Billionaire 5-hour Energy founder secretly gave millions to state candidates

5-hour Energy

Billionaire Manoj Bhargava, who made his money with energy drink product 5-hour Energy, and several of his companies have given $5.3 million to political groups and candidates for state office since 2009, according to The Center for Public Integrity.

Bhargava’s investment firm ETC Capital gave the Republican Governors Association more than $2.5 million in the 2014 election cycle, putting the firm only behind industrialist powerbrokers Charles and David Koch and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

In total, ETC Capital has given more than $3.6 million to the RGA since 1999.

This should make Bhargava the target of politicians searching for a big donation.

From the story:

Yet Bhargava avoids the spotlight, both in politics and life: he said in a 2012 television interview that fame puts “a bull’s-eye on your forehead.” And he’s gone to great lengths to obscure his political activity, even as his signature product draws more scrutiny from some of the same politicians he’s supporting.

Bhargava gives through some of his 70 limited liability corporations and only a small fraction of the contributions were in his name, according to the story.

Outside of the RGA, some of his largest contributions were made to attorneys general organizations. He’s given more than $300,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association and more than $180,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association.

Why give to a state attorney general? They have the power to investigate his energy drink business. In the past two years, 33 state attorneys general have investigated some aspect of 5-hour Energy’s business practices.

Attorneys general in five states are suing 5-hour Energy for deceptive marketing practices and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating the safety of the energy drink after 20 deaths have been potentially linked to the product, according to the story.

Two of those five attorneys general, Indiana Republican Greg Zoeller and Washington Democrat Bob Ferguson, received campaign contributions from Bhargava when they were candidates.

Reach Eric Holmberg at 412-315-0266 or at eholmberg@publicsource.org. Follow him on Twitter @holmberges.