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.
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:
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
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.