C,lare Bronfman has filed an appeal of her sentence, through her attorneys, Daniel R. Koffmann, and Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., seeking to have the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacate her sentence of 81 months, based on arguments that US District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis committed procedural errors in handing her a sentence that was triple the maximum recommended in the federal sentencing guidelines.
As part of her appeal, her attorneys wrote about her history as a child – and her time with Nxivm.
By Daniel Koffman and Ronald Sullivan
Clare Bronfman was born in 1979 – to Georgiana Havers and Edgar Bronfman, Sr., who was the president, treasurer, and CEO of the Seagram distilled beverage company and president of the World Jewish Congress.
Her parents’ marriage was tumultuous and ultimately short-lived. When the marriage ended in 1981, Georgiana moved to England with Ms. Bronfman and Ms. Bronfman’s sister, Sara.
After a two-year hiatus, Edgar Sr. and Georgiana remarried each other, but the couple did not live together and divorced again in 1986.
At this young age, notwithstanding the material comforts that her family’s wealth provided, Ms. Bronfman had none of the emotional security and support that a family can provide.
Ms. Bronfman’s mother was rarely present in her life and instead spent a considerable portion of Ms. Bronfman’s childhood living in Kenya. Ms. Bronfman’s father remained in the United States.
She was raised instead by a “revolving door of nannies,” who were often “grossly under qualified, [sic], too young, intoxicated, or otherwise unsuited.”
The lack of stability and emotional support during her formative years left her vulnerable, and ultimately had an outsize impact on her emotional security, trust in others, and ability to form and maintain relationships.
The Sense Of Purpose And Community Ms. Bronfman Found In NXIVM’s Self-Improvement Courses
NXIVM filled a void in Ms. Bronfman’s life.
NXIVM (pronounced NEK- see-uhm) was an umbrella organization that provided a range of self-help programs, and although each program had its own specific focus and nuance, the overarching mission was to enable people to develop a set of moral principles to guide their lives. For example, the Ethicist was a program designed to “help people in essence [sic] figure out how to become ethical, moral, how to be the most ethical person they could,” and a “lot of the training was basically first trying to figure out what were your ethics and how to improve them.”
Common themes across NXIVM’s various curricula included “overcoming one’s emotionality, you know, using one’s logic, being less attached to other people or other things.”
Keith Raniere was the creator and philosophical driving force behind NXIVM’s programs. Along with codefendant Nancy Salzman, Mr. Raniere developed seminars, literature, and other educational materials designed to enable people to put his insights into practice. Over time, NXIVM opened centers across North and Central America where people could attend classes and create local NXIVM communities similar to what existed outside Albany, New York, where Mr. Raniere was based.
NXIVM’s programs attracted a number of wealthy and high-profile participants. The Dalai Lama even visited Albany to participate in a NXIVM-sponsored event. Many NXIVM participants took up part- or full-time residence outside Albany to be closer to Mr. Raniere and the heart of the NXIVM community.
Ms. Bronfman took her first NXIVM course in 2003 and quickly became devoted to the work NXIVM did. Like thousands of others who attended NXIVM courses, the executive success programs, ethical teachings, and overall design for living that NXIVM provided became an important part of her life and social development.
NXIVM helped Ms. Bronfman to discover that she was not alone in her insecurities, and she felt she could be herself in the company of NXIVM members without fear of rejection. The community and education of NXIVM helped transform a young person gripped by self-loathing and fear of the world into a woman who felt comfortable in her own skin, purposeful, and fulfilled.
A major part of Ms. Bronfman’s transformation came from her relationship with Keith Raniere. Until she met Mr. Raniere, Ms. Bronfman’s wealth and family history had filled her with shame, inadequacy, and fear, but Mr. Raniere helped her to learn about business and finance. He supported and encouraged her to grow businesses outside of NXIVM and to seek outside experts to guide her. Mr. Raniere became one of the few people Ms. Bronfman felt she could confide in, and over time, the most important person in her life.
Consistent with her dedication to NXIVM and her prodigious work ethic, Mr. Raniere and other NXIVM leaders quickly promoted her within the organization. In 2009, Ms. Bronfman was invited to join the organization’s executive board. Excited about the opportunity to contribute to something from which she believed she had received so much, Ms. Bronfman poured herself into the position. She sought to provide structure that would enable NXIVM to thrive long-term by implementing corporate policies and procedures, seeking to establish accountability and oversight, and focusing on the critical behind-the-scenes tasks necessary to making [sic] a large organization run.
DOS was something completely different.
It “had nothing to do with Nxivm.”
(From the Raniere trial Q: “Did [codefendant Allison Mack] say anything about whether this organization had anything to do with NXIVM?” A [Nicole]: “She said it did not have anything to do with NXIVM.”).)
According to the government, DOS was a group that Mr. Raniere created in order to act out his sexual fantasies, which encompassed—and were accomplished by—blackmailing women into providing him nude photographs, engaging in other demeaning tasks, and ultimately submitting to his sexual advances.
Whereas NXIVM’s programs were heavily advertised and open to the public, DOS was secret and its membership strictly limited. And whereas Clare Bronfman was closely involved in NXIVM and served in its leadership, the government concedes that she knew nothing whatsoever about DOS until the rest of the world began to learn about it in 2017.
The DOS Participants’ Efforts To Keep Their Conduct A Secret From Ms. Bronfman
Ms. Bronfman was shocked as she came to learn of the allegations against Mr. Raniere and other DOS members. She had no inkling of DOS or the alleged conduct. This was by design.
Members of DOS were required to keep the existence of the group and their participation in it a secret. (A79 (L. Salzman) (“The group was secret and we concealed that Keith was  the founder of the group, was member of the group, and participated in any way in the group.”).)
And while some of Mr. Raniere’s closest female companions became members of DOS, he prohibited DOS members from recruiting Ms. Bronfman into the organization. As one senior DOS member testified at Mr. Raniere’s trial:
Q: “Did you have discussions about recruitment of other slaves in these meeting with the DOS first line?”
Q: “Were any prospects rejected?”
Q: “Can you give us some examples?”
A: “Audrey wanted to enroll Siobhan and I discussed it with Keith, and he said he wasn’t sure that that was a good idea. Clare’s name was raised a bunch and he wanted to keep that separate.”
Q: “Clare Bronfman?” A: “Yes.”
(A85 (L. Salzman); see also SPA57–58 (B. Bouchey) (“Clare, do you realize that they lied to you? … [F]rom the day you walked through the door, Keith pitted us against you. He knowingly directed us to lie to you, conspire to conceal things. You thought you were in the inner circle. You were six layers out, because that’s what we wanted you to think.”); A275 (“Clare had absolutely no knowledge of DOS, much less any involvement.”).) The government has conceded that members of DOS did not “disclose their membership in DOS to [Ms. Bronfman].” (A286.)
Efforts to conceal DOS intensified after information about it began to come out, as Mr. Raniere “directed that we were not going to tell anybody about his involvement, it was going to be secret, that he didn’t know anything about it, that he wasn’t associated with it, that the brand was not his initials and he gave several options for how we could address the concerns that were being raised.” (A90 (L. Salzman).)
Mr. Raniere and other DOS leaders made numerous statements to news reporters, investigators, and members of the NXIVM community denying the allegations. (See, e.g., A95 (L. Salzman) (“I lied to everybody. I lied to the entire community about it. I lied to the media about it, I lied to everybody about it.”); A99 (L. Salzman) (describing a public address Mr. Raniere made: “He said he wasn’t affiliated with DOS, that he had very little knowledge about it”); A107 (L. Salzman) (describing written public statement from Mr. Raniere: “It contained statements that he was not affiliated with the sorority, that he had little knowledge of it and that we had done a thorough review by ex-law enforcement and forensic psychologists and others, and that they had found that the women of the sorority were thriving and doing better, that this was an overall really good thing.”).)
We learn a few new things here about Clare. We knew that her parents’ marriage was tumultuous and that they married and divorced twice and that Georgiana moved to England with Clare and Sara.
What is new is that Clare’s attorneys allege that Clare’s mother was not present much in her children’s lives insofar as she “spent a considerable portion of Ms. Bronfman’s childhood living in Kenya [while] Ms. Bronfman’s father remained in the United States.”
I wonder how much of the time the young Bronfman girls were without either parent or any caring relative.
Her attorneys write that Clare “was raised instead by a ‘revolving door of nannies,’ who were often ‘grossly under qualified [sic], too young, intoxicated, or otherwise unsuited.’”
This of course is a strong and new allegation: That Clare was an uncared-for youth, raised by unsuitable nannies while her mother and father were off on their own self-centered lives, with little to no regard for their children.
Is it true? Maybe it is.
As her attorneys write, “The lack of stability and emotional support during her formative years left her vulnerable, and ultimately had an outsize impact on her emotional security, trust in others, and ability to form and maintain relationships.”
Enter NXIVM, which “filled a void in Ms. Bronfman’s life” and “helped Ms. Bronfman to discover that she … could be herself in the company of NXIVM members without fear of rejection.”
NXIVM and Keith Raniere transformed Clare from a person “gripped by self-loathing and fear … into a woman who felt comfortable in her own skin, purposeful, and fulfilled.”
“Until she met Mr. Raniere, Ms. Bronfman’s wealth and family history had filled her with shame, inadequacy, and fear.”
This is interesting for her family’s history and the origins of their wealth are dubious with many allegations of crimes. Indeed the Bronfman family is an excellent example of a quote attributed to Honore de Balzac, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”
The Bronfman family flooded the USA with alcohol during prohibition which was probably a good thing – insofar as they, along with the Sicilian Mafia, fought the tyranny of the US government that forbid mankind of beverages that they had consumed for untold millennia.
However, the Bronfmans – especially Clare’s grandfather, Sam Bronfman – were particularly ruthless. The whisky he made was reputed to be of poor quality and his methods of his and his partners’ distribution were violent. It may not be a stretch to say that Sam Bronfman fueled the rise of the underworld in the USA and when prohibition ended and the underworld turned to drugs, Sam Bronfman, it is strongly alleged, was there to help out. In this, there are credible allegations that Sam Bronfman was really the number two man in the scheme to provide first alcohol during prohibition and later narcotics, etc. after prohibition, and that the number one players were a group of wealthy, respectable financiers from Great Britain, who were above reproach.
On another day, I will explain in more detail how Sam Bronfman rose to power, and how murder, even the threat of murdering his own brothers, was not beyond him. Clare was not altogether wrong in being ashamed of her family’s history.
Of course, Sam Bronfman sanitized his image somewhat by large, publicly-acclaimed charitable works, but he was at heart a cutthroat and murderer, who would destroy another as quick as look at him.
Getting back to the report by Clare’s attorneys, they write, “Mr. Raniere helped [Clare] to learn about business and finance. He supported and encouraged her to grow businesses outside of NXIVM and to seek outside experts to guide her.”
This is really rather laughable or pathetic depending on how you view the relationship. Raniere got her and her sister to invest and lose $65 million in commodities, gullibly believing in his ideas about business and finance. He led them to invest $26 million in real estate in Los Angeles for a project that ran amok and, but for the efforts of this writer, would have resulted in their losing most or all of it.
He had them squander perhaps as much as $50 million in lawsuits that destroyed opponents but did not increase their wealth and finance and, ultimately, led to the destruction of Nxivm, Raniere and Clare Bronfman, as their enemies turned against them and helped to expose them.
Bronfman lost more than $100 million learning from Raniere about business and finance.
It is true, of course, that “Mr. Raniere became one of the few people Ms. Bronfman felt she could confide in, and [was] the most important person in her life. ”
He took control of this gullible and perhaps vulnerable heiress.
The attorney writes “Consistent with her dedication to NXIVM and her prodigious work ethic, [Clare was] quickly promoted her within the organization.” I think this should read “consistent with her wealth…”
In 2009, Bronfman became a member of the executive board and this I am told was in consequence of Barbara Bouchey and the Nxivm-9 defection which Raniere blamed on the old executive board, and Nancy Salzman [when, in reality, it was he himself who caused the defection.]
Clare, now flush with power, perhaps allowed it to go to her head. She fairly quickly replaced Nancy Salzman as the second in command of Nxivm and had vast control of the operations. In the same year she became the most powerful member of the executive board, she also arranged for the Dalai Lama to come to Albany for a lecture.
As for DOS, Clare may not have known about it prior to June 2017, but she certainly knew about it after I broke the story on June 5, 2017.
By July, she went to Vancouver to try to get one of my primary sources for the story, Sarah Edmondson, arrested. During the summer of 2017, she worked with attorneys in Mexico to try to threaten and intimidate DOS defectors.
Finally, as for the review by ex-law enforcement and forensic psychologists and others, who purportedly “found that the women of the sorority were thriving and doing better and that this was an overall really good thing” – this is utter nonsense.
And actually largely a lie. The law enforcement people were never named, although I believe I discovered who they were and, in any event, how would law enforcement officers be qualified to judge whether women in DOS were doing better or not.
As for the “forensic psychologists”, this again is an error. As far as I know, there were no forensic psychologists. Instead, there a forensic psychiatrist and only one – he is the famous Park Dietz – who evaluated the impact of DOS on its members. However, as far as I know, he did not evaluate multiple women of DOS.
In reality, he only examined one, India Oxenberg. I was in communication with Catherine on the day she spoke with him and listened to their conversation. He told her his findings about India were inconclusive.
Even if he did finally conclude that India was doing well as a member of DOS, this is not evidence that all the women members were doing better or that DOS was an overall really good thing.
By the way, Park Dietz was also famous for testifying that the cannibal/murderer Jeffrey Dahmer was sane.