Scheme Came in ‘a Dream,’ Bakker Says : Fund-Raising Most Burdensome Task, PTL Founder Testifies
PTL founder Jim Bakker testified today that the fund-raising technique at the heart of his fraud and conspiracy trial occurred to him in the middle of the night as “a vision or a dream.”
“I think fund-raising was my most burdensome job,” Bakker testified. “It never left me. You never ever, ever get away from the pressure that you have to raise funds for next week, next month, next year.”
When he left PTL, the budget was $160 million a year, “which I think boils down to $3 million a week,” Bakker said in his first appearance on the stand.
Under questioning by defense attorney George T. Davis, Bakker described the roots of his PTL ministry in a low voice. At one point, when he looked at Davis, the lawyer pointed for him to look directly at the jury.
Wife, Children Absent
Neither his wife, Tammy Faye, nor his two children, were in the courtroom when Bakker testified.
After describing his early years as an evangelist, Bakker talked about his vision to build the 2,400-acre Heritage USA Christian retreat.
“The vision from God was to build a modern Christian campground where people could worship, attend seminars and workshops,” Bakker said.
As the ministry grew, he said, “we needed to build. In the middle of the night I woke up. It was a vision or a dream, I don’t know. God gave me the concept of the Heritage Grand Partner Center, and I began to sketch it.”
He later described the same event. “I woke up in the morning and began to write down the concept of lifetime partnerships. I brought the concept to my staff and showed it to some vice presidents and accountants. I asked them if it would work and they said yes.”
Not Sales Transactions
Bakker is accused of bilking followers of $158 million through the sale of the $1,000 partnerships, which typically entitled holders to three nights’ lodging a year in PTL hotels near Ft. Mill, S.C.
Defense attorneys have claimed that the partnerships were not sales transactions and that the money paid for them constituted gifts to the ministry.
In their presentation, prosecutors presented several PTL partners who said they sometimes were turned away when they tried to use their lodging benefits. Prosecutors contend that Bakker oversold the partnerships and diverted $3.7 million of the money to himself.
Bakker resigned from his ministry in a sex and money scandal in 1987 and is charged with 24 counts of fraud and conspiracy.