Campaign finance records show Bentley receiving a $100,000 donation in October from William J. Dore, a Louisiana oil-industry magnate best known, in political circles, for funding Santorum’s super PAC.
The donation is just part of the more than $400,000 in campaign money the governor raised in October, according to campaign finance reports. All candidates who raised more than $1,000 were required to report on their October fundraising by the end of the day Monday.
Bentley still enjoys a commanding financial lead over any potential opponent in the 2014 race, with a total of $2.1 million toward re-election. Bentley's only declared opponent, Republican primary challenger Stacy Lee George, has $48.
Bentley's biggest October donor was Dore, who gave a single gift of $100,000 on Oct. 17.
The business magazine Forbes lists Dore as the founder and retired CEO of Global Industries, a marine construction firm that works with the offshore oil industry. Records maintained by the Louisiana Secretary of State's office identify Dore as the president of the Dore Energy Corp.
Attempts to reach Dore at the company Tuesday were unsuccessful. It's not clear how much Dore has donated in other state races, but Federal Elections Commission records show him donating more than $2 million in 2012 to the Red, White and Blue Fund, the super PAC that supported former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Bentley endorsed Santorum in 2012 – but the governor's spokeswoman says Dore and Bentley didn't know each other until this year.
"He met the governor a few weeks ago and they really hit it off," said Rebekah Mason, spokeswoman for the Bentley campaign.
Mason said she wasn't sure exactly where the two met. She said Dore owns a residence in Vestavia Hills in addition to the Louisiana address listed in campaign forms.
Mason said Dore "likes the governor's strong conservative message."
Dore’s gift was far larger than any other Bentley received in October. He did get $20,000 from the Birmingham law firm Bradley Arant Boult and Cummings; and $10,000 each from Altria (formerly Philip Morris), the wireless company Verizon, the Retailers of Alabama PAC and the coal company Walter Energy.
Bentley's commanding lead is typical of the one-sided fundraising in most of the 2014 races so far. State records show Republicans raising $8.9 million in the state since fundraising began in June, while Democrats have just $1 million.
The Alabama Legislature lifted caps on corporate donations earlier this year, a move that has given rise to big-dollar donations not seen in past election cycles. It's still not clear whether the change has boosted the total amount of money in politics. Before candidates were required to file online this summer, reporting was often incomplete.
Still, past races have clearly generated big sums. Campaign records show that at the start of 2006, an election year, then-Gov. Bob Riley had more than $4 million in campaign funds. He also had a Democratic opponent, Lucy Baxley, who had more than $1 million. The 2006 race was the most recent one to feature a governor seeking a second term.
Mason, Bentley’s spokeswoman, said the money situation this year is very different from the situation in the last election. Bentley began 2010 as a Republican legislator who was considered a long-shot for the governor's office.
"This isn't like the self-funded 2010 days," she said. "A lot has changed."
Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.