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A vendor distributes copies of The Epoch Times at a pro-Trump rally in December. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The publisher of The Epoch Times, a stridently pro-Trump publication with a flair for conspiracy theories and links to Chinese dissidents, nearly quadrupled its revenue during the first three years of the administration.

Why it matters: The nonprofit Epoch Times Association’s 2019 revenue of $15.5 million, up from $3.9 million in 2016, shows how lucrative news coverage catering to the president's most fervent supporters could be — and will likely remain even after he leaves office.

  • Founded in 2000, The Epoch Times has ties to members of the Falun Gong, a Chinese religious movement that's been persecuted by the country’s ruling Communist Party.
  • In its annual tax filings with the IRS, the Epoch Times Association says its “purposes are inspired by the founders’ personal experiences in Communist China and their efforts to bring honest, uncensored news despite oppression and violence.”

The big picture: The Epoch Times has doggedly written stories indulging some of the most popular conspiracy theories floated by President Trump and his most ardent supporters.

  • The paper devoted whole sections to “Spygate,” the term it used to describe a sweeping conspiracy to undermine Trump through investigations into Russian election meddling.
  • Congressional Republicans cited Epoch Times coverage in defending against impeachment charges brought against the president in late 2019.
  • More recently, the paper has floated baseless allegations that the Chinese government manipulated votes in the 2020 election to the benefit of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Epoch Times Association's 2019 finances point to a reader base that grew rapidly during Trump's presidency. While the group accepts tax-deductible contributions, the vast majority of its revenue in 2019 came from subscriptions and ad sales.

  • The group reported $7 million in subscription revenue, $2.7 million in advertising income and $3.7 million itemized as “web and media income.”
  • 21 donors gave the group from $9,000 to $54,000 each. The identities of the donors are redacted in the copy of the tax filing provided by its attorney today.

Flashback: In 2019, Facebook removed hundreds of accounts affiliated with The Epoch Times and barred the organization from advertising on the platform over multiple violations of its ad policies.

  • Those accounts had purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars in Facebook ads targeting Trump supporters with subscription offers.

Go deeper

Harassment of Chinese dissidents was warning signal on disinformation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the weeks leading up to the November presidential election, Chinese dissidents across the U.S. and at least five other countries found their homes blockaded by dozens of angry and sometimes violent protesters accusing them, without evidence, of being spies for China.

Why it matters: The protesters were mobilized through a disinformation ecosystem that overlaps with the one that led to violence in the U.S. Capitol last week. The harassment targeting the global Chinese diaspora was an early warning sign.

4 mins ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.