Santorum’s Millionaire Backer Stays Mum on Political Motivations

Friday, 24 Feb 2012 07:49 AM

 

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Louisiana energy executive William Doré wrote a $1 million check last month to help Rick Santorum win the U.S. Republican presidential election -- a contribution that came out of the blue, according to the former Pennsylvania senator’s other major donor.

Doré is among 14 individuals who, through themselves, their companies and their spouses, have given $1 million or more so far this election cycle to support a particular presidential candidate, Center for Responsive Politics data show.

What isn’t revealed is why a person gives.

Few big donors have been as vocal as Santorum’s other million-dollar backer, Wyoming fund manager Foster Friess. He has highlighted his shared Christian faith with Santorum in several interviews. Doré is a more typical representative of this year’s new million-dollar donor class -- he isn’t giving interviews.

Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, said such donors are “fairly immune from any kind of blow-back. Maybe they get a little bit of publicity, but how’s it really going to hurt them?”

This contrasts with a corporation giving money, she said. People can boycott corporations if they disagree with political spending, as occurred in Minnesota when Target Corp. took a side in last year’s governor’s race. “With an individual, there’s nothing really to boycott,” said McGehee.

Because He Can

At least one donor has said he’s giving simply because he can.

“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” Sheldon Adelson, 78, a casino owner whose family has given $11 million to a group support Newt Gingrich’s candidacy, said in a Forbes magazine article posted online Feb. 21. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.”

The Red, White and Blue Fund has helped buy $1.3 million in television advertising to support Santorum in Michigan, where he’s in a tight race with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in most recent polls. An NBC News/Marist poll on Feb. 20 showed Romney leading Santorum, 37 percent to 35 percent.

Santorum was scheduled to speak yesterday at a fundraiser for the super-PAC in Dallas. Together, Doré and Friess have accounted for more than 70 percent of the committee’s $2.8 million in contributions.

‘Some Guy’

Friess, 72, described Doré in a Feb. 9 interview with Bloomberg TV as a mystery man whom he’d never met.

“Some guy sent in a million dollars, we had no idea who he was,” Friess said. “The money just suddenly appeared. No one made a call.”

Friess didn’t give the man’s name in the interview; FEC reports show Doré is the only person who wrote the Red, White and Blue Fund a $1 million check, which the committee logged on Jan. 11, a day after Santorum placed fifth in the New Hampshire primary. He’d won the Iowa caucuses, an achievement that wouldn’t be known for another week.

The donor who turned out to be Doré gave more on Feb. 7 as Santorum swept primary contests in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, Friess said in the interview. The sum of that check won’t be known until disclosure reports are released next month.

Doré’s check to the pro-Santorum group appears to be, by a factor of 20, the energy executive’s largest foray into political spending, a review of FEC, Center for Responsive Politics, and Louisiana campaign finance data shows.

Few Past Donations

In March 2010, Doré contributed $50,000 to the Republican Governors Association. Doré also has given at least $30,000 to two-term Louisiana Republican Governor Jindal’s campaigns since his unsuccessful bid in 2003, Louisiana campaign finance reports show.

The Center for Responsive Politics lists at least $7,200 in Doré contributions to Republican Louisiana Representative Charles Boustany Jr. since 2007.

He also has given to Democrats, including $28,500 in February 2008 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $4,600 to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu in 2007 and 2008, the data show.

The 69-year-old Lake Charles, Louisiana, resident made his fortune with Global Industries Ltd, an oilfield construction service company he started in the 1970s, according to a biography posted on the Horatio Alger Association website. Doré was one of 10 recipients in 2000 of the award, which recognizes people who have overcome adversity to become successful. Other recipients that year included actor Tom Selleck and fellow energy mogul Philip Anschutz.

Overcoming Obstacles

The oldest of five children, Doré grew up in a two-bedroom house with no hot water in a small Louisiana town, according to the biography.

Doré said the award “brings with it a commitment that I will never forget the road from which I have come, and brings with it the obligation to help young people burdened by adversities similar to mine.”

He won the group’s 2011 Norman Vincent Peale Award for exceptional humanitarian contributions to society. Among his charitable contributions was a $500,000 gift to build a new football stadium for Pineville-based Louisiana College, according to the local paper, the Daily Town Talk.

Energy Background

In 2006, he retired as head of Global Industries, based in Carlyss, Louisiana, after growing it into an international business employing 8,000 people, according to the biography. He leads closely-held Doré Energy Inc., which is described as an oil and gas exploration company in Lake Charles. He collected from Global about $1 million in salary and stock in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Santorum’s campaign won’t disclose Doré’s ties to the candidate. Stuart Roy, a spokesman for the Red, White and Blue Fund, said in an e-mail that he doesn’t discuss donors. Hogan Gidley, a Santorum spokesman, didn’t return calls or e-mails.

The former senator worked in 2010 as a consultant for Consol Energy Inc., a coal and natural gas producer based in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a job that paid him $142,500, according to a financial disclosure report filed in August with the FEC.

Santorum, like the other three Republican candidates, has frequently talked about the need to drill for natural gas and expand offshore drilling, saying Democratic President Barack Obama hasn’t been aggressive enough in his energy policies.

Donors Don’t Tell

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington campaign finance overhaul advocacy group, said even donors who explain their support of a candidate aren’t revealing all.

“We can never know for sure what motivation is inside the head of a million-dollar donor,” he said. “What we do know is that a million-dollar contribution provides the opportunity to purchase corrupting influence over an officeholder’s government decisions.”

Friess, who has given at least $1 million in several installments, has been the most vocal among the big givers in this election cycle, appearing on television interviews and even on stage with Santorum at campaign events.

He and Santorum’s third largest donor, John Templeton Jr., who has contributed $265,000 to the Red White and Blue Fund, have a history of supporting Santorum.

History With Donors

In 2006, as Santorum fought for a Senate re-election that he ultimately lost, Friess gave $250,000 and Templeton gave $630,000 to a group that ran television ads highlighting his efforts on welfare-to-work legislation.

Two years earlier, Templeton included Santorum in a half- hour video that he produced for $150,000 and distributed to churches, mostly in swing-state Ohio. It described the Christian faiths of then-President George W. Bush, Santorum and then- Georgia Senator Zell Miller, a Democrat. Templeton didn’t return phone calls requesting comment.

A former surgeon who lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Templeton runs the John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropy that promotes the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution -- something that dovetails with Santorum’s favored issues. Templeton is the namesake son of a successful mutual fund manager who established the foundation.

Templeton has given at least $1.7 million to candidates and political causes since 2003, largely to the Republican Governors Association and the Republican State Leadership Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

--Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Robin Meszoly

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Bykowicz in Washington at jbykowicz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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