The Denver Post reports:
Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton will join oil giant Royal Dutch Shell as a general counsel in its exploration and production business in mid-January, working primarily out of Colorado.
Norton, who stepped down from Interior in March, is a longtime Colorado resident who served two terms as state attorney general in the 1990s. During her tenure at Interior, she drew fire from environmentalists and praise from industry groups.
Shell said in a statement Wednesday that Norton, 52, will "provide and coordinate legal services" for its unconventional-resources unit, which is developing and testing proprietary technology to recover oil from shale and extra-heavy oils.
Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have massive oil- shale deposits, with as much as 1.1 trillion barrels of oil technically recoverable.
Shell owns 40,000 acres of oil-shale deposits near Meeker on which it hopes to begin commercial production by about 2015.
When Norton left Interior after five years, she said her primary reason was so she and her husband, John Hughes, could return to "the mountains we love in the West," as well as return to the private sector.
Norton could not be reached for comment.
Royal Dutch Shell is a multinational oil company with corporate headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. Its U.S. subsidiary, Shell Oil Co., is based in Houston. The Forbes Global 2000 ranked Royal Dutch Shell as the seventh-largest company in the world in 2006. Its revenues in 2005 were $307 billion.
As Interior secretary, Norton was attacked by environmentalists for her pro-development policies regarding oil and gas, coal and timber. She also reopened Yellowstone National Park to snowmobiles.
Matt Baker, director of Environment Colorado, said he was disheartened by Shell's hiring of Norton.
He said his organization has done a lot of work with Shell on sustainability issues, particularly development of wind-powered energy resources.
"I think it's unsettling if she's going to be working on oil shale. Shell has cultivated an image as a good environmental steward who wants to take its time and do it right," he said. "For them to hire someone like Gale Norton undermines that claim."
Industry advocates and Norton's fellow Republicans, however, have praised her as a realist willing to open public lands to drilling during a time of energy shortages that threatened the economy.
Before moving to Interior, Norton was senior counsel at Denver law firm Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber.
Steve Farber, one of the firm's founding partners, said Norton's move is win-win: Shell will benefit from Norton's skills, and Norton will have the opportunity to return to Colorado.
"She (has) a wonderful wealth of knowledge and experience, and she will be a great asset to the team at Shell," he said.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
The Denver Post reports:
Friday, December 22, 2006
For Psychology Today, Jay Dixit writes, "The Ideological Animals":
Cinnamon Stillwell never thought she'd be the founder of a political organization. She certainly never expected to start a group for conservatives, most of whom became conservatives on the same day—September 11, 2001. She organized the group, the 911 Neocons, as a haven for people like her—"former lefties" who did political 180s after 9/11.
Stillwell, now a conservative columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, had been a liberal her whole life, writing off all Republicans as "ignorant, intolerant yahoos." Yet on 9/11, everything changed for her, as it did for so many. In the days after the attacks, the world seemed "topsy-turvy." On the political left, she wrote, "There was little sympathy for the victims," and it seemed to her that progressives were "consumed with hatred for this country" and had "extended their misguided sympathies to tyrants and terrorists."
Disgusted, she looked elsewhere. She found solace among conservative talk-show hosts and columnists. At first, she felt resonance with the right about the war on terror. But soon she found herself concurring about "smaller government, traditional societal structures, respect and reverence for life, the importance of family, personal responsibility, national unity over identity politics." She embraced gun rights for the first time, drawn to "the idea of self-preservation in perilous times." Her marriage broke up due in part to political differences. In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, she began going to pro-war rallies.
In 2005, she wrote a column called "The Making of a 9/11 Republican." Over the year that followed, she received thousands of e-mails from people who'd had similar experiences. There were so many of them that she decided to form a group. And so the 911 Neocons were born.
We tend to believe our political views have evolved by a process of rational thought, as we consider arguments, weigh evidence, and draw conclusions. But the truth is more complicated. Our political preferences are equally the result of factors we're not aware of—such as how educated we are, how scary the world seems at a given moment, and personality traits that are first apparent in early childhood. Among the most potent motivators, it turns out, is fear. How the United States should confront the threat of terrorism remains a subject of endless political debate. But Americans' response to threats of attack is now more clear-cut than ever. The fear of death alone is surprisingly effective in shaping our political decisions—more powerful, often, than thought itself.
Abstract Art vs. Talk Radio: The Political Personality Standoff
Most people are surprised to learn that there are real, stable differences in personality between conservatives and liberals—not just different views or values, but underlying differences in temperament. Psychologists John Jost of New York University, Dana Carney of Harvard, and Sam Gosling of the University of Texas have demonstrated that conservatives and liberals boast markedly different home and office decor. Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics. And that's just a start. Multiple studies find that liberals are more optimistic. Conservatives are more likely to be religious. Liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz, conservatives, country music. Liberals are more likely to enjoy abstract art. Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to prefer conventional forms of entertainment like TV and talk radio. Liberal men like romantic comedies more than conservative men. Liberal women are more likely than conservative women to enjoy books, poetry, writing in a diary, acting, and playing musical instruments.
"All people are born alike—except Republicans and Democrats," quipped Groucho Marx, and in fact it turns out that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are evident in early childhood. In 1969, Berkeley professors Jack and Jeanne Block embarked on a study of childhood personality, asking nursery school teachers to rate children's temperaments. They weren't even thinking about political orientation.
Twenty years later, they decided to compare the subjects' childhood personalities with their political preferences as adults. They found arresting patterns. As kids, liberals had developed close relationships with peers and were rated by their teachers as self-reliant, energetic, impulsive, and resilient. People who were conservative at age 23 had been described by their teachers as easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable at age 3. The reason for the difference, the Blocks hypothesized, was that insecure kids most needed the reassurance of tradition and authority, and they found it in conservative politics.
The most comprehensive review of personality and political orientation to date is a 2003 meta-analysis of 88 prior studies involving 22,000 participants. The researchers—John Jost of NYU, Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland, and Jack Glaser and Frank Sulloway of Berkeley—found that conservatives have a greater desire to reach a decision quickly and stick to it, and are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, orderliness, duty, and rule-following. Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature.
The study's authors also concluded that conservatives have less tolerance for ambiguity, a trait they say is exemplified when George Bush says things like, "Look, my job isn't to try to nuance. My job is to tell people what I think," and "I'm the decider." Those who think the world is highly dangerous and those with the greatest fear of death are the most likely to be conservative.
Liberals, on the other hand, are "more likely to see gray areas and reconcile seemingly conflicting information," says Jost. As a result, liberals like John Kerry, who see many sides to every issue, are portrayed as flip-floppers. "Whatever the cause, Bush and Kerry exemplify the cognitive styles we see in the research," says Jack Glaser, one of the study's authors, "Bush in appearing more rigid in his thinking and intolerant of uncertainty and ambiguity, and Kerry in appearing more open to ambiguity and to considering alternative positions."
Jost's meta-analysis sparked furious controversy. The House Republican Study Committee complained that the study's authors had received federal funds. George Will satirized it in his Washington Post column, and The National Review called it the "Conservatives Are Crazy" study. Jost and his colleagues point to the study's rigorous methodology. The study used political orientation as a dependent variable, meaning that where subjects fall on the political scale is computed from their own answers about whether they're liberal or conservative. Psychologists then compare factors such as fear of death and openness to new experiences, and seek statistically significant correlations. The findings are quintessentially empirical and difficult to dismiss as false.
Yet critics retort that the research draws negative conclusions about conservatives while the researchers themselves are liberal. And it's true that over the decades, a disproportionate amount of the research has focused on figuring out what's behind conservative behavior. Right shift is likewise more studied than left shift, largely because most of that research has been since 9/11, and aimed at trying to explain the conservative conversions of people like Cinnamon Stillwell.
Even with impeccable methodology, bias may creep into the choice of which phenomena to study. "There is a bias among social scientists," admits Glaser. "They look for the variables that are unflattering. There probably are other nice personality traits associated with conservatism, but they haven't shown up in the research because it's not as well studied."
"There are differences between liberals and conservatives, and people can value them however they like," Jost points out. "There is nothing inherently good or bad about being high or low on the need for closure or structure. Some may see religiosity as a positive, whereas others may see it more neutrally, and so on."
By 2004, as the presidential election drew near, researchers saw a chance to study the Jost results against the backdrop of unfolding events. Psychologists Mark Landau of the University of Arizona and Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore sought to explain how President Bush's approval rating went from around 51 percent before 9/11 to 90 percent immediately afterward. In one study, they exposed some participants to the letters WTC or the numbers 9/11 in an image flashed too quickly to register at the conscious level. They exposed other participants to familiar but random combinations of letters and numbers, such as area codes. Then they gave them words like coff__, sk_ll, and gr_ve, and asked them to fill in the blanks. People who'd seen random combinations were more likely to fill in coffee, skill, and grove. But people exposed to subliminal terrorism primes more often filled in coffin, skull, and grave. "The mere mention of September 11 or WTC is the same as reminding Americans of death," explains Solomon.
As a follow-up, Solomon primed one group of subjects to think about death, a state of mind called "mortality salience." A second group was primed to think about 9/11. And a third was induced to think about pain—something unpleasant but non-deadly. When people were in a benign state of mind, they tended to oppose Bush and his policies in Iraq. But after thinking about either death or 9/11, they tended to favor him. Such findings were further corroborated by Cornell sociologist Robert Willer, who found that whenever the color-coded terror alert level was raised, support for Bush increased significantly, not only on domestic security but also in unrelated domains, such as the economy.
University of Arizona psychologist Jeff Greenberg argues that some ideological shifts can be explained by terror management theory (TMT), which holds that heightened fear of death motivates people to defend their world views. TMT predicts that images like the destruction of the World Trade Center should make liberals more liberal and conservatives more conservative. "In the United States, political conservatism does seem to be the preferred ideology when people are feeling insecure," concedes Greenberg. "But in China or another communist country, reminding people of their own mortality would lead them to cling more tightly to communism."
Jost believes it's more complex. After all, Cinnamon Stillwell and others in the 911 Neocons didn't become more liberal. Like so many other Democrats after 9/11, they made a hard right turn. The reason thoughts of death make people more conservative, Jost says, is that they awaken a deep desire to see the world as fair and just, to believe that people get what they deserve, and to accept the existing social order as valid, rather than in need of change. When these natural desires are primed by thoughts of death and a barrage of mortal fear, people gravitate toward conservatism because it's more certain about the answers it provides—right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, us vs. them—and because conservative leaders are more likely to advocate a return to traditional values, allowing people to stick with what's familiar and known. "Conservatism is a more black and white ideology than liberalism," explains Jost. "It emphasizes tradition and authority, which are reassuring during periods of threat."
To test the theory, Jost prompted people to think about either pain—by looking at things like an ambulance, a dentist's chair, and a bee sting—or death, by looking at things like a funeral hearse, the grim reaper, and a dead-end sign. Across the political spectrum, people who had been primed to think about death were more conservative on issues like immigration, affirmative action, and same-sex marriage than those who had merely thought about pain, although the effect size was relatively small. The implication is clear: For liberals, conservatives, and independents alike, thinking about death actually makes people more conservative—at least temporarily.
Fear and Voting In America
Campaign strategists in both parties have never hesitated to use scare tactics. In 1964, a Lyndon Johnson commercial called "Daisy" juxtaposed footage of a little girl plucking a flower with footage of an atomic blast. In 1984, Ronald Reagan ran a spot that played on Cold War panic, in which the Soviet threat was symbolized by a grizzly lumbering across a stark landscape as a human heart pounds faster and faster and an off-screen voice warns, "There is a bear in the woods!" In 2004, Bush sparked furor for running a fear-mongering ad that used wolves gathering in the woods as symbols for terrorists plotting against America. And last fall, Congressional Republicans drew fire with an ad that featured bin Laden and other terrorists threatening Americans; over the sound of a ticking clock, a voice warned, "These are the stakes."
"At least some of the President's support is the result of constant and relentless reminders of death, some of which is just what's happening in the world, but much of which is carefully cultivated and calculated as an electoral strategy," says Solomon. "In politics these days, there's a dose of reason, and there's a dose of irrationality driven by psychological terror that may very well be swinging elections."
Solomon demonstrated that thinking about 9/11 made people go from preferring Kerry to preferring Bush. "Very subtle manipulations of psychological conditions profoundly affect political preferences," Solomon concludes. "In difficult moments, people don't want complex, nuanced, John Kerry-like waffling or sophisticated cogitation. They want somebody charismatic to step up and say, 'I know where our problem is and God has given me the clout to kick those people's asses.'"
Into The Blue
Studies show that people who study abroad become more liberal than those who stay home.
People who venture from the strictures of their limited social class are less likely to stereotype and more likely to embrace other cultures. Education goes hand-in-hand with tolerance, and often, the more the better:
Professors at major universities are more liberal than their counterparts at less acclaimed institutions. What travel and education have in common is that they make the differences between people seem less threatening. "You become less bothered by the idea that there is uncertainty in the world," explains Jost.
That's why the more educated people are, the more liberal they become—but only to a point. Once people begin pursuing certain types of graduate degrees, the curve flattens. Business students, for instance, become more conservative in their views toward minorities. As they become more established, doctors and lawyers tend to protect their economic interests by moving to the right. The findings demonstrate that conservative conversions are fueled not only by fear, but by other factors as well. And if the November election was any indicator, the pendulum that swung so forcefully to the right after 9/11 may be swinging back.
Tipping The Balance
Political conversions that are emotionally induced can be very subtle: A shift in support for a given issue or politician is not the same as a radical conversion or deep philosophical change. While views may be manipulated, the impact may or may not translate in the voting booth. Following 9/11, most lifelong liberals did not go through outright conversion or shift their preferred candidate. Yet many liberals who didn't become all-out conservatives found themselves nonetheless sympathizing more with conservative positions, craving the comfort of a strong leader, or feeling the need to punish or avenge. Many in the political center moved to the right, too. In aggregate, over an electorate of millions—a large proportion of whom were swing voters waiting to be swayed one way or the other—even a subtle shift was enough to tip the balance of the Presidential election, and the direction the country took for years. "Without 9/11 we would have a different president," says Solomon. "I would even say that the Osama bin Laden tape that was released the Thursday before the election was sufficient to swing the election. It was basically a giant mortality salience induction."
If we are so suggestible that thoughts of death make us uncomfortable defaming the American flag and cause us to sit farther away from foreigners, is there any way we can overcome our easily manipulated fears and become the informed and rational thinkers democracy demands?
To test this, Solomon and his colleagues prompted two groups to think about death and then give opinions about a pro-American author and an anti-American one. As expected, the group that thought about death was more pro-American than the other. But the second time, one group was asked to make gut-level decisions about the two authors, while the other group was asked to consider carefully and be as rational as possible. The results were astonishing. In the rational group, the effects of mortality salience were entirely eliminated. Asking people to be rational was enough to neutralize the effects of reminders of death. Preliminary research shows that reminding people that as human beings, the things we have in common eclipse our differences—what psychologists call a "common humanity prime"—has the same effect.
"People have two modes of thought," concludes Solomon. "There's the intuitive gut-level mode, which is what most of us are in most of the time. And then there's a rational analytic mode, which takes effort and attention."
The solution, then, is remarkably simple. The effects of psychological terror on political decision making can be eliminated just by asking people to think rationally. Simply reminding us to use our heads, it turns out, can be enough to make us do it.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Genarlow Wilson, 20, has been in prison for nearly two years.
The New York Times reports:
Genarlow Wilson, 20, is serving a prison sentence that shocked his jury, elicited charges of racism from critics of the justice system and even acknowledgment by prosecutors and the State Legislature that it is unjust.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party, an offense that constituted aggravated child molesting, even though Mr. Wilson was 17.
With Mr. Wilson — a football player, honor student and the first homecoming king at Douglas County High School — nearing two years in prison, the Georgia Supreme Court declined last Friday to hear his appeal.
Mr. Wilson, who is black, is trapped in a legal vise intended to ensure severe penalties for child molesters and other sex offenders, navigating a maze of legal technicalities that for him seems to hold nothing but dead ends. Some critics of the sentence also say Mr. Wilson is caught in a system that metes out disproportionately harsh sentences to black defendants.
Disturbed by Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the Legislature changed the law in March to ensure that most sex between teenagers be treated as a misdemeanor. But the State Supreme Court said legislators had chosen not to make the law retroactive.
“While I am very sympathetic to Wilson’s argument regarding the injustice of sentencing this promising young man with good grades and no criminal history to 10 years in prison without parole and a lifetime registration as a sexual offender,” wrote Justice Carol W. Hunstein, “this court is bound by the Legislature’s determination that young persons in Wilson’s situation are not entitled to the misdemeanor treatment.”
The problem with that argument, legislators on the judicial committee said in interviews Monday, is that the State Constitution prohibits retroactive laws.
Even more confounding, at the time of Mr. Wilson’s offense, a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception had already been made for sexual intercourse between teenagers.
“Had Genarlow had intercourse with this girl, had he gotten her pregnant, he could only have been charged with a misdemeanor and punished up to 12 months,” said Brenda Joy Bernstein, Mr. Wilson’s lawyer.
Her client is not eligible for parole, only a reprieve that would not remove his name from the sex offender registry, Ms. Bernstein said.
The prosecutor, David McDade, the district attorney in Douglas County, west of Atlanta, says he has repeatedly offered Mr. Wilson the opportunity to resolve the case with a plea deal, adding that he would have to be treated similarly to the other defendants in the case, who are serving five- to seven-year prison sentences with a chance at parole. They, too, will have to register as sex offenders.
Mr. Wilson is adamant that he will not plead.
“Even after serving time in prison, I would have to register as a sex offender wherever I lived and if I applied for a job for the rest of my life, all for participating in a consensual sex act with a girl just two years younger than me,” he told a reporter for Atlanta magazine last year, adding that he would not even be able to move back in with his mother because he has an 8-year-old sister. “It’s a lifelong sentence in itself. I am not a child molester.”
On New Year’s Eve in 2003, Mr. Wilson and several friends rented a hotel room for a party at which they planned to have plenty of alcohol, marijuana and sex. One friend, goofing around with a video camera, captured much of the action on videotape. A 17-year-old girl reported after leaving the party that she had been gang raped. The tape showed that she was severely intoxicated.
A second girl, 15, also attended the party, but did not drink or smoke. She had what she later said was consensual oral sex with Mr. Wilson. But according to the law, a 15-year-old is below the age of consent. Mr. Wilson went to trial on charges of rape and aggravated child molesting.
After watching parts of the tape, the jury decided that Mr. Wilson had not raped the older girl. But it was bound by law to find him guilty of molesting the 15-year-old. Jurors said afterward they did not know that the charge carried a minimum sentence of 11 years, including 10 without parole.
Juannessa Bennett, Mr. Wilson’s mother, said her son was crushed by the Supreme Court decision.
“We’ve got people that is in power that don’t have no emotions,” Ms. Bennett said. “They don’t sympathize.”
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Stars and Stripes reports:
The Medal of Honor and other top military honors should not be reserved solely for troops killed in action, House members told defense officials Wednesday.
At a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on the awarding of military medals, several representatives expressed concern that the Defense Department has been overly cautious when it comes to honoring heroes serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for some honors, considering only acts that cost the servicemember his life.
“I am concerned that the military services may have introduced more stringent criteria into the Medal of Honor awards process than in the past,” said subcommittee chairman Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y.
“During the current global war on terrorism there has been no lack of valorous actions. But since the end of the Vietnam War only four men have been awarded the Medal of Honor … two in Somalia and two in Iraq.”
Military officials said they haven’t been stricter with awarding that honor or other top military medals, but they do take the utmost care in investigating troops’ heroic actions.
“Each demonstration of heroism is unique, and often it becomes a tough judgment call,” said Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel. “Our policies are designed to make sure to get it right the first time.”
The Defense Department has been conducting a review of military medals since July, focusing on awards given by all of the services, such as the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Officials said the goal is to provide more consistency in how the medals are awarded within each service, and to provide for standards across the services for related honors, such as the “V” device for valor.
For the highest honors — in particular the Medal of Honor — recipients must not only show courage and leadership but also selflessly risk their lives to save others.
“History shows injury, and even death, as a measure of the risk,” said Vice Adm. John Harvey Jr., chief of naval personnel.
Still, members of the subcommittee questioned why troops who survive a dangerous and heroic act are more likely to receive a service cross instead of a Medal of Honor.
Joseph Kinney, an author who has been researching the military honors process for several decades, testified before the subcommittee that Medals of Honor were awarded at nearly five times the rate during the Vietnam War than during the current conflicts overseas.
He said the “stinginess” of the military not only hurts morale, but it keeps the military from showing off the bravery of its troops.
“This nation desperately needs its heroes,” he said. “They’re there, but we haven’t acknowledged them.”
Kinney also criticized the time it takes for many of the medals to be awarded — the Marines took nearly three years to award a Medal of Honor to Cpl. Jason Dunham — saying the delay often lessens the chance any honor will be bestowed.
But the military commanders said combat conditions often delay timely filing of the proper paperwork, and the services’ thorough vetting process further postpones those awards.
The Defense Department review is expected to be completed sometime next summer.
Friday, December 1, 2006
The Boston Globe reports:
Outside his aqua-colored concrete house here, Rene Alvarez Rosales paused under an almond tree to answer questions about a subject with which he has surprising familiarity: Governor Mitt Romney's Belmont lawn.
For about eight years, Rosales said, he worked on and off landscaping the grounds at Romney's home, occasionally getting a "buenos dias" from Romney or a drink of water from his wife, Ann.
"She is very nice," said Rosales, 49.
About 6 miles away in Copado, a 37-year-old man who recently returned to Guatemala from the United States told a similar story, describing long days tending Romney's 2 1/2-acre grounds.
"They wanted that house to look really nice," said the worker, who asked to remain anonymous. "It took a long time."
As Governor Mitt Romney explores a presidential bid, he has grown outspoken in his criticism of illegal immigration. But, for a decade, the governor has used a landscaping company that relies heavily on workers like these, illegal Guatemalan immigrants, to maintain the grounds surrounding his pink Colonial house on Marsh Street in Belmont.
The Globe recently interviewed four current and former employees of Community Lawn Service with a Heart, the tiny Chelsea-based company that provides upkeep of Romney's property. All but one said they were in the United States illegally.
The employees told the Globe that company owner Ricardo Saenz never asked them to provide documents showing their immigration status and knew they were illegal immigrants.
"He never asked for papers," said Rosales, who said he had paid smugglers about $5,000 to take him across the US-Mexican border and settled in Chelsea.
The workers said they were paid in cash at $9 to $10 an hour and sometimes worked 11-hour days.
Romney never inquired about their status, they said.
In addition to maintaining the governor's property, they also tended to the lawn at the house owned by Romney's son, Taggart, less than a mile away on the same winding street.
Asked by a reporter yesterday about his use of Community Lawn Service with a Heart, Romney, who was hosting the Republican Governors Association conference in Miami, said, "Aw, geez," and walked away.
Several hours later, his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, provided the Globe with a statement saying that the governor knows nothing about the immigration status of the landscaping workers, and that his dealings were with Saenz, who is a legal immigrant from Colombia.
Fehrnstrom said that Romney would look into the matter further.
"We'll see what happens from here on out," Fehrnstrom said. "If the Globe has information on people that are in the country illegally, obviously that would have to be verified. . . . We've already taken the first step in that direction by calling Mr. Saenz."
The situation underscores the extent to which illegal immigrants permeate the US economy. Even as Romney travels the country, vowing to curb the flood of low-skilled illegal immigrants into the United States, some of those workers maintain his own yard, cutting grass, pruning shrubs, and mulching trees.
Saenz said he met Romney through the Mormon Church and said Romney has used his company's services for a decade. Saenz said Romney never asked him if his workers are legal immigrants.
"He doesn't have to ask," Saenz said. "I'm a company."
Saenz asserted that all the workers he used were in the United States legally. Told by reporters that his employees said they were in this country illegally, Saenz responded: "What you've heard is not my problem."
Saenz said he had never requested any proof from his employees to show they are here legally.
"I don't need to tell them to show me documents," he said. "I know who they are, and they are legal."
Federal law calls for employers to examine the documents, such as green cards or Social Security cards, that establish an employee's identity and eligibility to work in the United States.
The Globe received a tip in July alleging that Romney was using illegal immigrants to landscape his property. Reporters then observed the lawn service workers outside Romney's house more than a dozen times, sometimes as frequently as twice a week.
Reporters tracked down four current and former employees of the company at their homes in Chelsea and in Guatemala. All had landscaped Romney's property while working for Community Lawn Service with a Heart, and their tenure ranged from one worker who had joined the company just a month ago to another who had worked there 10 years.
The workers said they found the jobs at the landscaping company through other Guatemalan immigrants after arriving in Chelsea.
Of the four interviewed, only one said he was in the United States legally, showing a reporter his Social Security card and a Massachusetts driver's license, which the reporter checked against public databases to verify its authenticity. The other workers acknowledged they had no genuine documents, though some said they purchased fake documents, and described harrowing trips to the United States, eluding authorities and paying thousands for their passage. The interviews were conducted in Spanish.
The undocumented workers appear to be a significant presence at the tiny company. Reporters who observed the company in recent months never saw more than three people working at any time. Typically two men were working on any given day.
Community Lawn Service also provides landscaping for a Massachusetts Port Authority property in Revere and public school grounds in Chelsea. The Globe reported in June that companies using undocumented workers had received state contracts, triggering intense debate on Beacon Hill. Romney and GOP lawmakers have supported an effort to prohibit the practice.
The workers who had landscaped Romney's property seemed unaware of the governor's support for stricter controls on illegal immigration. Several described casual encounters with Romney over the years and said he had never expressed any curiosity about their status.
Rosales recalled Romney sometimes waving as they tended to the grounds, which include a tennis court and swimming pool. Romney occasionally called out, "buenos dias," drawing good-natured laughter from the workers. Ann Romney was friendly, Rosales said, and he said she brought them water on one particularly hot day.
Romney has been critical of illegal immigration as he touts himself to Republican primary voters as a conservative alternative to Senator John McCain, who has teamed up with Senator Edward M. Kennedy to push for a middle ground approach on the issue.
Romney supports construction of a new 700-mile fence along the country's border with Mexico and stationing National Guard troops at the border until it is finished.
He also said that employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should be penalized. After the Globe's story in June about contractors on public projects using illegal immigrants, the governor announced he would seek an agreement with federal immigration authorities to allow Massachusetts State Police to arrest illegal immigrants for being in this country illegally.
In September, on Fox TV's "The O'Reilly Factor," Romney said the border must be secured and restated his support for the fence along the Mexican border, prompting host Bill O'Reilly to dub it "the Mitt Romney Memorial wall."
The experience of the workers on Romney's property seems far removed from the political rhetoric.
The worker in Copado said a state trooper stationed in Romney's driveway once inquired about his immigration status, about six months ago. Saenz, the company owner, who was at the property at the time, told the trooper that the worker was in the country legally, but had forgotten his papers, the worker told the Globe. The trooper never inquired again, said the worker, who repeatedly returned to the governor's property but avoided the trooper. Saenz told reporters he did not recall the incident.
Both the Copado resident and Rosales said they took the landscaping jobs to earn money for their families back home. After making it to the US-Mexican border, they crossed the Arizona desert on foot. When they finally arrived in Chelsea, where friends and family lived, they did odd jobs and eventually found work at Community Lawn Service with a Heart.
They said they were grateful for the work. About 80 percent of Guatemalans live in poverty, according to the US State Department. The workers said they made far more at Community Lawn Service than they could in their Central American homeland.
"It was a good job," said the worker in Copado, not far from a stream where local women wash their clothes. "I didn't make a lot, but I earned $16,000 working for that company." He said he returned to Guatemala after four years because he missed his wife and daughter and has used his earnings to buy a pickup truck and land on which to build a small house.
Another of the undocumented workers, who has been living in Chelsea for two years and joined the landscaping firm a month ago, is finding life here hard.
"The truth is, it's very difficult," the 46-year-old worker said. "One lives day to day."
The one legal Guatemalan immigrant interviewed by the Globe, who has done work at the Romney property numerous times, has been a constant presence at the landscaping company. But he said Saenz regularly hired illegal workers to work alongside him. He said exchanges with the governor on the property are rare.
"The one who talks to us is the wife," said the legal immigrant. "She asks how we are."
The issue of illegal immigrant laborers has been tricky and sometimes damaging to political figures. President Clinton's first two nominees for attorney general, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, saw their chances dim after it was reported that they had employed illegal immigrants as nannies.
In 1994, Republican Michael Huffington lost his bid for the US Senate after acknowledging he had employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny for five years.