FreedomWorks Seeks to Shape GOP's Future

When asked if it would be better for people to know where FreedomWorks' money is coming from, Armey said the group's backers must be protected.

"You have to protect people from harassment and there is main harassment that falls on our contributors," he said. "I'm also an advocate for privacy rights and you have a right to be private."

While Armey didn't want to discuss which backers pay his $550,000 a year salary, like so many of the tea party protestors, he did want to talk about health care.

"We got the bad guys on the run, I think we have -- given the massive, great big government takeover of health care -- a tko for the time being, but they are not going to go away empty-handed and don't overlook the possibility that they could cram this down our throats," Armey said.

To Armey, and a newly energized conservative base, health care reform is simply a grab for government power and yet another form of leftist tyranny.

"Big shots in Washington want to be in control. They want the government to run health care. There's no denying that," he said. "It is an intrusion of my liberty guaranteed by the Constitution, the sacred document that they swore an oath of allegiance to, the Constitution."

But when Armey was in Congress for 18 years, he received health care through a government program -- the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan -- which is subsidized by taxpayers. And before that, he was on the state payroll in Texas, teaching at Texas State University.

When "Nightline" asked Armey if his stance on health care was hypocritical, given his history, he responded, "I would say, you are being silly. I got employer provided insurance like most of the people in America."

Nightline: Your employer was the government.

Armey: My employer was the House of Representatives. My employer was the Texas State University. But, that is not a reason why I should be opposed to your having your insurance imposed on you by the federal government.

Racial Component to FreedomWorks Rallies?

The movement Armey seeks to lead was born in an eruption of populist anger at the massive Wall Street bailout President Bush signed a year ago. And it surged after Obama was inaugurated.

Some critics of the movement note that the vast majority of people at the rallies are white people -- and they point to a few hateful signs that have dotted the crowds.

Former President Jimmy Carter said the anger was all being fueled by racism. "An overwhelming portion of the intense animosity directed at President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man," Carter said in an interview with NBC earlier this year.

Armey disagrees with Carter, saying, "Jimmy Carter's all wet. Poor fella, I feel bad for him. But he's just flat all wet."

Instead, Armey told "Nightline" the fact that those who attend FreedomWorks' rallies are overwhelming white is a point of concern for the growing organization.

"Of course it concerns me," he said. "There's no more natural constituency for small government conservatism and restraint to big government, in my estimation, than Hispanic and black Americans. The Republican party has not done a good job of speaking to these two groups."

Later that evening, "Nightline" accompanied Armey to another gathering in Coral Gables, with a turnout far lower than the 500 FreedomWorks had predicted.

Bringing up the issue of race with one young mother in the crowd brought anger and fear to her voice.

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