Of course, yarn-spinners also tend to be show-offs, and Kenney is no exception. After explaining that he attended Boston Latin School but graduated from the Newman School for Boys, for example, Kenney said that he got 800s on his SATs. (Kenney later attended both Holy Cross and Boston University, but says he “doesn’t know and doesn’t care” if he got his B.A.) When he recalled a carpentry apprenticeship at Irving and Casson-A.H. Davenport, a now-shuttered furniture shop near Lechmere, he didn’t just describe Irving as high-end; he also itemized various high-profile items (the boardroom table at General Motors, the UN Security Council’s massive circular desk, chairs for the East Room of the White House) that he’d worked on there. In addition, he relayed the fact — for reasons that remain unclear — that he knew Dr. Rodolph H. Turcotte, paterfamilias of the family described in the hit memoir Running with Scissors, quite well.
Kenney’s fondness for hermetic knowledge is equally striking. He’s the sort of person who peppers his conversation with vague allusions to things he knows and you don’t — things dangerous or scandalous or just plain titillating — but quickly pulls back, leaving you intrigued and painfully ignorant. One example: in the 1990s, Kenney did a morning drive-time radio show with Ed Teague, the former Republican minority leader in the Massachusetts House, on Cape station WXTK-FM. In the process, Kenney told me, he picked up some great stories about former House Speaker Tom Finneran — but said stories “won’t see the light of day.” (I hadn’t asked.) Another: in response to a question, Kenney said he wasn’t a veteran, but that he knows lots of vets. Then, with an ominous chuckle: “I have family who used to get their paychecks from Langley.” (That’s CIA headquarters to you and me.) Meanwhile, in the course of relating just how much some Wampanoags have come to trust him, Kenney offered this tidbit: “I have sat in Amelia [Bingham’s] house, with various other members of the tribe. And they have told me things I know they don’t talk about outside the tribe.”
Of course, plenty of reporters are egoists — and glorying in esoteric knowledge is one of journalism’s many non-financial rewards. But Kenney’s unabashed willingness to choose sides in the casino battle — and to show acid disdain for his opponents — is harder to explain away. For starters, Kenney freely admits that he’s a casino skeptic; he just doesn’t think the state and the tribe will benefit all that much. Fair enough. But Kenney also considers Scott Ferson — the tribal spokesman hired by Marshall, and the president of Boston’s Liberty Square Group — a “jerk.” Marshall is a “jerk,” too. The Binghams, who are key Kenney sources, get a more favorable review. “In terms of full disclosure,” Kenney admitted, “I find myself growing very fond of the family, warts and all.”
Oddest of all, though, is his self-perception as a behind-the-scenes power broker. At one point, Kenney told me what Ferson should have done when he first revealed that he knew about Marshall’s lies:
Ferson could have defused this. He could have called me back. I gave him all the information; I told him exactly what I knew. . . . Ferson could have checked out what I said, then checked with the tribal council, and said, ‘Oh, Jesus.’ Then he could have gotten back to me and said, ‘Is there an accommodation available here? How do we keep this from blowing up?’
I don’t know what I would have said. I’m not on the books to design strategy. But I certainly would have been amenable to waiting to see if Glenn would step down.
Elsewhere in our conversation, Kenney was discussing how much he prides himself on getting the facts right. “Even my adversaries will say, ‘Everything you said is true,’ ” he told me. A moment later, however, he was reflecting — with what seemed like awe — on his own power. “I can do a lot of damage,” he said. “I can do a lot of damage; I can do global damage through the Internet. . . . I start talking about Glenn Marshall, for example — I didn’t set out to be this person. But as it turns out, I’m probably the most destructive single influence . . . that he’s ever had in his life.”