As timgueguen said (and despite the common elements in our nyms we are not the same person), the Duggars have a real estate business that Jim Bob took over from his mother, and they’ve parlayed it into a portfolio of income-generating commercial real estate, including a cell tower.
Jim Bob also ran a used car lot and a towing business – a good pairing. A used car lot arranges high-interest loans for buyers with lousy credit (profitable), the cash down payment made before the car’s driven off the lot usually covers the dealer’s costs, any payments the buyer makes are profit, and if a buyer fails to make the payments, the tow truck’s perfect for repo’ing the car, which can then be re-sold. It may not have the summer-in-the-Hamptons cache of a hedge fund, but it’s a pretty shrewd small business strategy.
The Duggars set up their eldest son, Joshua, with a used car lot of his own that floundered and got sold to a chain at the time he headed off for his short-lived career as a fundie activist in Washington. The second son, John-David, got the towing business, but wanted to become a pilot. Hence, Duggar Aviation (yes, really) now owns two planes available for charter, and a another son is training to be a pilot, too. The Duggars have set these enterprises and others up as a series of small LLCs, so if one fails, it doesn’t take down the others, and base the businesses’ administration in the same little home office to keep overhead minimal.
Jim Bob and Michelle aren’t big on formal education, you will have noticed. While home schooling lets them control what their children can even *begin* to think about and keeps them tied tightly to their parents, there seems to be an additional motivation for choosing a curriculum that leaves their kids pretty much unprepared for college: Why pay for education in the hopes that someone will give you a job because of it when you can just invest directly in making your own job?
Long before they got the show on TLC, Jim Bob and Michelle did pretty well for themselves without college degrees in an economically depressed part of the country. She, too, had a real estate license. They did scrimp to cover the costs of the huge family they chose to have – and I’ve read accounts that say they accepted government assistance at one or more points along the way – but when Jim Bob first ran for the state legislature, he was able to finance his campaign out of his own pocket.
It was a later (failed) campaign for the U.S. Senate that got the family noticed by the national media and led to Figure 8 Films pitching a documentary about them to TLC, a special that morphed into a regular show (said to have provided the family with $25k-$40k an episode).
The family has since contributed generously to the campaigns of others, spending about $67,800 since 2000 on 38 candidates, mainly Arkansas legislative candidates, but also candidates running in North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Wisconsin.
Almost half that sum – $30,700 – was spent in 2014 alone, according to records in the followthemoney.org database. Their favorite candidates seem to be Baptist pastors with no political experience and no hope of winning. They’ve put their money where their mouths are, quite a respectable thing within the fundamentalist community, and must have a lot of favors out there to call in.
So they’re not suddenly broke now, no, though losing the show and the opportunities it generated like book sales and speaking engagements has to have been a serious blow. While I’m sure the Duggars want to continue their video careers to preserve their influence in the fundie world, to make money, and to satisfy what looks to be fairly profound narcissistic needs, it also looks like they’re going to use this new business they’ve learned about – video production – to establish enterprises for some of their sons and sons-in-law, just as they set up a car lot for Joshua and a charter plane service for John-David.
Joshua, before he went to Washington, was already touting his experience with video production, and it may be that he, especially, is considering behind-the-scenes work to support his family. His disgrace doesn’t register as strongly within the fundamentalist community as it does with the family’s detractors since fundie brimstone’s hurled at outsiders, not at the forgiven-by-Jesus privileged within, but he’s no longer fit to serve as a political front man.
I doubt that soliciting contributions or “love offerings” strikes them as begging. It’s just business – and a way to make lemonade out of the lemons of the current scandal.
Rather than sneering at them, I just look forward to future scandals.
Thanks to PZ Myers, for instance, I’ve learned that Jim Bob is buddies with Kent Hovind, the tax cheat recently released from federal prison on probation. Before his sovereign citizen pretenses got him jailed, Hovind was the erratic, charismatic creator of the silly Dinosaur Adventure Land theme park in Pensacola, Florida. When Hovind was released, Jim Bob had his son fly him down to greet his “like minded” friend and escort him home.
Maybe when Jim Bob posted that “like minded” comment on Instagram, he meant he and Hovind are young earthers. But I’d enjoy it more if Jim Bob’s destined to appear in court as a sovereign citizen, too. C’mon, Jimbo, give us a new kind of show, this time co-starring 19 IRS auditors and counting!