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Energy drink founder pours money into politics

Mike Mozart
Creative Commons

Manoj Bhargava isn't a household name, but a report from the Center for Public Integrity says the Michigan-based billionaire’s campaign contributions rival the Koch Brothers'.

Bhargava is the founder of 5-hour Energy drinks.  Since 2009, he’s made about $5.3 million in state and national campaign contributions through his Michigan-based companies.

In 2014, Bhargava’s investment firm ETC Capital gave $2.5 million to the Republican Governors Association, a donation that placed him among the group's top five donors.

Ben Wieder is a data reporter at the Center. He said Bhargava has worked hard to keep his political activities under wraps.

“The head of the Republican Governors Association says they don’t even know Manoj Bhargava. He’s never even met him,” Wieder said.

Many other politicians and political groups that have received money through Bhargava’s companies said they barely know him, if they’ve met him at all.

Most of Bhargava’s contributions since 2010 have been to national groups, but Wieder said that money seems to find its way back to Michigan.

“There’s a layer that separates political donations by these companies connected to Bhargava and spending in Michigan,” Wieder said. “There’s essentially a middleman, but it’s clear that the companies they’re supporting nationally are very, very active in Michigan.”

Bhargava moved to the U.S. from India with his family when he was a teenager.

He currently lives in Farmington Hills. 

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