Texas Border Wall Donor Info Largely Anonymous Despite Abbott's Promise for Transparency

Although Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, promised "full transparency" for his border wall crowdfunding campaign, the identities and locations of donors remain largely anonymous.

Abbott launched the crowdfunding campaign for the proposed border wall in mid-June, after the governor and other lawmakers raised concerns about a large surge in undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers coming to the Southern border with Mexico after President Joe Biden took office in January. Although the GOP governor promised "transparency," The Texas Tribune reported on Friday that most donors' identities are not being disclosed.

The Austin-based news organization reported that many users were simply using initials, fake names or even unique messages to identify themselves. One person contributed $1 under the name "StopWasting TaxpayerMoney." Another contributor identified themself as "King of the Wild Frontier," while someone else said their name was "Donnie Darko"—an apparent reference to the character, played by actor Jake Gyllenhaal, in the 2001 film of the same name.

Greg Abbott
While Texas Governor Greg Abbott promised transparency in the crowdfunding effort to build a border wall, many donors reportedly were only using initials, fake names or unique messages to identify themselves. Above, Abbott speaks alongside former President Donald Trump during a tour of an unfinished section of the border wall on June 30 in Pharr, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

"We expect full transparency and accountability," Abbott vowed in June when he initially announced the crowdfunding campaign. "So the public will know all the money coming in and how that money is being used."

Ethics experts have expressed alarm about the apparent lack of transparency. Some raised concerns that the crowdfunding effort could be used as a "pay-to-play" scheme, in which donors anonymously contribute large amounts to a key priority of the governor while receiving favors or kickbacks.

"You don't want to have this big slush fund of money that is going to this pet project of the state executive that has zero accountability to anybody, with money coming in from who knows what and God knows who," Beth Rotman, national director of money in politics and ethics at Common Cause, told the Tribune.

Renae Eze, a spokesperson for the governor, argued that the donors' identities were not publicly disclosed for their protection and that Abbott had followed a typical process when receiving contributions to the campaign.

"Due to the sensitive nature of the personal information for the credit card transactions, and the very real fear of retaliation for donating to the border security mission, billing information is only being kept by the state agency responsible for processing the credit card financial transactions," Eze told the Tribune.

In further comments to Newsweek, Eze argued that the border wall was a "public safety issue" and doubled-down Abbott's promise of transparency.

"As Texas steps up to secure our southern border with our own border wall, we are ensuring full transparency and accountability to our fellow Texans. Any accusations about its integrity are completely unfounded," the spokesperson said. "Like past donations to aid in disaster response efforts, the donations to the border wall are governed by Texas state statute. We are grateful for the support pouring in from across Texas and the entire country as we work to protect Texans and Americans alike."

Concerns about transparency also stem from a previous We Build the Wall campaign launched by Steve Bannon, a former senior adviser to former President Donald Trump. That crowdfunding effort raised some $25 million, but Bannon and several associates were later arrested by the Justice Department and prosecutors alleged that they had misused millions of the contributions for personal expenses. That campaign had promised that 100 percent would go to build Trump's long-promised border wall. Trump later pardoned Bannon right before he left office in January.

A Quinnipiac poll from June found that Texas voters are more or less split over their support for funding the border wall. While 50 percent said they supported the wall's construction, 46 percent said they opposed it. Among Texas Republicans, however, 89 percent support the project.

Updated 7/24/PM, 9:57 AM ET, with additional comment from Abbott's spokesperson.