By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Ted Kennedy and the Mormon temple (II)

Paging Kevin Bacon! There’s a heretofore unreported connection between the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Mormon temple in Belmont: communications consultant Scott Ferson, president and CEO of the Liberty Square Group.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Ferson was press secretary and Massachusetts issues director for Kennedy from 1990 to 1995. Later, as senior vice president of McDermott/O’Neill, he provided assistance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its efforts to build a massive temple in Belmont, a matter of some local controversy.

Ferson, in a comment he posted on Blue Mass. Group about an unrelated matter involving Republican gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos and Lieutenant Gov. Tim Murray, writes:

[T]he Mormon church was a client of mine, and … I joined Mitt Romney as he gave a tour of the Boston Temple in Belmont to my former boss, Ted Kennedy. Coincidence? Are there really any coincidences in this city?

It remains unclear precisely what Kennedy might have done to help local Mormons, who were finally allowed to build a spire with the Angel Moroni on top after winning a case before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. But it is a fact that Kennedy was close to Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who claims Kennedy took credit for the Mormons’ success.

I should point out that Ferson is (was?) also involved in the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s efforts to build a gigantic gambling casino in Middleborough — efforts that, fortunately, have bogged down in scandal and controversy, through no fault of Ferson’s.

(Thanks to an alert Media Nation reader for passing this along.)


A cheap shot thrown at Diane Sawyer


Anyone want to bet against Martha Coakley?


  1. Perhaps this was “previously unreported” (depending on what is considered a report) but at least to some of us this was old news. I remember hearing back in Utah about the Kennedy tour at the time it happened and hearing his reaction that “the Mormons should be allowed to have a spire” (that was the feeling conveyed – I don’t know what his exact words were).

  2. Scott

    Let me see if I can shed some light on this on. I worked for Senator Kennedy during his 94 race against Mitt Romney. Since 1990 I have lived in Belmont. The Mormon church, after I left Kennedy’s office was going through the approval process for the temple in Belmont. They were meeting with a lot of resistance. I helped with their public relations effort. When the temple opened the church hoped to have prominent leaders from the state visit; including Senator Kennedy. I asked him, and he accepted. I was a bit surprised given the controversy over Romney’s religion in the 94 race, but he was genuinely interested, as you note, because of his friendship with Hatch. I think he was moved by the experience. His comments about the spire were given at that time, after it had been completed, but he did not attempt to influence the local process, which was legal, and was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. One final note, my post on Blue Mass Group was in response to a charge that I worked for Republicans and therefor was propping Christy Mihos’ independent campaign for governor, as I was working for Tim Murray. Since I had always been a Democrat, and my work for Christy was to support his challenge of his firing at the Turnpike, I posted, and referenced my Mormon work, and since Romney was a Republican I asked if there were any real coincidences in this town. There are I’m sure, but I’d put this in the “its a very small town” category. Dan: I’d be happy to answer any of these questions in the future before you post, I assume that’s good journalistic practice, and my number’s in the book, or on linked in, or on my web site. I know we don’t know one another, but I’ve followed your work and admire what you write.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Scott: Thanks for checking in. You answered questions I did not ask, and you did it well. I was merely pointing out some intriguing connections that are a matter of public record. That’s good blogging practice. If I have questions for you, you can be sure I’ll contact you and ask them.

  3. Scott

    As a separate topic I’m interested in how good blogging practice differs from good journalistic practice. Until there are good definitions of both accepted generally, I think the reading public does not distinguish between the two, and I think that’s a problem. I point this out on your blog, because as a journalist, you adhere to certain standards and as a blogger are consistent with them. I accept your distinction, for instance, in your answer above. But most, others?, many?, don’t, and don’t have the training. What is the difference between blogging standards and journalistic standards?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Scott: I give an entire lecture, complete with PowerPoint, on the different (not better or worse) verification methods that tend to be used by bloggers and traditional journalists. But this isn’t about that. Even at the Phoenix, I wrote some stories that required many interviews, and I wrote some stories that required none. An example of the latter would be an analysis in which I was trying to draw connections and make sense out of information that was already a matter of public record.

      Which is what I was doing in the item we’re talking about, based as it was on your own LinkedIn profile and a quote from you that you supplied to Blue Mass. Group. So I’m not sure what the issue is. The questions I would have asked, had I known they ought to be asked, had already been answered.

      On a related note, I will add that I go out of my way not to write blog items that require interviewing people. Why? I’m not getting paid for this. If I think I need to pick up the phone, I generally won’t write the item. I’ll write for free, but I’ll be damned if I’ll report for free. It’s too much work.

  4. O-FISH-L

    Given Sen. Kennedy’s all powerful role on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the natural instinct of most judges to seek advancement, it would have been foolhardy for any SJC justice aspiring to the federal bench to get in the way of what Kennedy wanted.

    There needn’t be any overt gesture (phone calls, arm twisting, etc.), just the fact that Kennedy was known to support the spire would have been enough to get it done.

    I think Sen. Hatch was right in crediting Kennedy with the victory. Legal observers dumbfounded by the SJC decision seem to have forgotten the Lenny Bruce gem, “in the halls of justice, the only justice is in the halls.”

  5. scott ferson

    But, he didn’t support it, wasn’t asked by Hatch or anyone in the media to support it until after the Supreme Court decision. He was asked before he toured it, after the court allowed it, and he expressed his support. It was never an issue for federal court. Although it was appealed to the US Supreme Court there was very little chance it would be taken up there.

  6. LiamStLiam

    Dan: Other than your personal opinion about casinos (which I agree with), why does it matter that Scott’s involved in PR for that group.

    It was sort of a “gotcha.”

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén