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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Boiling Point: Inside the Tea Party

Aired October 30, 2010 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Time now for your headlines, and they begin with breaking news of an arrest in the plot to send explosive packages into the U.S. aboard cargo planes.

Here's what we know right now. A woman was arrested yesterday by Yemeni authorities in the capital of Sana'a. Her alleged role is not yet known, but one of her relatives is also being questioned.

And U.S. law enforcement says all suspected packages from Yemen have been accounted for and do not pose a threat. FedEx and UPS officials in Yemen have been closed - offices, I should say, have been closed until further notice.

Political farce or political force? That's the question. The joke was on Washington today as two funny men took over the National Mall with just three days left to the elections. Jon Stewart, the host of "The Daily Show", and Stephen Colbert drew a massive crowd for their "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear."

Stewart is considered left-leaning, but he is - he billed this as a moderate antidote to shouting and slogans and the rallies of past. Towards the end, though, he put away the smirk for a moment of sincerity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: We live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies. But, unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.

The country's 24 hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems. But it's existence makes solving them that much harder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: A number of guests joined Stewart and Colbert on stage, like The Roots, Sheryl Crowe, Kid Rock and Ozzy Osborne. This comes two months after another popular TV host, Glenn Beck, held his "Restoring Honor" rally in the same spot.

Pfizer's recalling 38,000 bottle of Lipitor after complaints over the smell of the packaging. Some bottles of 40 milligram pills had a musty or moldy odor. Pfizer says the health risk is minima. This is the second recall of the year - of this year of that same drug. A hundred ninety thousand bottles were recalled earlier over similar complaints.

Those are your headlines this hour.

An inside look at the Tea Party, who are they and what are the issues that matter to them? That's straight ahead. It's called "BOILING POINT: INSIDE THE TEA PARTY" begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You better wake up, America! The clock is ticking. Soon you wouldn't be able to feed your families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three to go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No more (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, carry yourself, (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a paycheck!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, turn the camera off, guys.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: God bless America.

Heaven forbid that the GOP machine strays from this message. If so, GOP is through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Tea Party Movement is claiming that they hunted (ph) you and that you're a ride on. They're claiming a victory against you. What's your reaction?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, DELAWARE: No more politics as usual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the people. We can't do this alone. It's we, the people.

CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA!

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN HOST: This is what you know about the Tea Party Movement, rallies like these, angry protesters demanding that lawmakers spend less of your money and spend more time adhering to the constitution.

But these rallies, rallies like these across the country, don't tell the full picture. There's a lot you don't know about the Tea Party Movement.

My name is Shannon Travis. I'm a writer, a producer, a reporter in CNN's Political Unit. I'll be your guide. Deborah Johns. She was an early member of the Tea Party Express. She basically sets the stage for what the Tea Party Movement is actually about.

DEBORAH JOHNS, FORMER VICE CHAIR OF THE TEA PARTY EXPRESS: It's a voice of the American people finally coming out of their homes, out of their easy chairs, and having their voices heard.

MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS CHAIRMAN: They can have my country's legacy, they can have my country's heritage and destiny after they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Get off my back, with lower taxes, less intrusive government, stop the out of control spending, an end to the bailouts.

The first thing I'd like to see happen is a complete ban on the use of the word entitlement. Nobody's entitled to a damned thing in this world except, you know, their rights that God gave them when they were born.

TRAVIS: In order to get a sense of what this movement is really about, we have to take an accurate look at who these people actually are.

I want to share with you some of our latest numbers from our CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Forty-nine percent of Tea Party members and supporters are actually Republican, according to this poll, 43 percent of them are independent, and eight percent are Democrats.

One thing that we have to talk about is as the movement has grown in size, there's also been one sizable controversy, and that's this notion that Tea Party activists are racists. It actually came to a head this past July, when the NAACP basically - they passed a resolution, saying that racism was running rampant and that Tea Party leaders, figures, aren't doing enough to actually put a stop to it.

BEN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Spell the bigots and racists in your ranks or take full responsibility for all of their actions. We will no longer allow you to hide like cowards behind signs that say lynch our president or anyone else.

TRAVIS: So as the NAACP passed that resolution, Tea Party activists swiftly responded, saying no, we are not racist.

WILLIAMS: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

TRAVIS (voice-over): But then, something strange happened. Mark Williams, he did something that many people saw as unmistakably racist.

WILLIAMS: Well, good morning, KGO Newstalk 810. I'm Mark Williams, in for -

TRAVIS (on camera): You wrote this satirical letter -

WILLIAMS: Yes.

TRAVIS: -- that became pretty well known. I'm just going to read a little bit of it for people who might not remember. It starts off, "Dear Mr. Lincoln, we coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves and take consequences along with the rewards."

Probably angered a lot of people. "How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn?" Totally racist.

What were you thinking?

WILLIAMS: Well, that was one of the - the worst and most foolish pieces of badly done satire, and for - for a professional like me, to the point of embarrassment. Clearly, I apologize to people of color, of all colors.

TRAVIS: What did it cost you?

WILLIAMS: It cost me a great deal of credibility. It - it harmed a movement that I worked very hard to build, which is why I parted company with the movement.

REV. C.L. BRYANT, FORMER NAACP CHAPTER PRESIDENT: We're still here, and we will not go away quietly into the night. We will stand and we will fight!

I've been across this country with this Tea Party Movement and I personally have been received with open arms because we all believe the same thing.

TRAVIS: I want our viewers to know that you were actually president of an NAACP chapter in Garland, Texas.

BRYANT: Yes, sir. I was.

TRAVIS: I've seen some of the signs of Obama as a witch doctor, depictions of him as a - with a monkey. I've seen him dressed as a pimp. How do you feel about those personally when you see some of those?

BRYANT: I feel that we have always said that those people have never been welcome in this particular group, and we soon dispel anyone who have those types of leanings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They went very negative very fast. In hindsight, we wish they would have stayed out of Alaska politics.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of America got to rise up right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just too much government in everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the right to debate with any administration.

TRAVIS: So we're with the Tea Party Express on their fourth national tour. Right now, we're in Pasadena, California.

California, arguably one of the bluest states in the country. Just goes to show you how the Tea Party Movement is essentially trying to blaze this path to power.

They're just one of thousands of Tea Party groups out there, but they all share a common cause - electing what they see as constitutional conservatives. Case in point, Nevada, where we just left.

PALIN: Stop Harry Reid. Stop Harry Reid.

Some of you need to man up and spend some political capital to support the Tea Party candidates.

TRAVIS (voice-over): They backed Sharron Angle, and they want you, and many of you, to fire Harry Reid.

CROWD: With liberty and justice for all.

TRAVIS: In the past 18 months, the Tea Party Movement has grown in size. How did they get to being arguably the most potent political force since President Obama took office?

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS JR., U.S. SUPREME COURT: So help you, God?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So help me, God.

ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

TRAVIS (on camera): So we came here to Fort Myers, Florida.

But I want to look back at what happened almost two years ago, at February of 2009. President Obama had just come into office in a historic inauguration about one month prior. He enjoyed a 76 percent approval rating. That means three out of every four Americans approved of the job that he was doing.

But the economy was hurting, and people were looking for relief. His audacity of hope, that an $838 billion stimulus plan would help basically put the economy back on track.

CROWD: Yes we can! Yes we can!

TRAVIS: He came here to Fort Myers, Florida, embraced by Governor Charlie Crist, in a famous embrace, to sell, to push that stimulus plan.

But who was outside as President Obama was inside with his throngs of supporters pushing for this stimulus plan? Mary Rakovich. She was standing right here, where I;m standing right now. Her audacity of hope was to say, no, we can't afford it.

So, imagine, one woman having the audacity to take on the leader of the free world. Mary Rakovich did that, and, for that, she's considered to be the first person to actually confront the president's economic policies.

So we came to Cedar Key, Florida on the Gulf Coast about 50 miles outside of Gainesville, Florida. This is where Mary Rakovich lives.

She's got three trucks in the driveway. You take a look at some of these bumper stickers here. You see one from Marco Rubio. He's the Republican U.S. Senate candidate for the State of Florida here. See another right here, "Obama, Carter's Second Term". And, of course, you have "Freedom Works", Freedom Works being a major back group of the Tea Party Movement there. They're based in Washington but it helped a lot of the grassroots.

This one I thought was especially interesting, "Take Back America 2010".

Hey, Mary. I'm Shannon Travis.

MARY RAKOVICH, ORGANIZED A SMALL STIMULUS PROTEST: Hi, nice to meet you.

TRAVIS: Nice to meet you.

RAKOVICH: Nice to meet you, too.

TRAVIS: Nice to finally meet you.

RAKOVICH: Yes.

TRAVIS: Talk to me about how you prepared to mount this protest?

RAKOVICH: We only knew like two days ahead of time and I had been at a Freedom Works workshop that they had up in Tampa a couple of weeks before that. And Brendan Steinhauser, who's the head of campaigns for the state, gave us a call and said you, yes. He goes you don't need to have a whole lot of people there. It's like, OK, fine, I'll give it a go.

So we basically spent most of the day and halfway into the night, you know, making up some signs and stuff.

TRAVIS: And what did some of those signs say?

RAKOVICH: Real jobs, not pork.

TRAVIS: I want to talk to you a little bit about your health.

What would you say to critics who might say that that smacks of hypocrisy, that Conservative activists who want to do away with programs like that are also benefiting from programs like that? RAKOVICH: Thank God that it was there as a stopgap measure, not as a lifestyle, you know? And I believe that that the Medicare system, the way it currently operates, is broken and it needs to be revamped. I don't think that it should just be wiped off the map.

TRAVIS: Critics might actually blame you, say, hey, this woman, Mary Rakovich is responsible for the Tea Party Movement.

RAKOVICH: Well, I think they should look at Rick Santelli instead, you know?

TRAVIS: CNBC reporter Rick Santelli. At the time, he was a vocal critic of President Obama's housing plan to help struggling homeowners. Some people actually called it a housing bailout. But what Rick Santelli said at the time went viral all over the internet and it soon became known as what many activists call the "Rant Heard Around the World".

RICK SANTELLI, CNBC BUSINESS NEWS NETWORK ON-AIR EDITOR: This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boo!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boo!

SANTELLI: President Obama, are you listening? We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I'm going to start organizing it.

CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA!

SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: It's just the beginning of an election year filled with many, many surprises I can tell you that.

SEN. BOB BENNETT (R), UTAH: The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic.

RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: I have a message, a message from the Tea Party. We've come to take our government back.

TRAVIS: Senator Murkowski, I'm Shannon Travis of CNN. The Tea Party Movement is claiming that they hunted you and that you're a RINO and they claimed a victory against you. What's your reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Shannon, I said I'll get back to you on that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRAVIS: Right now, we're headed to Alaska where there's a candidate who's running for Senate who's a virtual unknown back in June, who's now on the verge of knocking off a powerful U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski. How did this guy come from virtually out of nowhere with very little name ID, a lot of people hadn't heard of him. A lot of people actually dismissed his candidacy. How is he on the verge right now of knocking off Senator Murkowski? Tea Party Express.

How much do you owe being in this spot right now to the Tea Party Express coming in and endorsing you and actually sending out people to help your campaign?

JOE MILLER, GOP SENATE CANDIDATE: The Tea Party was critical. In fact, everybody that came into this campaign was critical. You take any component of that out, whether it's Governor Palin, Governor Huckabee, the Tea Party Express, you know, it's in the Governor (INAUDIBLE), then I think we would have likely given how close this race was ended up in a better position.

TRAVIS: The Democrats are going try and pain you as an extremist, as a constitutional Conservative, a way on the fringe out of the mainstream, address that.

MILLER: Well, you know, if they think that I'm extreme, then they must be classifying the founding fathers as extreme as well because that's all we're doing. We're putting forward the founding fathers issue.

TRAVIS: We're in Anchorage. We are outside of a State Division of Elections Office and look who we run into, the core team, the A-team of the Tea Party Express.

AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS CHAIRMAN: We can come in and promote whatever candidate we want to, but ultimately the people make their decision when they go to the ballot box. And these liberal Democrats, liberal Republicans can say that these candidates are extreme, but then they're saying the rest of America is extreme. We're not extreme. I mean, this is mainstream America making these decisions and they better wake up and listen.

JOE WIERZBICKI, TEA PARTY EXPRESS CHIEF STRATEGIST: You know what, these candidates who are being called extreme are taking on issues that politicians haven't taken on and that's why they're getting attacked. You know, we do have a problem with social security and it does have to be addressed and it's not working the current way.

And so you can go ahead and do nothing like these (INAUDIBLE) politicians are doing, or you can take it on, but then the minute you do, this special interest and your attention, this - they're going to call you extreme. So you just have to take this.

TRAVIS: Is there a warning from your group? A message in this? Should they be reading the tea leaves?

KREMER: I think - yes. I think that they need to, you know, adhere to the constitution and know that we're watching, but more importantly, the people are watching.

TRAVIS: So we're here outside of Lisa Murkowski's Anchorage campaign headquarters, trying to just basically just talk to her about the mood in the campaign, see what's going on as they await the vote tally, the final vote result.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just, you know, watching the numbers closely.

STEVE WACKOWSKI, SEN. MURKOWSKI'S CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: There's going to be a large bulk of votes tabulated at 5:00 P.M., so we're going to know either way, you know, where - where we stand.

TRAVIS: So, is it possible that you might concede? Is that a possibility?

WACKOWSKI: We're waiting to that. You know, unfortunately, we got all (INAUDIBLE) - all our offices, we just don't know.

Can you give me a (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We narrowed the gap a little bit, we're at 1,294. Yesterday we're at 1,680.

TRAVIS: I have to say I can tell from a little bit of your body language a certain sense of, should I say, unease?

WACKOWSKI: That's fair to say.

TRAVIS: If this thing doesn't pan out for you guys, how - how big of a blow is that going to be? I mean, you must have thought about that?

WACKOWSKI: Yes, of course, you do think about that. It would be a huge problem, so -

TRAVIS: Would it be directly attributable to the Tea Party Movement?

WACKOWSKI: It went very negative, very fast. They dumped a lot of money on - outside here. They really didn't - they kind of disregarded the facts, not her record. A lot of, you know, they would spat out lies and then they would spat them out louder and louder and louder.

TRAVIS: Who's spat out lies?

WACKOWSKI: The Tea Party. I mean, blatant stuff about avoiding records (ph). But you got, in hindsight, we wish they would have stayed out of Alaska politics. They're spending their resources trying to take down a fellow Conservative. You know, I think it's very unfortunate that they kind of had to distort the truth to try to take down Senator Murkowski when, you know, we've got Republicans fighting each other here.

TRAVIS: Do you think in the short-term or for the long haul that this could be potentially damaging to the Republican Party?

WACKOWSKI: That's a really good question. You know, I - I got to tell you. It's hard for me to answer that question right now. We're at a place where we didn't think we would be, quite frankly. We, honestly - I don't think we saw a large part of this coming.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: We know that we still have outstanding votes to count in this primary. But based on where we are right now, I don't see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor.

TRAVIS: Senator Murkowski, I'm Shannon Travis of CNN.

MURKOWSKI: It's nice to meet you.

TRAVIS: The Tea Party Movement is claiming that they've hunted you and that you're a RINO and they claimed a victory against you. What's your reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Shannon, I said I'll get back to you on that.

TRAVIS: I just wanted to see what the senator's reaction is because they're passing around e-mails claiming victory.

MURKOWSKI: The Tea Party Express was very involved in the State of Alaska, I think we all know that.

TRAVIS: OK. The last time our named source, she's going to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. OK. All right. Got it.

TRAVIS: All right. Thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put Paul on it, Shannon.

TRAVIS: OK. I just got off the phone with him. We can go with it, but it's a single source. So if my guy approved it. So if I say right now, if we report as a network that an unnamed source is confirming that she will do a write-in candidate, are we going to, you know, have egg on our faces? They're like no, no, you'll be fine.

I have a relationship with them. Yes. I mean, So what do you want to do? It's a really, really risky move, for a few reasons. A, very few people, if any, has successfully been able to actually win a write-in bid. Secondly, if she does this, this could effectively split the Republican vote between her and Miller and possibly even hand this to the Democrat.

KREMER (via telephone): This is (INAUDIBLE) we're finding. They don't get it, do they? She was fired by the people, the people were given a choice and they voted for somebody else.

TRAVIS: She says that the Tea Party Express hijacked the Alaska Republican Party. She called you all...

KREMER: That we're extremists.

TRAVIS: ... an extremist group.

KREMER: You know what? She can say whatever she wants to about it. It's not us who voted, it's the people of Alaska, and I don't think they're too extreme.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: These outside interest groups like the Tea Party Express, perhaps it's one time that they met one Republican woman who won't quit on Alaska.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRAVIS: Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, turn the camera off, guys!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRAVIS: The Republican primaries are political ground zero for Tea Party activists. In Delaware, Christine O'Donnell is their soldier fighting against what they see as a Republican RINO, "Republican in name only," Mike Castle, Congressman Castle, who's just way too liberal, they say. The level of vitriol, the level of just rancor, the level of animosity between Republicans, Republican versus Republican, is unlike we've seen.

We're just driving into Delaware right now. We're hearing our very first ads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: O'Donnell went years without paying her taxes.

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: Please join me in supporting Christine, and vote for Christine O'Donnell this Tuesday.

TRAVIS: Sarah Palin in a robocall. At the very beginning of that, she talked about how she can identify with being the victim of personal attacks. Both sides are just throwing everything but the kitchen sink at each other to try and win this primary tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Earlier, we were talking about Castle, and apparently a vote he made, which I guess is a vote in support of the terrorists.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R-DE), SENATE CANDIDATE: Absolutely. He voted against arming the airline pilots.

TRAVIS: He voted in support of the terrorists? That's the kind of incendiary language that a lot of Republicans use against liberals, and they're using that same kind of tactic against another conservative. This is getting really, really ugly.

This is as nasty as Delaware's probably ever seen.

O'DONNELL: Yes, unfortunately. Unfortunately. But we're about to bust up the back room deals. We're about to change politics as usual here in Delaware and take the power of the political process and put it back into the hands of the people. And the lords of the back room are scared.

The Tea Party Express choosing to come to Delaware has put a spotlight on what's going on in this race, and it's energized a lot of people. Don't ever underestimate the power of we the people!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRAVIS: Now it's pretty much a virtual news blackout. She's gotten a lot of exposure for controversies.

O'DONNELL: I dabbled in witchcraft. I never joined a coven.

TRAVIS: Back in the '90s, she said that she, quote, "dabbled in witchcraft." That caught a lot of people by surprise. Last night, we saw for the first time her very first campaign ad. I'm going to play it.

O'DONNELL: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you.

TRAVIS: I will leave my call-back number once again.

I've been calling and calling the campaign, and just calling around a few people on the campaign and see if we can find out some information about where she's going to be.

It's Shannon Travis, political producer with CNN. I've called and left you a few messages.

This is what it's been like for at least a week-and-a-half for me personally, a lot longer for some other people who've been trying to contact the O'Donnell campaign.

I'm going to hop back on the bus and just see if we can actually go and find her at some of the places that we know that she might be.

So we're here in the building where Christine O'Donnell's campaign headquarters is. Apparently, it's on the second floor.

This is the headquarters.

Hello?

I'm knocking repeatedly, and pretty loudly. And we definitely hear people on the other side of the door, a lot of activity back there. Maybe someone's coming to the door now.

Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, turn the camera off, guys! You're acting immature.

TRAVIS: The camera's off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) if you're rolling? If you're rolling, I'm going to roll.

TRAVIS: I just want to get for the record what's (INAUDIBLE) We're rolling straight down as we get the audio.

They explained us a few things. One, that they're just opening up this office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, he could burst everyone's bubble here, but we just got Internet here yesterday. So phones just came in today.

TRAVIS: Another thing that he said is that they just didn't anticipate the amount of furor, the amount of attention that this race might get.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Your staff was very reluctant to have us ask you about these past statements that you made in the past. I wanted to ask you, why is that? Aren't they your statements?

O'DONNELL: This campaign is about the future and not the past.

ACOSTA: So you're never going to talk about your time with Bill Maher?

O'DONNELL: Why? What I said or did on a comedy show, you know, over a decade ago is not relevant to this election.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Any regrets in doing the ad? Because that -- that, you know, really did raise it again.

O'DONNELL: Yes. Yes. You know, I haven't publicly stated this, and I don't know if I'll get in trouble for saying that, but our intention was to kill it. And that's not what happened.

TRAVIS: Fifteen days out, and the polling that we have and that we have seen show that she's anywhere between 15 to potentially even 20 points behind. Does that worry you? Does...

KREMER: No.

TRAVIS: Is there any regret about endorsing her?

KREMER: No, there's absolutely no regret. We stand behind her. We think that this race is winnable. And you know, they were also saying she was polling in double digits when she beat Mike Castle.

TRAVIS: Who are some of those corporate funders?

DICK ARMEY, FREEDOMWORKS CHAIRMAN: Well, we don't -- we never -- we have never in our life discussed our...

TRAVIS: Why is that?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRAVIS: FreedomWorks are really the power brokers behind the Tea Party movement. A lot of people have not heard of them. What these guys do -- and we're going to be going in in a minute -- is they train, recruit, they put activists through boot camps so that they can actually go out there in the trenches, in the fields, to the rallies.

Take note of that address right there, 1601 Pennsylvania Avenue. For a movement that likes to describe itself as constantly just being about the people, from the people, bottom up, you could not have a more Washington establishment address than 1601 Pennsylvania Avenue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are trying to highlight our candidate. These are people that have either beaten the establishment or are going to beat the establishment and then change the face of Congress. We're just helping them, power them with the tools so they can be successful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the Tea Party is revolutionizing once again how to do politics, but it's still shoe-leather politics.

TRAVIS: How many big dogs, I mean, like, you know, millionaires, billionaires, who are sympathetic or supportive to the cause?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, we may have some people that make more than the average American, but most of our funding does come from small-dollar donors.

TRAVIS: Name some names for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't do that. We have to protect the privacy of our donors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the money comes from a broad base of people that believe the same things we believe. And they're investing in freedom. They're investing in fiscal responsibility. And that's where I raise my money.

TRAVIS: How about some names of some of these big donors?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't -- we don't talk about our donors.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no doubt that the infrastructure and the financing of the Tea Party comes from some very traditional, very powerful special interest lobbies. I don't think this is a secret. You know, Dick Armey and FreedomWorks, you know, are financed by traditional, very conservative industries and forces.

TRAVIS: There have been some questions about who's actually funding the movement, about whether billionaires -- whether really wealthy people are funding the movement possibly to even further their own self-interest.

DICK ARMEY, FREEDOMWORKS CHAIRMAN: Ten percent of our money comes from corporate funding. The average contribution in our organization is around $50. So we have a grass roots organization with grass roots funding.

TRAVIS: Who are some of those corporate funders?

ARMEY: Oh, we don't -- we never we have never in our life discussed our...

TRAVIS: Why is that?

ARMEY: Because it's a matter of respect. First of all, there's no law that requires us to.

TRAVIS: But there's no law that requires that you don't.

ARMEY: Huh?

TRAVIS: No law that requires that you don't, as well.

ARMEY: But there's a principle called respect. If you wanted to give me 20 bucks and I went and told the world that you gave me 20 bucks, it might be -- you might have friends or relatives that are upset with you for that. You have a right to be respected in your privacy.

TRAVIS: Sal Russo is the chief strategist. Some people call him the money man. Yes, he's a veteran political Republican operative. So he's the chief strategist for the Tea Party Express. The Tea Party Express is using his consulting group for consulting. So there have been questions about whether that is personally enriching him, whether he's getting rich off of the movement. These are all of the fees to Russo Marsh and Associates -- commission fees, airfares, consulting services, $20,000.

This is the headquarters of the Tea Party Express. We're going inside right now. We want to talk with Sal Russo.

Well, there's this notion that you are a prime player here at the Tea Party Express PAC. And yet your company, your consulting company, charges the group for consulting fees and other fees and what have you, a lot of money. Are you somehow personally profiting?

SAL RUSSO, TEA PARTY CONSULTANT: We grossly undercharge. In fact, there's been no profit at all in anything we've ever done for Tea Party Express. The money that you're talking about gets plowed right back into all the expenses. I mean, Tea Party Express 3 was, like, almost a million dollars, a little over a million dollars.

TRAVIS: What are some of the expenses that account for the million dollars?

RUSSO: Well, the bus, the three buses, the vehicles that we need, the hotels. It's a major undertaking to do a national bus tour.

TRAVIS: So to those people whose eyebrows might raise when they say, Hey, he's a chief strategist at the Tea Party Express PAC, but he's also billing the Tea Party movement...

RUSSO: We charge I think one tenth, probably, of what a firm in Washington, D.C., would charge.

TRAVIS: Deborah Johns, as you know very well, was a huge advocate for the Tea Party Express. She was a staffer here for a while, through, I believe, the first two tours. I spoke with her.

DEBORAH JOHNS, FORMER STAFFER: Is it OK to go have a $1,000-a-night bar tab? Is it -- you know, and...

TRAVIS: When did that happen? JOHNS: Oh, it's happened numerous times.

RUSSO: That's just bogus. I mean, the one charge that gets cited all the time is one that was our fund-raiser for -- for that Tea Party Express 1 or 2. I mean, it was, like, a $5,000 bill and it was the fund-raiser. It was the cost of the fund-raiser.

JOHNS: Every night, when you're out on the road on the Tea Party Express, all the dinners are being paid for for everybody that is on the buses.

TRAVIS: Why is that wrong?

JOHNS: It's not wrong. People got to eat. But does the drinking really need to be to the level that it is?

RUSSO: No, that's not -- that's not true. When people go out and drink, they pay for their own, so -- there are -- sometimes there are dinner meetings, and we'll tolerate people having one or a cocktail at dinner. But there's not excessive bar tabs. That's just false.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're the purists of the Tea Party groups, you know, because, as I said earlier, we don't have any money.

TRAVIS: Governor, what do you say to your critics who say you're way too divisive to forge a consensus?

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TRAVIS: So the Tea Party movement says that they're on a RINO hunt to purge the Republican Party of what they call RINOs, or "Republicans in name only," Republicans that they deem to be too moderate. So we came on a hunt here on Capitol Hill for some of those supposed RINOs.

Senator, we're doing a documentary on the Tea Party movement, and they're claiming that you're a RINO that they're saying that they've knocked off.

SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: There are people in the Tea Party movement who simply cite the slogans and don't want to pay attention to governance.

TRAVIS: So what do you think about their impact on the Republican Party? General?

BENNETT: We'll have to wait and see. They have had an impact, clearly, on the primaries.

TRAVIS: Senator, the Tea Party movement has been obviously very active this cycle. Seeing as how you were once a Republican and you're now a Democrat, what do you think about this idea that there's no room for moderate Republicans in the Republican Party?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I think it is really a problem for democracy when the fringes of the parties gain control.

TRAVIS: So is it your sense that the Tea Party movement is the extreme of the Republican Party?

SPECTER: I don't think there's any doubt that the Tea Party is going very, very far to the right.

TRAVIS: And a last question...

SPECTER: No, you've had two.

TRAVIS: OK. Thanks.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIR.: And this kicks out at 3:00 o'clock.

TRAVIS: We're here with Paul Steinhauser, my boss, the deputy political director at CNN. They do well, what will be the story line for the potential impact on the presidential race?

STEINHAUSER: Huge. You're already seeing candidates who are changing kind of the way they would go about running in 2012. You know, it used to be you go to the traditional states, you get the big endorsements from the traditional politicians.

TRAVIS: Right.

STEINHAUSER: The Tea Party movement has thrown all that out the window. Now it's about the grass roots.

TRAVIS: What about if this bus tour and other, you know, Tea Party activism doesn't hand them that many victories? Will we start to see, like, the air come out of the balloon a little bit?

STEINHAUSER: That could be the big story line in November. If these candidates who have been endorsed by the Tea Party movement and assisted by the Tea Party movement don't do well and lose to Democrats, where other, more moderate Republicans may have won, there's going to be a lot of criticism that the Tea Party moved the Republican Party too far to the right, too far out of the mainstream. That's what Democrats are saying right now -- Those candidates, those Tea Party candidates, they're too extreme for you moderates and independents, people who really decide who wins in November. That will be a huge story line. We'll find out.

TRAVIS: Today is the kickoff of the fourth tour of the Tea Party Express. And where are they kicking it off at? Sarah Palin, she's the headliner for today's event. This is essentially her political base. I mean, she is the darling of the movement in terms of getting the message out. Sarah Palin can do it like no other.

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: Hey, politicians who are in office today you, you, some of you, need to man up! The bigwigs within the machine, they're driving me crazy because they're too chicken to come out and support the Tea Party candidates! Now Old Glory has never flown higher or prouder than where you have put her, Tea Party patriots!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah! Sarah! UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah! Sarah!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah! Sarah!

TRAVIS: Governor, what if the Tea Party movement winds up splitting the Republican Party? Who do you stand with?

PALIN: You know, I don't think that it will because I think more of the machine within the GOP is going to understand that this "we the people" message is rising and is resonating throughout with independents, with hard-core conservatives, with moderates because it's just so full of common sense and time tested-truths that can put the economy on the right track, that heaven forbid that the GOP machine strays from this message. If so, GOP is through.

TRAVIS: So governor, is there no room for moderates in the Republican Party?

PALIN: No, that's the deal (ph), is this is all about an independent message, moderates who just believe that government's proper role is very constrained and restrained, according to our Constitution, that our states' rights, our individual rights should be more powerful and made more manifest than a growing federal government's -- their power. So moderates can embrace that. Independents certainly can.

TRAVIS: A lot of Tea Party activists say they're on a RINO hunt to purge the party of moderate Republicans.

PALIN: You know, I wouldn't say that because within my own family -- my -- most of my family, most of my friends and associates, they're independents. They're not part of any kind of political machine. Shoot, if my husband was here, he'd be the first one to tell you, he as an independent, you know, just with the common sense knowing that it is, though, the constitutional conservative principles that can help our country. Independent (INAUDIBLE)

TRAVIS: What's the probability of attracting more independents to the Tea Party movement?

PALIN: That is a great issue, and that's what we need to do. But again, as long as we apply time-tested truths and we prove that they work, and that's what we have to do in the next two years, send a new Congress to D.C. to apply those solutions that are based just on free market principles that really can't be argued (ph) then by the independents and by the moderates. Then they start embracing more of what the party's (INAUDIBLE)

TRAVIS: And last question. What...

PALIN: What we have to remember is the planks in the platform of the GOP platform really are the strongest, most solid planks to build a strong economy because it's all about entrepreneurial spirit and equal prosperity and opportunity, according to a work ethic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

PALIN: Thank you for your encouragement?

TRAVIS: What do you -- and what do you say -- Governor, what do you say to your critics who say you're way too divisive to forge a consensus?

PALIN: Oh...

TRAVIS: Critics say you're way too divisive.

PALIN: They're going to say what they're going to say. And if I spent all my time just answering the critics, I might as well close up shop and do nothing else. Instead, we're out here and we're just so appreciating the enthusiasm for the common sense measures of Tea Party Americans. So thank you, guys.

TRAVIS: What do you -- what do you...

PALIN: Where are you from?

TRAVIS: CNN.