February 4th, 2010
06:48 PM ET

Welcome to the Party

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/04/tea.party.dc.jpg caption="A Tea Party protest in Washington, DC."]

Program note: Watch Randi Kaye’s live report from the Tea Party Convention in Nashville, tonight at 10pm ET on AC360°.

Randi Kaye | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

I hadn’t been to Little Rock Arkansas in 16 years.

I had worked there as a reporter, my very first reporting job, and honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be back.

Sure enough, I traveled to Little Rock this week to interview a man named Bob Porto. You’ll meet him tonight on AC360.

He was a home builder but the recession dried up all his business and when the bank came to collect a $300,000 loan on Porto’s house, he didn’t have the money. He also didn’t have anywhere to turn. That was September 2008 and that’s when Bob Port co-founded the Pulaski County Tea Party, which includes Little Rock and is the biggest Tea Party in the state.

Porto never cared much for politics but these days he’s busy giving speeches and going on the radio to push the Tea Party values.

Like most tea partiers, Porto isn’t happy with the direction he says President Obama is taking this country.

Tea Partiers oppose big government and big spending by government. They also oppose higher taxes and stand for freedom and fiscal responsibility. They do not want to see an increase in the national debt and they view health care reform as if it’s a health care takeover. More spending that they say “we the people" don’t need and won’t benefit from.

Porto says the Tea Party has given him a voice. Before, he says, he wasn’t being heard. He couldn’t get the attention of the government after his business fell apart and the bank called.

He told this story to me many times this week and each time I could see the emotion in his eyes. This was a guy that was a successful businessman. At one point he even owned two airplanes. And now, he is just trying to get by. He hasn’t had a paycheck in more than a year.

He thinks the Federal government is trampling on his freedom. So many rules and regulations And he’s still waiting for the TARP funds to be funneled to the everyday people like himself on Main Street. “Wasn’t that the point,?” he asked me.

Porto said “there are those too big too fail but me, I’m too small to save.”

He talks a lot about “freedom” and “America” and “We the people.”

The patriotism is practically spilling out of him.

That passion comes from the fact that as a teenager, Porto dropped out of high school and ran away from home. He was told he’d never amount to anything, but ended up creating a successful business for himself until the recession hit. Knowing the opportunities he had, he wants others to have the same and he believes unless something changes, there won’t be an America left for future generations. He has two daughters and he wants to make sure he does his part to help guarantee their future.

Be sure to catch Bob Porto’s story tonight on Anderson Cooper 360°.  Also, I’ll be at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville so you’ll get to see what’s going on there too!

Filed under: 360° Radar • Randi Kaye • Raw Politics
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. CHAS

    The U.S has failed to educate its children for too many generations.
    This is what ignorance begets.

    February 5, 2010 at 6:25 am |
  2. Jerry Bloemendaal

    I agree with most comments. These are rich people who now have to pay their own way. Hell, a fancy truck with 130,000 miles is new to me! "poverty is relative"a forein doc once told me,We didn't know we were in poverty till the richer Americans told us", Now we are miserable"

    February 5, 2010 at 6:23 am |
  3. amanda

    The tea party seems to be moving it's way into the mainstream or at least trying. However, no big government, cut spending, (and so on and so forth) isn't that what everyone is crying out? Except welfare junkies, of course. Our government has us fighting like kids in a custody battle. We need a new party. We need 10 new parties. How can we represent a diverse country with only two parties?

    February 5, 2010 at 6:06 am |
  4. Bob Akimbo

    For those of you who keep asking where the Tea Party movement was during the Bush administration: One of the first major Tea Party actions was the raising of over $6M dollars in a single day for Ron Paul on December 16, 2007; the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. Where do you think the movement got its name? This movement was originally angered, and basically founded, as a direct response to the Bush administration's overspending. The fact that the media ignored and ridiculed "teabaggers" until recently is no fault of theirs.

    February 5, 2010 at 2:07 am |
  5. Charles z

    I think Mr. Porto is confused. Tearing down government regulation is what allowed the housing bubble. Mr. Porto was an individual who profited greatly from that distorted, unregulated market. Now he rallies against the government that didn't protect individuals and he rallies for the kind of freedom that allowed the market to kick him to the curb. People who march around with this kind of disconnect with reality prove to me that corporate propaganda is rife in America.

    February 4, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  6. Sheepdog4514

    Thank you so much for the fair treatment of Tea Party participants. We have been castigated by Democrats and Republicans. It is our belief that both parties have been complicit in wrecking the economy and sending the bill to tax payers.

    February 4, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  7. El

    This story is disturbing in that he does not realize he needs to apply his belief in accountability and personal responsibility to himself. He chose to live in a 300K house that he should have parted ways with if the financial strain became too much. Having an upscale home in an affluent suburb isn't a God given right. Also I hope that he also is applying the same level of passion to finding a new career path because ultimately he is in control of his destiny..

    February 4, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  8. Ellen

    Independents and Tea Party supporters may fantasize a return to the America "of the Founding Fathers", but they should recall the reality of the historical facts that many of the Founding Fathers were slaveholders, racists and womanizers. What "values" did they stand for that we should emulate today, exactly?

    February 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  9. Rose

    ok ok ok ok, he has a 300,000$ HOUSE -.- its time to get a smaller home and find one within his budget so that maybe he wont have so much trouble feeding his family.

    February 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  10. Brian from DC

    Where were the "teabaggers" when George W. Bush squandered the budget surplus, grew government to mammoth levels, took us needlessly to war, and lead us into the Great Recession? They have no credibility.

    February 4, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
  11. Jeff

    I think he is referring to the stimulus plan that has yet to help anyone on main street. He is probably wondering why the multi-millionaire bankers get stimulus money(you know the ones who are mostly responsible for all this anyway) and the guy who is fighting to survive gets nothing.

    February 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
  12. Herman Cain

    I was really appauled the way the senator or congressman talked to the fellow that was trying to talk to him in Kentucky–like it is our way or the highway

    February 4, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  13. John Neale

    Calls himself a patriot yet God forbid he should pay any taxes to help those less fortunate Americans. I consider these types of people selfish and self centered and unwilling to contribute to the greater good. If they love America so much then why are they unwilling to help anybody but themselves.

    February 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  14. Patrick

    Yes, and what is he doing for health insurance?? He will be begging for an extension to any health insurance he ever had after he gets done complaining about the government "takeover".

    February 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  15. Mark Bittner

    Long live freedom.

    February 4, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  16. Heather

    I'm confused. He wants less government, but the government should give him money for his business that failed? How does this make sense?

    February 4, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  17. roxana

    I never had the chance to own a business, nor the money to start but I am wondering where are the money that this business men had? "At one point he even owned two airplanes" where are the money? How could be all spend. Is this a model for a business men? I am just wondering where is the real way

    February 4, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
  18. John Thomas

    So, let's see: no big government, reduce spending, cut the budget, cut taxes, get out of my life, get out of my way – but help me when I fail. Hmmm. What's wrong with this picture?

    February 4, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  19. Jennifer

    Just wondering, who doesn't stand for freedom? Is that really something unique to the tea party?

    I can't seem to muster any sympathy for somebody who at one point owned two planes, but couldn't manage to sock away enough to get through a dry period. Doesn't the tea party also stand for personal responsibility?

    February 4, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
  20. Annie Kate

    Bob is right – Washington isn't listening and the ones that say they are (Obama) are only hearing what they want to – what goes along with what they want to do. Up to now I scoffed at the "Tea Party" but I don't scoff any longer – Bob is right – his business was probably too small to save and that has been the primary characteristic so far of this stimulus bill that has cost us a fortune and given us taxpayers nothing but more debt to pay off if we can ever find a job. This convention ought to be interesting.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
  21. Don

    Wow. I guess I am a "Tea Partyer".

    I'm ok with that!

    February 4, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  22. Bill Clatworthy

    I just read this piece for the third time. It seems to me that Bob Porto's problems began and he lost his home during the Bush administration. It strikes me that the Tea Partiers continue to blame the new administration and Democrats in general with problems that should be laid squarely at the feat of the Grand Old Party.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
  23. Tim Gibson

    What our leadership has failed to see, or so it appears, is that America is to big to fail and it is the people, not the banks, not wall street, but the people who make America and keep it strong and profitable. Without us there is not party and when both parties are headed in the wrong direction a new approach is needed. And as Obama says, we will not back down now.

    February 4, 2010 at 7:16 pm |