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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.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Capitol riot lawsuit

Rep. Mo Brooks during a June news conference on Capitol Hill. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

Team USA's Katie Ledecky celebrates after winning the final of the women's 1,500m freestyle swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky took home the Olympic gold medal in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle swimming race Tuesday evening, becoming the first female swimmer to win the newly added division. Team USA's Erica Sullivan won silver.

Of note: The Tokyo Games mark the first time that the long-distance race has been open to women, and Ledecky paid tribute to her predecessors after the race. "I just think of all the great U.S. swimmers who didn’t have a chance to swim that event," she said on NBC.