October 1, 2007 — A purported pyramid-scheme operator who was run out of Arkansas when Bill Clinton was governor has reinvented himself as the head of an upstate group accused of being a “cult” – and his devotees have pumped thousands into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential run.
Executives and top associates of the Albany-based NXIVM group – along with their family members – donated $29,900 to Clinton’s presidential campaign, according to federal records.
On March 14 and April 13, records show, more than a dozen contributions poured into Clinton’s coffers from NXIVM, an executive and group-awareness training organization led by Brooklyn-born Keith Raniere, 47.
Most were from first-time political donors, each giving the $2,300 maximum.
The revelation comes on the heels of the arrest of Norman Hsu, who raised $1.5 million in campaign contributions for the Clintons and other Democrats, even though he was technically a fugitive from fraud charges in California.
Hsu jumped bail in early September but was nabbed and is currently locked up in California.
In his previous incarnation, the Svengali-like Raniere ran a $30 million multilevel marketing business that imploded after federal agencies and regulators in 23 states alleged it was an illegal pyramid scheme.
He has managed to attract famous names to NXIVM.
Three of the March and April Clinton pledges came from Raniere’s most high-profile followers: Seagram heiresses Clare and Sara Bronfman, and Pamela Cafritz, daughter of D.C. A-listers Buffy and Bill Cafritz.
Cafritz shares a condo with Raniere.
The Bronfman sisters are also deeply involved with NXIVM and, according to a 2003 article in Forbes magazine, have loaned millions to the group and provided use of their jet.
Their father, Edgar Bronfman Sr., once took NXIVM classes but soon severed ties, telling Forbes, “It’s a cult.”
The Clinton campaign downplayed the significance of the NXIVM-related contributions.
“Over 100,000 people from across the country have contributed to Sen. Clinton’s campaign for change, and regardless of who supports her, she will always continue to stand up for what she feels is right,” said campaign spokesman Blake Zeff.
Hillary isn’t the only Clinton NXIVM officials are attracted to.
At least three of them – group President Nancy Salzman and the Bronfman sisters – are members of Bill’s charitable organization, the Clinton Global Initiative. Membership is by invitation only and requires at least a $15,000 donation per person for one year.
NXIVM spokesman Frank Roberts told The Post the organization doesn’t have a presidential candidate it is officially backing.
Last month, the Albany Times Union reported that NXIVM associates gave $31,600 to the state Republican Senate Campaign Committee and provided $34,763 worth of air transportation.
The recent campaign contributions led one close observer of NXIVM to speculate that the group is trying to curry favor for its effort to expand training centers upstate.
In the 1990s, several states investigated the Raniere-run Consumer Buyline Inc., a marketing firm in which members were paid commissions for recruiting new members.
A 1992 Arkansas lawsuit filed by Bill Clinton’s then-attorney general, Winston Bryant, charged Raniere, Cafritz and two others with fraud and business deception. Soon after, then-New York AG Robert Abrams sued CBI, branding it “illegal.”
Raniere didn’t admit wrongdoing, but agreed to pay hefty fines in both states.
After closing the Albany-based CBI, he became involved in a health-food and vitamin venture that led him to Salzman. Sharing a passion for motivational training, the pair launched NXIVM.
At NXIVM – according to court papers, cult watchdogs and relatives of members – Raniere has defrauded devotees, shattered families and drove at least one person to suicide.
After four months attending NXIVM’s expensive, “intensive” studies, Alaska resident Kristin Marie Snyder grew angry, depressed and irrational.
In winter 2003, she disappeared. Her family believes she drowned herself. Her body was not recovered. Snyder was last seen leaving a NXIVM course, and police released a note she left behind.
“I was brainwashed and my emotional center of the brain was killed/turned off,” Snyder scrawled in a spiral notebook.