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"The Associated Press is running a full-court press to block any reporting on the associations between Bill and Hillary Clinton and NXIVM, the sex cult that sees its leaders Keith Raniere and Allison Mack standing trial for sex trafficking.
At a recent court hearing, former Smallville star Allison Mack avoided eye contact with fellow defendant Keith Raniere, the manipulative cult leader who allegedly had Mack and other women under his spell during his years of unencumbered alleged sex crimes. Mack’s possible plea deal could lead to incarceration for Raniere — who is being held without bail — and could collapse the entire house of cards around NXIVM that involves the Clintons and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand."
This spring, Clare Bronfman, the 31-year-old heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Seagram liquor fortune, would describe to a New York court the extortion letter that was sent to her on April 24, 2009. Intended for her 33-year-old sister, Sara, as well, it was signed by several women, including the sisters’ financial planner, a masseuse, and a hairstylist, and demanded that “they be paid $2.1 million by midnight,” Clare said in a sworn declaration, “or else they would go to the press with information they deemed harmful to my sister and I.” What that information was, the letter didn’t say, but Clare viewed the threat as alarming. The daughters of the billionaire philanthropist and former Seagram chairman, Edgar Bronfman Sr., and the half-sisters of Edgar junior, the chairman of Warner Music Group, Sara and Clare were not simply heiresses to a global empire built by their grandfather Samuel Bronfman. As they would describe themselves, they were also important, wealthy entrepreneurs and philanthropists in their own right—women who bankrolled a web of investments and humanitarian foundations based in the Albany region, where they lived. Indeed, as Clare would tell a court this spring, the extortion demand arrived when she and Sara “were two weeks away from hosting the Dalai Lama in Albany for an event on humanitarian issues.”
NXIVM was founded by Keith Raniere. Born August 26, 1960, the son of a New York City ad executive and a ballroom-dance instructor, Raniere grew up in Brooklyn until age five, and then Suffern, New York. In 1976, he moved to Albany, New York following his mother's death, and claims to have attended the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1981.
In 1998, Raniere and associate Nancy Salzman founded NXIVM in upstate New York, offering "executive success programs". Reportedly, over 12,000 people attended NXIVM classes between 1998 and 2010. Clients have been alleged to include Richard Branson and actresses Linda Evans, Allison Mack, Kristin Kreuk, and Nicki Clyne. The NXIVM training system is administered through Executive Success Programs, Inc. In 2003, Forbes magazine reported that some 3,700 people had taken part in Nxivm's "Executive Success Program", and named Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET, Antonia Novello, former Surgeon General of the United States, Stephen Cooper of Enron, and Ana Cristina Fox, daughter of former Mexican president Vicente Fox. NXIVM's training is a trade secret, subject to non-disclosure agreements, but reportedly uses a technique called "rational inquiry" to facilitate personal and professional development. During seminars, students are expected to call Raniere and Salzman "Vanguard" and "Prefect", respectively.
Critics charge that NXIVM is a front for a cult controlled by Raniere. Kristin Keeffe, a longtime partner of Raniere and mother of his child who split from the group in 2014, described him as "dangerous"; Keeffe stated in an email that "[a]ll the worst things you know about NXIVM are true" and added that there were even worse things occurring at NXIVM that had yet to be made public. In a 2010 article in the Albany Times Union, former NXIVM coaches characterized students as "prey" for use by Raniere in satisfying his sexual or gambling-related proclivities. In 2017, an unidentified Canadian actress who had been with Executive Success Programs since 2005 claimed she had been inducted into a secretive NXIVM-related program where women were blindfolded naked and, using a cauterizing pen, branded in the pubic area with Raniere's initials in a sexual submission ritual. 2003 litigation
In 2003, NXIVM sued the Ross Institute, alleging copyright infringement for publishing excerpts of content from its manual in three critical articles commissioned by cult investigator Rick Alan Ross and posted on his website. Ross posted a psychiatrist's assessment of NXIVM's "secret" manual on his website – the report called the regimen "expensive brainwashing". The manual was obtained by Ross from former member Stephanie Franco, a co-defendant in the trial, who had signed a non-disclosure agreement not to divulge information from the manual to others. NXIVM filed suits in both New York and New Jersey, but both were later dismissed. Forbes coverage
In October 2003, Forbes published an article on NXIVM and some involved parties. Originally intended to focus on NXIVM, the article also discussed Raniere and his life. The emergence of NXIVM came at a time of high demand by executives, with some coaches charging $25,000 a day. Advocates of NXIVM told Forbes that the workshop sharpens focus and was "like a practical M.B.A." Critics[who?] cited the amount of confidentiality, the fact that students sign non-disclosure agreements, and the amount of power that Raniere has over the operation and his students.
John Hochman, a forensic psychiatrist at UCLA, described NXIVM as "a kingdom of sorts", and a former student described becoming physically exhausted after going through 17-hour days of workshops and needing to check herself into the hospital. After the article was released, Sitrick and Company, a public relations firm, was hired to work on press surrounding NXIVM, but would later part ways.
In 2006, Forbes published an article about Clare and Sara Bronfman, the daughters of businessman Edgar Bronfman Sr., stating that they had taken out a line of credit to loan NXIVM US$2 million, repayable through personal training sessions from Salzman, and for Salzman being available to take calls from Clare. A 2010 follow-up article in Forbes discussed commodities and real estate deals made pursuant to Raniere's advice that went awry. In reference to Edgar Bronfman's relationship to his daughters, his advisor released a statement saying that there had "been no change in the excellent relations between Edgar M. Bronfman and his daughters, Clare and Sara".
The World Ethical Foundations Consortium (an organization co-founded by the Bronfman sisters and Raniere) sponsored a visit to Albany by the 14th Dalai Lama in 2009. However, the visit was cancelled due to negative press surrounding NXIVM. However, the Dalai Lama later reconsidered, accepted the invitation and spoke at Albany's Palace Theatre in May 2009.
In 2017, Emiliano Salinas, the son of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas, has been identified by Proceso magazine as "director" in Mexico for NXIVM. New York Times and 20/20 exposés
In October 2017, The New York Times published an article which detailed women's experiences being branded while under the supervision of Salzman. The article reported that a "secret sisterhood" within NXIVM referred to female members as "slaves", branded them with Raniere's initials, and required them to provide nude photos or other potentially damaging information about themselves if they wished to join.
On December 15, 2017, the ABC news magazine 20/20 aired an exposé featuring interviews with many former NXIVM adherents; the report included an interview with actress Catherine Oxenberg, who alleged that her daughter, India Oxenberg, was in danger due to the group. Several former members reported financial and sexual predation carried out by NXIVM leaders. 2018 arrests and indictments
In March 2018, Raniere was arrested and indicted on a variety of charges related to NXIVM, including sex trafficking. Following his arrest, Raniere appeared in front of a federal judge in Fort Worth, Texas to face charges of sex trafficking and forced labor in New York state. The indictment alleged that followers were coerced into sex with Raniere, who forced them to undergo a branding ritual in which his initials were burned onto their skin with a cauterizing pen. Former NXIVM members had accused the organization of the same branding. Prosecutors indicated that they strongly disfavored bail.
On April 20, 2018, actress Allison Mack was arrested and indicted on similar charges to Raniere's. According to prosecutors, after she recruited women to join the organization, Mack used tactics such as blackmail to coerce them into engaging in sexual activity with Raniere and performing menial tasks for which she was allegedly paid by Raniere. Mack was alleged to be second in command of NXIVM after Raniere. On April 24, Mack was released on $5 million bond pending trial and held under house arrest with her parents in California.
On May 4, Raniere pleaded not guilty. The court rejected defense attorneys' request for an "early summer" trial and scheduled the trial for October 1. Prosecutors indicated that further arrests and a superseding indictment for Raniere and Mack should be expected. Lawyers for Raniere did not deny the charges, instead stressing that "everything was consensual" and saying: "There are well-known groups of men who brand themselves...A group of women do that and suddenly they're victims[?]...I'm not qualified to say what is normal."