Apocalypse Now(ish): Irvin Baxter's End Times Empire

Death, destruction and the end of humanity: Dallas pastor Irvin Baxter is building a media juggernaut by predicting the very worst.

What's there is growing, and at no small rate. Baxter's daughter Jana, a vice president, estimates that they're on track to bring in around $3.7 million in revenue this year, more than double what they earned in 2010. At the same time, she says, the television exposure has brought a flood of new people to Baxter's conferences. Dramatic current events — wars, assassinations, terror attacks — also tend to bring people to Endtime's door. "Anytime things heat up, people always turn to this ministry."


As a religious nonprofit, Endtime doesn't pay federal income tax. In return, it's supposed to refrain from making political endorsements, and it must have a clearly articulated charitable mission. On its form 990, which nonprofits have to submit to the IRS, it lists that mission this way: "To distribute religious materials throughout the world by radio and mail."

Peddling DVDs and magazine subscriptions does, indeed, seem to be Baxter's mission, but how that mission serves anyone is unclear. It is clear, however, that it serves Baxter's family well.

IRS records show that six of the seven people on Endtime's board of directors are family members: Baxter and his wife; Jana Robbins and her husband, Dave; another daughter of Baxter's, Kara McPeak; and her husband, Gary. Baxter's grandson does their social media, and according to Jana, several of Baxter's grandchildren work at the ministry, along with her own daughter, niece and other relatives.

While that's not technically illegal, the IRS also isn't overly fond of it, says Bruce Hopkins, a nonprofit lawyer who often works with religious groups.

"The IRS is not keen, shall we say, on boards that are comprised of family members or otherwise related individuals," he says. "But frankly as a matter of law, they can't do anything about it. It's not impermissible." That said, Hopkins adds, "If they were trying to get tax-exempt status today, the IRS might give them a hard time."

"That's definitely a bad sign," says Rusty Leonard, more bluntly. He's an investment analyst, a devout Christian and the founder of Ministry Watch, which encourages financial transparency in ministries and religious nonprofits. Family boards, Leonard says, "do not reflect best practices in the non-profit arena. It obviously opens the door for misuse of funds. TBN is the prime example of that."

TBN has been Ministry Watch's biggest target for years, and has attracted equal attention from investigative journalists and secular nonprofit-monitoring groups. Paul Crouch and wife Jan have been sued by their granddaughter, who accuses them of gross financial exploitation of the company; in return, the Crouches have accused her of embezzlement. The lawsuit details lavish spending by the Crouches, on private jets, 13 luxury properties for use by Crouch family members (including "his and hers" mansions for Paul and Jan) and a $100,000 mobile home for Jan's dogs.

Endtime's haul is comparatively more modest. Baxter and his wife live in a $300,000 house in Richardson and don't own any jets, airplanes, mansions or dog RVs. Records show that every board member but Judy collected a modest salary in 2010, ranging from $40,000 for one of the sons-in-law to $61,000 for Baxter himself. The family also spent $137,000 on travel that year, and loaned Baxter $43,000 for renovations. How those expenses have increased alongside Endtime's profile is unclear; its 2011 tax returns are not yet publicly available, and their attorney didn't return several phone calls requesting them. Jana Robbins said she would provide the 2011 tax filings but didn't do so by our publication deadline.

Endtime's heavy emphasis on DVD sales is also something the IRS might not necessarily support, says nonprofit lawyer Hopkins. "It raises some questions," he says. "I'm quite confident if the IRS were to take a look at this organization, it would be intrigued by both its board composition and the fact that it's selling DVDs."

Baxter defends the family board. "Well, we sort of drifted into that," he says. "I have another board, which is a board of advisors, that that is not true of. We've done everything to the best of our ability to reach our goals. And my board of advisors is almost totally non-family members." (This advisory board isn't mentioned on Endtime's IRS filings.)

Baxter is also careful not to make direct political endorsements, though it would be difficult for anyone to miss his broader point. "It appears to me that if President Obama gets re-elected, we're going to be so far into one-world government by the time he's done with another four years that there will probably be no reversing it," he says in his office. "Whereas if Romney were elected, I think we'd reverse that trend."

A video starring Baxter's son-in-law Dave Robbins is titled "Who Should I Vote For In 2012?" It warns against supporting a presidential candidate who favors homosexuality or abortion. When Sarah Palin was still hinting at a presidential run, Baxter told his radio audience, "I'm not campaigning at all for Sarah Palin, but a lot of people say she's not qualified to be president, but she presided over the state of Alaska, which is a lot more than other people have who have become president."

But all this is regarded by the IRS as protected speech, Hopkins says, appropriately far away from a direct endorsement. Baxter and Endtime also haven't given any money to political candidates or causes.

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28 comments
superelf
superelf

Hello, Anna Merlan. For someone who appears to fall into the category of those who find the end of the age "a little obscure for non-prophecy types", your article was nicely informative about Mr. Baxter. Perhaps you will write a follow-up when these Holy Bible prophesied events start showing up in the newspapers (as you now know for what to look)? See you then.  ;)

doctordave77
doctordave77

Anna, I'll have some respect for your journalism when you do a similar article covering Scientology. You use some cheap tricks in an attempt to paste Baxter with the same brush as TBN. The hucksterism practiced by TBM is unrelated to EndTime so why do you write about their misdeeds in an article supposed to be about Baxter's ministry.


And his salary seems to be very low for a man overseeing a company with that income. I didn't read a word of credit in your article about that. Plus his advisory committee is not mentioned on his IRS form? So what? Why don't we have some details about the individuals on the committee and what function they actually serve.


Your anti-fundamentalist bias shows throughout the piece. Better to excuse yourself before you cover another religious organization.


Dave

GA030382
GA030382

I will agree that the DVD prices are steep.  Especially since the word of the Lord should be free.

But the DVDs were really done well.

JesusFollowerForever
JesusFollowerForever

I like how you shared his Holy Ghost Experience because that's a real experience everyone should try to receive it is a promise to everyone, read acts chapter 2:38 and the whole chapter along with it. The Holy Ghost changed my life I was addicted to many different drugs for years but the Holy Ghost changed me forever and delivered me from my addictions forever. I'm glad to be free.

jeremyconr
jeremyconr

I firmly believe that Mr. Baxter is a genuinly good man. I do appreciate a look at his ministry from a different point of view. I think he is honestly doing the best he can with his preaching and with the financial contributions he recieves. His ministry is what has worked best for me .

   I believe its not a Christians job to chastise anyone, maybe point them in a better direction, but not to belittle .  I think its a Christians job to live the best life they can quietly and live the life others would want. Not everybody wants to be a Christian, but that is their right. Its no mans job to judge. I hope everyone gets to experience the peace of mind I have had for the past 10 years, but I cant show them through words.

scottie1620
scottie1620

Praise Jeezus! I got to get me one of them thar prophetic churches! If there are enough ignorant, illiterate, stupid people around here with enough extra money to contribute to my cause, then I, too, can live the life of Robert Tilton, Robert Shuler, Oral (sic) Roberts, James Robinson, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Creflo Dollar and the rest of those charlatans who have conned their way into a comfortable living by playing on the fears of the uneducated mental midgets among us.

 

Anybody who believes this "endtimes" garbage needs to take the money they give to these guys and spend it on a good psychiatrist. Professional help may get you over this delusion of belief in sky fairies and endtime prophecies. And, by the way, the last two Presidents who talked about one world government in flowery terms were George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. They called it the "New World Order", and it is the very same "New World Order" about which Hitler talked, along with many other far right fascists for the last 1,000 years.

abeliever
abeliever

I've been following Bible prophesy and the Book of Revelation for over 30 years now.... and I find Pastor Baxter's videos and presentations about the last days or the endtimes to be about 90%  accurate... His timeframes are exponentially excellerating as each year goes by... the signposts are definitely there.....

kritter3
kritter3

It is great to live in a country where religious ideas are free to be disseminated to those who are willing to listen. If this article reveals anything, it is the possibility that the IRS might be used as the agent to silence anyone with an opinion. If we want to talk about taxing Non-profit organizations, we need to thing about the unintended consequences. Breast cancer research, climate change, and charities that directly help the homeless and those in poverty are just a few categories of nonprofits affected. 

I cannot remember the last time I heard about someone building a 5 million dollar "empire." Dallas must be fairly scandal free these days if we are digging this deep to try and find one.

jstump
jstump

Hey Anna, enjoyed the article and interesting take on the conference.  One correction though, the well dressed folks up front were all visitors while many of the folks in the back were the regular attenders.  We wanted the guests to have the best seats in the house.  The gentleman with the "Free" tattoo on his forehead is Darron - a veteran of the Iraq war - and an amazing person!  He definitely tends to get noticed.  :) 

 

We're so glad you came!  Next time let us know as we would love to recognize you and your paper.

 

God bless,

Jacob Stump

PhoneHome1
PhoneHome1

@ZachsMind #End of times = full of POISION & FEAR all for MONEY

Randy
Randy

I like how the font of "EndTime"'s cover is the same as the font on TIME magazine's cover.

Steve Nabors
Steve Nabors

Minus natural events, if an Apocalypse does occur I can almost guarantee it will be caused by the deadly virus of religion.

Louise Clifton Siebert
Louise Clifton Siebert

I'm more afraid of these religious crack pots than i am the end of the world! Maybe he should have his own reality show like honey boo boo..we all love watching a good train wreck

Jarod Warren
Jarod Warren

Another one? I seem to remember the Bible having some choice phrases regarding false prophets. Ah well, I guess like carrying dogs in purses, predicting the apocalypse has become the new.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Now what was it that PT Barnum said?

sunny-in-texas
sunny-in-texas

Sorry to nitpick, but it seems the author is using "prophesy" in places where she should be using "prophecy". Just kinda driving me nuts. Thanks!

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

"...at thirteen years of age, I figured something was wrong with me."

 

The one thing in this guy's life he got right.

 

I also love that he envisions himself behind "them all" on his white horse, watching it all unfold. *sheesh*

 

Megalomania, it isn't just for breakfast anymore!

sarahjane1923
sarahjane1923

@Dallas_Observer This is not required work reading, but I can't stop. It's like a well-written trainwreck.

WackyCrackerTracker
WackyCrackerTracker

I still say that "End Times 2: Die Prejudiced, Prudish And Proud" is the best in the series, although the CGI wasn't as impressive as the original.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

I'm in the wrong 'bidness'.......this ENDTIMES CRAP sells better than a hooker in an oil camp!  But sadly, I'm not a deceiver-oh, dern.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Isn't it overly prideful for 'Christians' to think that they are the ones to live in the 'end times?'  as all of em have for the last 2000 yrs.

jereca16
jereca16

They only way you can debate an issue is if you fully understand both sides you look down on Christian. Because you are a simple worldly person who knows absolutel. Nothing of God so you can speak of something you no not of. God is real and trust me so is the devil but you will blindly follow him because your uneducated from the truth ( which is god). Noone knows for sure exactly when or what will happen in the end but irvin has done his best to depict what God has told us. Also so you know this is the only era that has turned away from God every generation before us as well as every country ever built has known god he is not fictional. He gave you the air you breath( a waste). I pray that you find true knowledge and understanding so you wont suffer for you ignorance. God bless.

scottie1620
scottie1620

 @kritter3 The IRS is the ONLY agency that grants non-profit status, and it is done under specific terms and conditions. If the IRS revokes a non-profit status for violating the rules, then it does so because the "organization" is failing to operate according to the law, not because they are silencing anybody's voice. You are free to say anything you want to say to anybody at any time, and you do NOT need a non-profit exemption from income tax to do it. One has to be pretty dumb not to see the difference.

jereca16
jereca16

Your a good man. :) only a godley man could write that reply.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

 @jstump That's a really important correction, and I apologize sincerely for the error. Thanks, Pastor Stump. Glad you found the article interesting, at least. Thank you too for having me as a guest in your church. 

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

 @sunny-in-texas If it makes you feel any better I just fired myself for this offense. I immediately rehired myself, because I need the health care, but for a moment, justice was yours.

 

Joe Tone, editor

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

 @sunny-in-texas I think you're right. That's my mistake, and it should rightfully drive you crazy. We'll try to get in there and fix it momentarily. The print editions of the paper will stand as a monument forever and ever, though. 

reneeboyette
reneeboyette

There was a Pastor that always taught -- dont take my word for it -- go to the Bible and verify all that is said--- and once again Go to the Word of God the Bible -- there are teaching throughout the entire Bible --- that prove the endtime will come -- and gives signs of these times.

 
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