Big League Politics: Joe O’Hara – “Nancy Salzman acted as a personal ‘guru’ for Gillibrand’s stepmother”

Kirsten GIllibrand with her father, former NXIVM consultant Douglas Rutnik.

The headline is provocative:  Former NXIVM Sex Cult Employees: Kirsten Gillibrand’s Father And Stepmother, Second Cousins, Were Very Active In Sex Cult.

And Big League Politics – one of the leading political media sites in America – has brought Frank Report’s earlier stories on Kirsten Gillibrand’s ties to Nxivm to a national political audience.

Gillibrand, a Democrat US Senator from New York who has announced she is running for president, told the New York Post she never heard of Nxivm until the branding story came out in late 2017.  Of course, this is hard to believe since:

  1. Nxivm is headquartered in her hometown and has been the subject of dozens of front-page stories in the Albany Times Union.
  2. Her father worked for Nxivm.
  3. Her stepmother was a member of Nxivm.
  4. Kirsten sat at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser with Nxivm president Nancy Salzman.
  5. Members of the Bronfman family – including Nxivm leader Clare Bronfman – are among Gillibrand’s biggest campaign contributors.

“Gillibrand’s family ties to the NXIVM sex cult are coming to light, raising serious questions about her relationship with the cult that she once denied knowing about,” writes for Big League Politics. 

“Ex-cult employee Frank Parlato — who exposed the fact that Raniere was branding women — is working with Big League Politics to uncover the deep longstanding links between Gillibrand, the Clintons, and NXIVM,” Howley reports and adds, “Parlato is the NXIVM whistleblower who blew the lid off the case, including the revelation that NXIVM leader Keith Raniere’s cult was branding women with his initials.”

Another blogger, who did a lot to expose Nxivm, John Tighe, is also quoted in the Big League Politics story.

Tighe wrote in a statement shared with Big League Politics, “The very first time I ever met Gillibrand she was at an event for Hillary Clinton in the Hall of Springs in the State Park. This was in 2006…I was on the Democratic committee at the time…Gillibrand came up to me, introduced herself and said she was running against [US Rep.] John Sweeney…[W]hen… Clinton went to speak, Gillibrand sat [at] one of the …VIP tables …all brought by NXIVM and she was sitting with Nancy Salzman. You can quote me on that.”

Howley also interviewed Joe O’Hara, who brought Gillibrand’s father, Doug Rutnik, into Nxivm as a consultant.  O’Hara was living in Saratoga Springs when he was retained by Nxivm and met Nancy Salzman.

Here is Joe Ohara’s story, as told to Big League Politics.

“I was introduced to Nancy Salzman, the president of NXIVM, and she described to me the various problems they were having,” O’Hara said, referring to lawsuits, public relations issues, and governmental issues stemming from trying to get a building permit for a NXIVM center.

“I said give me a day or two,” O’Hara said. “After I thought about it, I wrote back to them and said I don’t think there’s anything I can do personally but I can play centerfielder and pull in people you need. I think you need a bigger law firm on this. Yes, I can get you a PR firm that can come in and help you. That’s what I proposed to them, that I would be a middle man.

“They hired me in October of 2003 and I worked for them for 15 months. At the end of 2004, a variety of issues had come up and I resigned.”

O’Hara said he “met primarily with Keith” Raniere who he thought was “a little strange…He was an odd fellow,” and with bookkeeper Kathy Russell.

O’Hara said of Raniere, “Before I met him, I had been told a lot about him,” such as that he was the world’s smartest man, was a judo champion, and had tied the state record for t100-yardard dash.

O’Hara explained how he planned to solve NXIVM’s outstanding issue with New York State and Consumers’ Buyline.

O’Hara said, “I had known Doug Rutnik for a number of years. He was one of the people I thought of immediately for a couple of the problems that he (Raniere) had…Keith never made the payments [on his fine for Consumers’ Buyline]. I think it was around 45 or 50 thousand dollars.

“I contacted Doug, and explained to him the situation. Doug could be the broker between Keith and the attorney general [then Eliot Spitzer.]

“Doug and I, Nancy and Keith had lunch at a little club. Keith came in and looked like a young middle-aged business exec. Doug said let’s check this out a little further.”

It checked out evidently. And Kristen Gillibrand’s father acted as the broker between NXIVM and attorney general Eliot Spitzer.

O’Hara said, “NXIVM sent Doug the check, and it was expressly to resolve the issue over Consumers Buyline. And then the issue went away.”

Gillibrand’s future stepmother Gwenn Bellcourt gave NXIVM her seal of approval

Another issue O’Hara helped Nxivm resolve was whether it needed a license to teach its courses.

Rutnik and O’Hara discussed having an attorney attend a Nxivm intensive to help make this determination.

Rutnik hired his second cousin, Gwenn Bellcourt.

O’Hara said, “Doug said, ‘I know somebody I could send in to take the course.’ It was his cousin, Gwenn Bellcourt…Gwenn and I met…Doug told me ‘this is my second cousin Gwenn.’ She was engaged to another man at the time.

“Gwenn was a lawyer, someone Doug trusted. Doug said, ‘Let’s have Gwenn go in and take a week-long Nxivm course.’ She went in and she wrote up a report that was extremely positive. No issues with the schooling. No issues with the curriculum. She came back with rave reviews.

“Things were happening, one right after the other. Gwenn comes in, she writes the report, and Doug is doing work for Nxivm.

“Meanwhile Gwenn starts taking more Nxivm classes on her own. We paid for the one class she took. But she kept taking more classes. I know that she was taking a lot of classes at NXIVM.

“At some point, Doug says, ‘This is getting a little weird with Gwenn.’ He said she broke off her engagement to the man she was engaged to because Nancy told her she needed to re-think her life. Nancy Salzman became Gwenn’s personal guru. She wanted to bring Gwenn in as full-time in-house counsel.”

Then the relationship with Nxivm soured with O’Hara.

O’Hara said, “NXIVM initiates a lawsuit against me and Doug, while Gwenn is still involved in NXIVM. Doug goes in like a rescue mission. He finally convinces her what’s going on there and she leaves NXIVM. The next thing I know, all of a sudden, he said, ‘Gwenn and I are dating now.’ Shortly after that, they’re engaged.  For several years, I saw them after they were married.”

Before working for Nxivm, O’Hara said, “I had done work down in Arkansas, I had met Richard Mays down there. He had great connections with Governor Clinton. His lieutenant governor [Jim Guy] Tucker became governor. While working for Nxivm, I was trying to get in to make a presentation to the governor. Richard got me the meeting. He got me the meeting with Jim Guy Tucker.”

“One of the other problems Keith had, he had an unpaid bill in Arkansas and he wanted to get an exoneration in Arkansas so he brought Richard Mays in and he got involved. Richard Mays started taking classes and got his daughter taking classes [at NXIVM.]

“There were people who got hooked on it. Richard Mays was one. Gwenn Bellcourt was another,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara quit Nxivm after he uncovered Raniere was evading taxes and illegally obtaining private investigator information on enemies.  After he quit, NXIVM went after him.

“They destroyed me,”  O’Hara said. “I had created this monster. They didn’t know how to get political consultants. They didn’t know how to hire people like former Senator [Alphonse] D’Amato; they didn’t know how to hire Richard Mays out of Arkansas, best friends with the Clintons. They had all these people now in their arsenal and they destroyed me in short order.”


As part of the evidence to establish that Gillibrand’s father did indeed work for Nxivm, Frank Report provided Big League Politics with copies of the court documents in NXIM’s suit against Rutnik.

In a series of interviews, I told Big League Politics, among other things, that:

“I worked as the publicist. We ran into a major disagreement and we split. At the time I worked for them I thought they were a little peculiar but it wasn’t until the end that I realized they were a downright evil group.

“There are women on the record who are now adults who have accused Raniere of statutory rape and there are some very suspicious incidents where Mexican girls came under the perimeters of Raniere’s control and left under suspicious circumstances. They came from Chihuahua Mexico. I reported this to the authorities.

“Gillibrand’s father Doug Rutnik came to work as a consultant for NXIVM…He was fired. They sued him [claiming sexual harassment of Nancy Salzman], and he had to pay them $100,000.

“Gillibrand’s father’s wife, her stepmother, was also a member of NXIVM…Doug got her into the cult…Doug left the cult because he was sued. Clare Bronfman, after Gillibrand’s father was sued, donated money to Gillibrand and she accepted it.”


I think I would not have written much about Gillibrand and her ties to Nxivm, if she had admitted the truth – which is, of course, that she knew about Nxivm.

She could have said her father and stepmother were involved once and they got away from it.

She could have said, “I knew about Nxivm, had heard about them from my father, but had no idea they were as evil as they turned out to be. Thank goodness my father saw through them and got my stepmother out of that horrible group.”

She could have even said, “It worked out kind of well. My dad got my future stepmother out, and in the process, they wound up falling in love and getting married. A happy ending in one way. But, of course, there is an unhappy side too. Those poor women who suffered. But my father had no idea about that – the branding started much later. He was a consultant and he had no way of knowing just how wicked the group really was or rather turned out to be. We were all surprised when we learned about the branding of those poor women who were marked as slaves. It’s offensive, and I plan to hold hearings on this to make sure they are investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

But no, instead, when she was asked [before Raniere was arrested] she took the coward’s way – the dishonest way – and said she never heard of them.

From what I see, Gillibrand lied.  I suspect she lies often and without regard to anything other than to say what she thinks is going to be most helpful to her.

That’s a serious defect in a woman or a man or a cult.

In fact, a cult depends on lies. And, for my own part, I want to weed out potential candidates who do likewise.


About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Lol – everyone with skin in any game lies to protect themselves. Some even lie cuz they have grandiose ideas of themselves or just cuz they are bored. Nowadays lies are barely something to get worked up about anymore.

  • Thank you for this incredible reading material. Thank you for all the hard hours you all have put into this undertaking. Because of all of this corruption so many lives have been lost. Frank Great job. Your a real life saver.

  • Frank, how is John Tigue doing in regards to his health? Is he involved in any of the investigations for what he knows about NXIVM? It would be awesome if he contributed to the Frank Report in some way. Saratoga in Decline was THE anti-NXIVM blog before Frank Report took the reigns.

  • My personal belief is that Nancy and Keith contemplated setting Frank Parlato up for a similar setup to the one that befell Doug Rutnick. If I remember correctly Nancy Salzman was very touchy feely with Frank.

    “Gillibrand’s father Doug Rutnik came to work as a consultant for NXIVM…He was fired. They sued him [claiming sexual harassment of Nancy Salzman], and he had to pay them $100,000.”

    I am actually kind of surprised Keith did not have his harem members make up sexual assault allegations against any men that crossed Keith.

  • To begin with, lots of people first knew about Executive Success Programs (ESP) – the name it was referred to by in the Forbes article, for instance – so the name NXIVM might not have been readily recognizable. However, I’d certainly like to see Gillibrand better explain what she did know of the group, under whatever name.

    Also, from what I remember and from a quick check at LilSis, the NXIVM related donations to Gillibrand were small and mostly limited to about 2007-8, and Clare Bronfman’s only donation was $2,400 in 2010, so that hardly makes them “among Gillibrand’s biggest campaign contributors.”

    The fact alluded to, that NXIVM then went on to hire D’Amato and other Republicans like Roger Stone, I think shows that this is not a partisan issue as much as a general one of influence buying in the political system.

    And I’d still like to see someone focus on why so much Bronfman money went to that New York State Senatorial campaign fund. That’s more likely where a real story is, though it’s not so “sexy” and may not fit partisan narratives.

      • No, I’m just correcting blatant factual errors, and trying to add some balance to partisan spin.

        Why is it no one seems interested when it turns out that the inconvenient truth is that the Bronfmans actually gave more money to Republicans in Albany – who were in more of a position to help NXIVM out with its nefarious agenda?

        • Again there are legal donations and there is illegal bundling of contributions. You conveniently leave those facts out to buttress your own partisan agenda

  • It’s so great to “hear from” John Tighe, the blogger whose courage and tenacity helped put more than a few chinks in NXIVM’s armor some years back. Every NXIVM victim owes John a great debt of gratitude.

    It would be great if FrankReport readers took the time to reach out and give John some support and let him know he hasn’t been forgotten.

    If you want to send money or letters to John (who is currently in federal prison in Massachusetts), here’s the info:

    Register Number: 21508-052
    Age: 61
    Race: White
    Sex: Male
    Located at: Devens FMC
    Release Date: 08/17/2020

    Click below for info on how to send money to John’s commissary account:

    Click below for info on sending mail to John:

    Mailing address:
    John J. Tighe, 21508-052
    Devens Federal Medical Center
    P.O. Box 879
    Ayer, Massachusetts 01432

  • Thank you Frank, for keeping this in the public eye – especially when Gillibrand wants to be President. Thanks also to Joe, John and Big League Politics. Whenever I see a news article about Gillibrand in the Daily Mail, I mention her NXIVM links and refer readers to Frank Report. I also refer to this site with all NXIVM related articles. At least the Daily Mail have now stopped calling Kathy Russell prefect now.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083