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

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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.

"It sounds like he's quite skillful at going up to the edge and staying on the legally correct side of the line," Hopkins says politely. "He's probably well-advised legally. I hope so."

If there's any inherent tension between planning for the end of days and building a business model around it, Baxter doesn't acknowledge it. He recently renewed Endtime's lease — for another five years.

"Whatever happens, happens," he says, shrugging. "You have to negotiate whatever. If the Lord calls you home tomorrow, well, see you later."

Nor is he necessarily encouraging his viewers to stockpile food or weapons or build fallout shelters in their backyard, though he says that storing extra provisions isn't a terrible idea either.

"I know that it's going to happen," says daughter Jana, referring to Armageddon. "In my own life, yes, I do get in this rut of just living and doing my daily tasks. But I know there's going to come a day when I may sell my home and move to an apartment really close by here so I can be here all the time." As the end draws nearer, she says, Endtime's following will likely grow dramatically. "On Sundays we may get 300 or 400 calls in a day, but I look for the day that we get 10,000. I wouldn't be surprised."

For now, though, all of that — the war, Armageddon, Christ's return, Endtime's phone ringing off the hook and their prophecy college in Jerusalem overflowing — lies in the weeks or months or years ahead. But how far out does that earthly future stretch? Baxter still won't say, but his magazine may hold a clue: It encourages readers to renew their subscriptions, for as long as six years.

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan