RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As Mara mentioned, there's been a lot of speculation lately about Rick Santorum's plans. Some Republicans want their party to rally around front-runner Mitt Romney now. Still, Santorum has enthusiastic backers. Among them a Louisiana businessman who contributed $1.5 million to a superPAC supporting Santorum.

As part of our series on Super Donors, NPR's Jeff Brady introduces us to Bill Dore .

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Bill Dore made his millions in the oil and gas business. His company Global Industries built pipelines and infrastructure offshore. Last year, a French company bought the firm. But perhaps more interesting about Dore is where he started in life.

(SOUNDBITE OF A HORATIO ALGER ASSOCIATION VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Bill Dore was born in Western Louisiana of a Cajun father and a Lebanese mother...

BRADY: Dore declined an interview request. But in this scratchy-sounding video on the Horatio Alger Association website, Dore describes a rough childhood with an illiterate father who worked hard, but also drank and was abusive.

BILL DORE: My father suffered from attention deficit hyperactive disorder, as I learned later in life when I was diagnosed. And it was hard for me to understand why he would leave jobs, going from one to the next.

BRADY: Dore says he decided he wanted a better life. He went to college and then built his business over the next four decades.

DORE: My level of success and my ambition, as I went along, was very incremental. I wanted to be just a little bit better than I was at that any point in time.

BRADY: Dore's appearance in the political world has not been at all incremental. Joshua Stockley is a political science professor from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

JOSHUA STOCKLEY: If you were to make a list of, you know, a dozen, 50, maybe even 75 significant financial players, prior to 2012, I don't think Mr. Dore would have been on your list.

BRADY: That changed in January when Doré gave one million dollars to the Red, White and Blue Fund, which is backing Santorum for president. On Valentines Day, he gave another half-million to the superPAC. In March, the group ran this advertisement ahead of the Illinois primary.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Meet the real Mitt Romney: supported the Wall Street bailout, putting America trillions in debt, raised the...

BRADY: The ad lists many of the issues conservative Republicans have with Romney, including a health insurance mandate created in Massachusetts when he was governor.

The music turns brighter when talking about Santorum and his policies.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: A bold plan for the middle-class, create dynamic jobs and cut wasteful spending. Rick Santorum...

BRADY: While the commercial is heavy on red meat for conservatives, Bill Dore's history is less ideological. He's given money to Republicans and Democrats. In 2008, he gave the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee more than $28,000. That same year, he gave $4,000 to help elect one of the few openly gay members of Congress, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis.

Lake Charles, Louisiana Mayor Randy Roach, also a Democrat, says he's known Dore for more than a decade.

MAYOR RANDY ROACH: I would say it probably doesn't matter to him what other people in the political spectrum may think, because he's going to do what he wants to do. And he's going to do it because he sincerely believes it's the right thing to do.

BRADY: Roach says Dore cares more about individual candidates than party affiliation. But beyond that, Dore's contribution is a mystery. He's a man of faith and that may have attracted him to Santorum, says Roach. Fiscal policies may be another reason.

ROACH: I think Bill, as a businessman, is concerned about, you know, typical issues as it relates to American business and our competitiveness. He's very focused on the energy business.

BRADY: Dore became rich by taking big risks. Whether his million-and-a-half dollar investment in Rick Santorum will pay off, could become clear in the coming weeks.

Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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