of the Wounded Warrior Project, right? Yea, well that’s not him. He’s the guy who bought WoundedAmericanWarrior.com and turned it into a spam/conspiracy site, along with RightWingNews and several others. When Facebook banned his operation he leveraged his service and his injuries to earn headlines as a “free speech” martyr.
Kolfage’s story might have been over when his lucrative fake news operation was banned from social media, but that’s an ending for a loser. A quitter might have sulked for a few days, then settled for a straight job, working every day for a few dollars until he died. That’s not our America. That’s not now. If you’re a hustler, a baller, a player, the kind of badass, never quit all-American who puts a sticker like this on his wheelchair, when your fraud is exposed you just go find a bigger hustle and a richer mark.
Faced once again with adversity, Brian Kolfage dug deep, searched his heart, and never gave up. Now he’s hit the grifter jackpot. Kolfage launched a GoFundMe project to raise private money to build Trump’s border wall. Unlike the half-a-dozen or so other scams already in motion to fleece border wall money from Trumpkins*, Kolfage was working with some unique advantages. First, he enjoyed a small measure of rightwing celebrity after his previous scams were exposed. As he explains in the money-quote on his GoFundMe page, “I’ve been on Fox News many times, you can see I’m credible and a real person.”
To add some additional padding, he’s legitimately a wounded veteran so he’s above polite criticism. Finally, the timing was just right, as Congress and the President are at a standoff over the subject. These factors came together into the feel-good story of our time.
Four days into this grift and Kolfage is sitting on $11m and counting. That’s a lot, but only a loser would quit there. He intends to raise $1bn. Why the hell not? All he needs now is a way to launder it.
A loser, mired in un-American negative thinking, might ask, “How the f&^% would you expect that any of this money would ever end up paying for a wall?” Kolfage has an answer. Again, from his GoFundMe, “We have contacted the Trump Administration to secure a point of contact where all the funds will go upon completion.” No names, just a “contact.”
People in this administration haven’t demonstrated a lot of success at, well, almost anything. But you can be sure Trump’s minions know a thing or two about money laundering, wire fraud, setting up fake companies, pretending to build things, and siphoning money from charities. Trump’s own family charity was shut down by the State of New York this week for fraud. The Trumps pocketed money donated to children’s cancer and veterans in broad daylight without facing any punishment whatsoever. If I was sitting on millions of dollars in money donated for an idiotic cause, those are the people I’d be looking to for advice.
Turns out, it was only a short hop from “greed is good” to “One Nation Under the Hustle.” There is nothing left of the American right but a Matryoshka doll of interlocking scams. Mike Huckabee sells Biblical cancer cures while his daughter makes a living crafting lies for a criminal. Trump’s shady re-election operation has taken control of the RNC, merging their operations. Paul Ryan pretends to dignity while crushing opposition to Trump at the Republican Convention and selling his soul. This is the endgame for the Republican Party. The Party of Lincoln gave birth to Griftopia, a country where people could feel OK investing their inherited millions to buy patents for life-saving medications then jacking up the prices so people die.
There is a sick symmetry to Kolfage’s scam. Fourteen years ago he was literally blown to pieces in a war that was, itself, a trillion-dollar con. Dick Cheney earned tens of millions from his investments in Halliburton thanks to his work as Vice President. The engineers of the Iraq War told Kolfage he’d be greeted as a liberator. None of them were ever held accountable for a fraud that Kolfage and tens of thousands of other servicemen paid for with broken bodies and minds.
If Kolfage pulls this off without landing in jail, then a severely wounded veteran of a fraudulent war will have pocketed millions from what amounts to little more than a tax on racists. Here in Griftopia, that’s as close to a happy ending as anyone can expect. Please forward his powerful GoFundMe appeal to your bigot uncle, and all those MAGA friends and relatives who’ve been ruining your holidays and cramming your Facebook feed with fake news. Brian Kolfage is the hero they truly deserve.
*Just for a fun, here are a few of the other, less successful efforts to raise private money for Trump’s wall.