If you've ever spent any time on Instagram, you've probably run into one of the ubiquitous sponsored posts promoting Bang energy drink. In the ads, models in garish Bang-branded gear promote the benefits of drinking Bang or just try to look appealing while posing with a Bang beverage.
These ads are working. Bang's sales grew over 780% in 2018.
One thing these ads don't tell you: Every time you buy a can, you help Trump get re-elected.
America First Policies is the official pro-Trump Super PAC. It is chaired by Linda McMahon, who stepped down from her cabinet post to lead the effort. The purpose of the Super PAC and its affiliated 501(c)(4) non-profit is to amass a large amount of cash to attack Trump's opponents.
"My first order of business as Chair of America First Action is to crush our fundraising goals and ensure we have every dollar we need to fight off each of President Trump’s enemies in 2020. No other group is more dedicated to helping the President advance his agenda and win again," McMahon said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the group announced its fundraising haul for the first six months of 2019. Among the largest contributors is Vital Pharmaceuticals, the parent company of Bang, which kicked in $250,000. Bang founder Jack Owoc and his wife, Bang Marketing Director Meg Liz Owoc, are MAGA devotees. Now, they are using their profits to help Trump win four more years.
The politics of Bang
Jack Owoc has scrubbed his pro-Trump content from his Instagram account. But evidence of the posts is still available on Twitter. In one deleted Instagram post, he suggested that Melania Trump should be an "honorary" Bang model.
His wife Meg Liz Owoc, however, is less reserved.
She also retweeted conspiracy theories about Parkland survivor David Hogg that claimed he didn't attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.
In another tweet, Meg Liz Owoc advocated for the imprisonment of all CNN employees.
Jack Owoc does not have a history of large political donations. But he personally donated the maximum to Trump in 2016. And now, using the resources of his company, he has dramatically increased his support for the reelection campaign.
The Trump Jr. connection
The Owocs appear to be personal friends with Donald Trump Jr. The president's oldest son posted about a fishing trip he took with Jack Owoc in March.
The Owocs also hung out with Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, at Mar-a-Lago.
Guilfoyle now works for America First Policies, the pro-Trump Super PAC that received the Owoc's 250,000 donation.
The history of Bang
Vital Pharmaceuticals, which is not a pharmaceutical company, was founded in 1993 by Owoc, a former substitute high school science teacher. Owoc now bills himself as the "World's #1 Supplement Innovator."
One of the company's early successes was marketed "energy and weight-loss products containing ephedra," a supplement later banned by the FDA because it was unsafe. When Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler died while using an ephedra product to lose weight, Owoc dismissed the incident as "a fat guy exercising in the heat."
Owoc later turned his attention to Redline, a drink designed to produce involuntary shivering as a means of weight loss. "It is a physiological fact that when you shiver, your body releases a large amount of stored body fat in an attempt to bring body temperature back to normal," the company claimed.
Vital Pharmaceuticals and Owoc frequently cite "28 University studies" that validate their claims. But all of these studies are funded by Vital Pharmaceuticals and almost all were published in the "International Society of Sports Nutrition," a publication founded by a paid employee of Vital Pharmaceuticals.
Owoc has no degrees in any scientific discipline and has used his Facebook page to promote the discredited theory that vaccines are linked to autism.
Owoc claims he is the author of a book called the "Bang Anti-Diet," although there is nowhere to purchase the book or evidence that it was ever published.
CEO claimed Bang could "reverse mental retardation" and "help" Alzheimer's
In a video posted to YouTube in 2017, Owoc claimed that Bang could "reverse mental retardation" and "helps with all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and other forms of dementia."
There are currently no cures for any of these conditions.
Owoc claimed that the source of these benefits was his patented "Super Creatine," which he said was "20 times more effective at reaching the brain than other forms of creatine." Owoc was sued in 2018 by Monster Energy, one of Bang's competitors, for making these claims and other allegedly unfair business practices. Monster specifically takes aim at "Super Creatine."
In fact, BANG’s main pitch to consumers is a hoax. The product’s chief marketing draw is its “Super Creatine,” a chemical compound that Owoc claims can, among other things, fight depression and reverse “mental retardation.” As it turns out, BANG’s “Super Creatine” compound is neither “super” nor “creatine.” In fact, despite what Bang prominently claims on its cans, there is no creatine in BANG. And even VPX’s own research shows that unlike real creatine, the “Super Creatine” compound is essentially useless when ingested by consumers.
According to the lawsuit, Owoc has also claimed that Super Creatine can "reverse Sarcopenia," has "anti-depressive effects," increases "cognition," and has “antioxidant effects in the brain."
In response, Owoc denied claiming that Bang could "cure" retardation and forms of dementia. (This seems technically true, but he did say it could "reverse" or "help" those conditions.) Owoc also asserts there are different kinds of creatine, and the substance found in Bang is one of them. This was sufficient for Owoc to defeat a motion by Monster for a preliminary injunction against Bang that would have taken the products promoting "Super Creatine" off the shelf.
Bang later countersued, alleging that Monster introduced a new product mimicking Bang to confuse customers.
Bang Energy drinks are mostly a lot of caffeine (300 mg) and some Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAAs). These ingredients, which can help with endurance exercise, are widely available in many products.
Who are the other major donors to Trump's Super PAC? We don't know yet. The America First Policies Super PAC and affiliated 501(c)(4) non-profit announced they raised a combined $17.8 million in the first six months of 2019. But the Super PAC doesn't need to file with the FEC for a few more weeks. So we only know a handful of donors that the Super PAC itself decided to release early. In addition to Vital Pharmaceutical's here are the other donors America First Policies released:
Real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer: $2 million
PAC Chair Linda McMahon: $1 million
Cherna Moskowitz: $1 million
Uline founders Liz and Dick Uilhein: $1 million
Texas oil tycoon Javaid Anwar: $750,000
Chicago Cubs co-owner Marlene Ricketts: $500,000
Elaine and Keith Wold: $500,000
The affiliated 501(c)(4) organization does not have to disclose its donors at all. Such organizations are usually set up to accommodate donors who wish to remain anonymous.
Thanks for reading!