A Tangled Web


Unfortunately, I’m going to have to largely skip over an important issue to discuss an even more important issue.

Today I set out to write a follow-up article about the Bunicuta de Aur, our new Finance Minister Ioana Petrescu, who gave a lengthy on camera interview with the media outlet Adevarul yesterday.

During the interview, she revealed that the upcoming increase of 7 eurocents (~40 bani per liter) excise tax on automotive fuel, scheduled to take effect on April 1, is critically important to the budget because without it the government would be unable to pay salaries and pensions.

That excise tax was originally touted (by Dan Sova, now the Transportation Minister) as being for a special fund to spend only on improving and building highways and transportation infrastructure. Petrescu’s revelation was a bombshell as it now appears that (once again) the budget is hanging on by a thread and only just able to pay for the basics.

When the new tax kicks in, prices across the board are expected to go up and this is political poison for Ponta, whose allies are running for europarliamentary elections in May.

As such, Ponta had to appear on television yesterday to “walk back” Petrescu’s comments, literally saying he was her “translator” and that the poor girl “doesn’t know how to explain things”. He then went on to assure the public that the government had plenty of money for salaries and pensions and that everything was fine and dandy.

Incidentally, Ponta held his impromptu press conference outside the BNR (Central Bank) headquarters because he had just got done meeting with the Grandmaster, the two of them deciding to install Isarescu’s old Securitate buddy Misu Negritoiu as the new head of the ASF (agency in charge of financial supervision), a post that became vacant after the last Finance Minister’s wife was caught on tape arranging favorable legislation for the PDL mafia.

So all of that is an extremely important story, the revelations about the budget, the replacement of Laura Chitoiu with Negritoiu, and the knock-on effect that the new fuel excise taxes are going to have on the Romanian economy.

But I’m going to skip any further analysis into those topics to focus on something even more important.

colonizerandthecolonized

In my original post about Ioana Petrescu I had to speculate on how she had first met Victor Ponta and come to work for him as his economic adviser. There wasn’t much more I could do other than take a guess as no one had ever asked her before but yesterday the otherwise moribund interviewer, Dan Marinescu, finally put the question to her.

According to Ioana, she met Victor Ponta for the first time when he was in Washington “in 2012 but before he was the prime minister”. She also said she didn’t know much about who he was, but that her former boss at the AEI told her that Ponta was “going to be the next prime minister” of Romania. Ioana then began to “correspond with him via the internet” on economic matters until finally he offered her a job in September 2013.

Ponta was nominated to be prime minister at the end of April 2012 (officially in office from May 8) so it wasn’t too hard to find out exactly when Ioana would’ve met him. According to press reports, Ponta was in Washington in mid-February 2012, which was only a week after the new prime minister, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu (MRU), had taken office (following Emil Boc’s resignation after two years in office).

Ioana’s casual comment that she was introduced to Ponta as the “next prime minister” was very odd as nobody in Romania in February 2012 expected MRU to be brought down any time soon. Ioana didn’t say who else had met with Ponta when he was in Washington, only adding that “it was a group of economists”.

Ponta too had been very cagey in 2012 about whom he had met (my translation) in Washington:

Ponta stated that he hadn’t come to Washington to “take photos” but to seek clarification on a number of issues that Romania was facing.

Ponta did not wish to say with whom he had met nor about what he had discussed.

All he said, in fact, was that Crin Antonescu (his then-partner in the USL) had traveled with him and that they had traveled with the American ambassador (Mark Gitenstein, since moved on to the private sector, where his company has benefited enormously from Chitoiu’s ASF).

So who did Ponta meet with? And what was discussed? It turns out that Ponta’s one-week journey through America included a stop in Chicago and meetings with all kinds of shady, strange characters.

There’s no way to get a complete list but after a hell of a lot of research I can say with certainty that Ponta met with the following people:

American officials that Ponta met with in February 2012

Philip Gordon, then Asst. Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, the same post that Victoria Nuland now holds. You might also remember my post on Gordon’s visit to Romania back in 2012 when made an emergency trip to put this country in check.

Richard Morningstar, then the American special envoy for Eurasian Energy. He’s now the US Ambassador to Azerbaijan and the government’s point man on petroleum pipelines in the region.

Rose Gottemoeller, who is fluent in Russian and focuses mainly on international arms/weapons issues

Bruce Reed – VP Joe Biden’s chief of staff. It must be remembered here that Gitenstein is a long-time friend of Biden (which is how Gitenstein got the ambassador’s job)

James Townsend – Deputy assistant secretary of defense for “European and NATO policy”. He is one of the key advocates of the “missile shield” that involves Romania.

I’d wager dollars to donuts that the above five people’s main focus was on making sure Romania stays in America’s orbit and out of Russia’s influence.

American politicians that Ponta met with in February 2012

Senator Richard “Dick” Durbin – extremely influential Republican senator

Senator Johnny Isakson – on the committee on Foreign Relations

Congressman Frank Wolf

Congressman Bill Posey

Congressman Jim Jordan

Congressman Paul Broun

Congressman Jeff Miller

Romanians that Ponta met with in February 2012

Ioana Petrescu – now the Finance Minister

Dorel Popa – Baptist minister in Arad (and former mayor of Arad)

Cristian Ionescu – Evangelical minister in Chicago

Corina Cretu – PSD politician, famously known for having sent sexy emails to Colin Powell

Catalin Ivan – PSD politician

Geanina Puscasu – Ponta’s “energy consultant”, formerly worked for Ponta’s wife

Other Americans that Ponta met with in February 2012

Howard Dean – extremely influential former Democratic senator

Tom Daschle – extremely influential former Republican senator

Robert Shapiro – an “adviser” to the IMF and a former economic advisor for President Clinton

Jay Thompson – a lobbyist for Chevron (the same company that Ponta’s advisor Wesley Clarke was working for, the company that wants to conduct fracking operations in Pungesti and was recently caught buying goodwill via a fake newspaper in America)

Sally Painter (Blue Star Strategies) – a special kind of lobbyist whose firm gets hired to improve the image of foreign countries:

In 2001 as a result of her work with the U.S. Committee on NATO, Sally Painter began advising the governments of Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria regarding their desire to join the NATO Alliance.

Peter Brodnitz (Benenson Strategy Group) – Works for a similar lobbying firm:

Benenson Strategy Group is a global leader in conducting political opinion research for candidates and parties internationally. Pete Brodnitz — who leads our International Political Practice — has conducted strategic research for 11 Prime Ministers and Presidents worldwide.

Conducting strategic political research in countries throughout the world including:

Colombia
The Philippines
Nigeria
United Kingdom
Croatia
Romania

Tom McMahon – another very influential former Democrat

Ivan Doherty (NDI) – Exactly who the NDI is can be complicated to explain but it’s one of those non-profit NGOs that “assist” countries to become “more democratic”

Will Marshall (PPP) – the president of a think tank which describes itself as Clinton’s idea mill. Marshall is also on the board of directors of the NED, which operates similarly to the NDI above.

Ken Gude (CAP) – Yet another one of those non-profit NGOs that “assist” countries to become “more democratic”

Tara McGuiness (CAP)

Desmond Lachman (AEI) – the American Enterprise Institute is, of course, Ioana Petrescu’s idealogical mentors (see my original post on her) and Lachman is most likely the person who invited her to meet Ponta

Busy bee

The list above is by no means exhaustive but now you can see what a modern colony looks like.

Ponta, whose intellect is minimal, was meeting all kinds of extremely important American politicians, lobbyists and officials and given his “marching orders” since someone, somewhere had decided (echoing what happened next door in Ukraine in 2014) that he was already going to be the next prime minister of Romania.

Three of those NGOs, CAP, NED and NDI (along with George Soros’s foundations), have spent billions of dollars around the globe in pushing America’s agendas in countries from Venezuela to Ukraine, and it would require an entire book to truly describe the enormity of their involvement.

Although Romania is essentially completely subservient to American interests, the NGOs continue to work tirelessly to make sure of that.

Seeing a high-level Chevron representative in the list is no surprise, especially considering that company’s financial stake in Romania.

The two high-powered lobbyists (Blue Star + Benenson) are a clear indication that the Romanian government has been shelling out enormous sums of money for years, most of it in vain. Even without a lobbyist, the United States had strong geostrategic motivations for including Romania in NATO.

Furthermore, although Blue Star brags about representing Romania’s efforts to get a “visa waiver”, that has never happened even though Romania has been “on the path” since August 2007. Just two months ago, in fact, I wrote about how this dream was dashed once again. The eternal promise of a visa waiver is turning into a Lucy and the football type joke, only the “joke” is on the Romanian people.

The whole issue with the Romanian evangelicals (that includes Congressman Frank Wolf) seems to be tied into their missionary activity in Romania, otherwise a rather staunchly Orthodox country. Ponta, his wife Daciana, Cretu, Ivan and Puscasu went to Chicago specifically to attend Ionescu’s church as you can see in this video here.

Pastor Ionescu has deep pockets, enough to run his own religious TV channel here in Romania. He also brags on his website about his numerous political friends, including Alan Tise (former “governor” of Cluj county) and his wide influence in Romania.

Reading the tea leaves, it looks like Ponta was at Ionescu’s church trying to gin up political support from Romanian citizens in America ahead of his planned 2012 referendum to remove Basescu from office (which backfired).

Otherwise all of Ponta’s meetings were little more than receiving instructions from Americans, assuming (rightly so) that he’d be glad to accommodate anything that they wanted so long as they backed his government (which they have).

Yesterday, most of the Romanian press was focused on either Ponta’s correction of “that poor girl” Ionescu’s mistakes (pro-Ponta media) or else lambasting Ioana for being unable to say accize correctly (she says “abcize”) and chortling at just how broke Ponta’s government is (pro-Basescu media).

Nobody but me wondered exactly how Ioana could’ve been introduced to Ponta in February 2012 as Romania’s “next prime minister” a week after a strong government had been formed under MRU (about which I wrote in great detail at the time).

What made the AEI so sure that Ponta would be in office soon? And why did so many influential American politicians, officials and lobbyists meet with Ponta when at the time he was just a young opposition politician from a poor country in eastern Europe?

It’s times like this when I wish I were a “real” journalist (or at least made money from this website) so I could afford to do more investigation but unfortunately I guess we’ll never know the answers to those questions.

It sure has been interesting to sneak a peek behind the curtain though.

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22 Responses »

  1. Nu era chiar atat de imprevizibil faptul ca Ponta urma sa fie PM. Era liderul opozitiei, partidul la putere era compromis, cu foarte putine perspective de a castiga vreo majoritate la alegerile parlamentare, asa cum de altfel s-a si intamplat

  2. When do these people have time to “ride their bicycles”?

  3. Sam, I was surprised to see that your post identifies Senator Richard “Dick” Durban
    as an “extremely influential Republican senator” and calls Howard Dean “an extremely
    influential Democratic senator. Actually Durban is a 3-term Democratic senator
    and Dean is a former governor of Vermont, also a former presidential candidate, and
    now a frequent television commentator, but he was never a senator. Your post says Tom
    Daschle is “an extremely influential former Republican senator,” when actually he
    was a Senate Democrat. But I will grant you that indeed all three men have been,
    and continue to be, “extremely influential” in the USA.
    Your basis thesis here, that Romania is somehow a mere “colony” of the United States,
    is not convincing, being based just on personal speculations (such as “Reading the
    tea leaves…” or “someone somewhere had decided…” or “I’d wager dollars to donuts
    that the above five people’s main focus was…”). And when you say “Ponta, whose
    intellect is minimal, …” but you don’t indicate why you’ve concluded this, it just comes
    across as pointless venom.
    I watched a video of Ponta a few months ago, with about a dozen other Romanian and
    Bulgarian officials at the opening of the Danube 2 bridge, and interestingly, Ponta
    was the one among them who knew how to comport himself at such a ceremony: all the
    others watched and followed Ponta’s lead, implicitly indicating a certain level of respect.

    • Allan, I know nothing about USA politics. But about Ponta – read about his doctorate thesis (the copy-paste story). You can find it anywhere, including this blog. Granted, his intellect is not minimal… he is smart as most romanians are. But he does not possess any scientific knowledge(aka learned in an institution, certified correctly) for the tasks and functions he now has. As much as I disapproved previous pm (Boc that is, not MRU) this one is worse even only because he(and his doctrine and actions) is socialist in a country that can’t afford to be socialist right now.

    • jos cenzura sa ma iei de pula ma infectule…cu site u tau mic si obosit si slogan de cacat din 79.vrei pornakis saracule si scandal,,,atunci jos cenzura…suge mi pula!!

      • How lame can you be to upvote your own (albeit eloquent and informative) comment? But seriously, don’t forget to take your medicine, otherwise your frustrations manifest themselves too clearly and you end up looking like an asshole (not the type that gets the women btw).

      • ti a placut si rima prostule recunooaste…

  4. Sam, do you even sleep lately?? For crying out loud, I’m having a hard time just keeping up…

  5. Sam, if what you’re trying to say here is true, then Victor Ponta was practically designated in some way or other as the next PM on that very trip you researched here so well, although by who exactly we can only speculate. Either way this in turn implies he’s some kind of outright US puppet, which if true, I guess would explain why he supports the interests of companies like Chevron,by – among other things – deploying large numbers of law enforcement – aka private security in the service of corporate globalism – to enforce the fracking agenda.

  6. While I’d still apply Occam’s razor to Ponta’s coming to power: no need for a conspiracy theory, power was swinging in Parliament to the USL’s side, it was only logical that Ponta would prepare beforehand for the position, and to do this he needed to have meetings with contacts in the US, gathering support and letting them know that he’s not a nut job or anything. I’d go for ‘vetted by the americans’ rather than ‘chosen’ by them.

    But then there’s this:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB40001424052702304256404579451024035049480?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB40001424052702304256404579451024035049480.html

    which he published under his name (it’s probably not written by him), if there was any doubt about the price he had to pay for support. It’s not even a good article, his arguments with regard to Fukuyama’s theory are a huge stretch, and come off as just vulgar ass-kissing of a neo-con idol.

    Frankly I have no idea why we have to kiss up the US so much seeing that most foreign investment is from Europe. I’m pretty much sure that if their interests lay elsewhere they wouldn’t bat an eyelid about throwing us under the bus if it came to a dispute with Russia and they got something better in exchange.

  7. I’ve been following English-language news reports about Romania every day since before
    Mr. Ponta was appointed Prime Minister. These complaints about his government make
    me wonder if Romanian’s public has been kept aware of how many countries he and his
    cabinet-members have visited, and how many foreign leaders they’ve been hosting, in an
    effort to promote investments that would bring new jobs to Romania, and that would increase
    tourism and cultural exchanges.
    There’s a reason why the airlines are adding new flights at Henry Coanda airport, why
    foreign-based businesses are opening new outlets in Romanian cities every week:
    Romania in Q4 was the fastest growing economy in the European Unuion.
    Is Romania a “colony” of the USA? Well, Mr. Ponta has succeeded in getting China to begin building highway, rail and energy infrastructure in Romania, even offering fifteen university scholarships to talented Romanian students to study in China, I read last week.
    A major new IT Innovation Center is being created in Cluj-Napoca, with support from the EU.
    Airport rennovations are underway at Constanta and Iasi. A subway system being planned
    for Timisoara. Corrupt officials are being removed, cybercriminals are being jailed, ineffective
    vaccines are being taken off the market, meat products are being inspected for safety. Two Romanian movies are currently playing at theaters here in San Francisco.
    And at least twenty thousand young American soldiers will be getting to visit Romania’s Black
    Sea coastline on their way home from Afghanistan, some of them will undoubtedly want to
    come back for vacations in future years, to show their kids what a beautiful, hospitable,
    but undiscovered, country Romania is (something that Sam used to write a lot about).
    I would think that Romanians would want to quit obsessing about who authored part of someone’s dissertation a decade ago, and instead be glad they’ve got an energetic young
    PM who is savvy about how, a quarter-century after communism, to finally get their country
    moving again.

    • Wow, you must be the spokesman of the ‘I want to believe’ gang.

    • so what s ur story allan? what triggered it? you know more than us in some areas…

    • So you are basically saying Ponta is a populist with no character, but so what? Judging by the latest actions (trying to get blanket immunity for parliament thieves, high increase to fuel tax) he is not as perfect as you make him out, Allan.

      • I didn’t mean to imply that I thought Mr. Ponta was perfect,
        but rather that, from this distance, it appears illogical to
        me to ignore tangible benefits for Romania that Ponta and his
        cabinet are accomplishing merely because of disputed accusations
        that he improperly attributed parts of his dissertation years
        ago, or that he doesn’t have a science degree, or that he is
        philosophically “socialist.” Do these quibbles really matter
        when weighed against positive progress in the economy, in jobs,
        in infrastructure, in legal reforms, in prominence for Romania
        abroad? Who else do you have on the scene there now who might
        be a more “perfect” Premier for Romania and who is in position
        to get support from Parliament, Parties, and the Public? Seems
        as if almost everyone I’ve read about has a few “flaws”, maybe
        made some past mistakes, as is true with the leaders in most
        countries, so it would seem advisable to keep all these things
        in perspective (i.e., what are the really important things for
        Romanians at present?).

        BTW, I read that Mr. Adrian Nastase was supervisor of Ponta’s
        doctoral dissertation back in law school — is that right?
        If so, was he not the one who should have caught any mistakes
        his student was making in how he was acknowledging quotations
        in his dissertation? Usually doctoral students are not yet
        experienced in writing scholarly papers — their dissertation
        may well be their first effort — so a dissertation advisor is
        there to be a teacher, mentor and guide. In Mr. Ponta’s case,
        it appears from here that he was “lucky” to have a law professor
        who was also an established government leader and could introduce
        him into Romania’s top political circles, a career-advantage that
        most university graduate students wouldn’t normally have. :-)

      • I mentioned to friends at dinner tonight how puzzled I was by
        your “off-the-wall” question: Whatever did I write to prompt
        such an inquiry, I wondered. Maybe in Romania they think
        everyone from California is ‘gay’, I suggested. “No, Allan!”
        they said. “Someone there was obviously annoyed by what you
        posted and is seeking to discredit your opinions, past, present,
        and for the future, by linking your name with a lifestyle that’s
        considered taboo in Romania.” Really? Are you sure? I replied.
        After all, it’s a different culture in Romania, and over there they
        might not realize that we would regard this an inappropriate thing
        to ask someone on a public forum which supposedly is devoted
        to Sam’s unique observations and perspectives as an American
        ex-patriot. (Me, as usual, expecting only the best of intentions
        from everyone.)

      • it s ok allan…don t worry..just checkin.

      • Allan, don’t feed the troll. This guy or girl is a bit unhinged but hopefully the medicine will kick in at some point and he/she will shut up. Regarding your thorough answer re Ponta, you made good points. My rebuke would be that in a highly corrupt society, having a prime minister with demonstrated character flaws sends the wrong signals to society. Romanian society suffers in a large part from a moral decay – where thieving and being sneaky are justified by the poverty excuse. Anything perpetuating this way of thinking is highly damaging.

  8. Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you, However I am having problems with your
    RSS. I don’t understand why I can’t subscribe to it.

    Is there anybody having the same RSS issues? Anybody who knows the solution
    cann you kindly respond? Thanks!!

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