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California taxpayers have begun paying $15,000 a month to help the Assembly lobby federal government.

The Assembly signed a contract in mid-May with PACE, a government relations consulting firm based in the nation's capital, to provide a wide range of strategic planning, monitoring, information and advocacy services through June 30, 2012, records show.

Decisions made in Washington D.C., affect billions of dollars that are coveted by California school, transportation, criminal justice, social service, health-care reform and other public programs each year.

"The benefit is clear on having your own representatives for lobbying in Washington D.C., because then we've got somebody on the ground who's more aware of what's going on for its impacts strictly on California -- and the Legislature in particular," said Jon Waldie, Assembly administrator.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger trumpeted the need to keep a close eye on the nation's capital by declaring, shortly after taking office in 2003, his intention to become the "Collectinator" of federal funds. A spokesman for current Gov. Jerry Brown said the office does not currently employ a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Waldie said that the Assembly had a two-person office in the nation's capital to represent its interests in years past, but former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass shut it down several years ago as part of budget cuts.

PACE's managing partner is James W. Wise, who directed legislative programs in California for the state controller and Assembly leadership before becoming a federal advocate in 1983.

PACE, in literature it sent to the Assembly, characterized itself as a wide-ranging and versatile consulting firm that can handle activities ranging from drafting legislation and proposed regulations to developing a strategic plan or building coalitions of business and government groups.

"Over the years we have been in Washington D.C., the partners of PACE have established personal and professional relationships with White House personnel, federal agency officials, chairmen of major congressional committees, hundreds of members of Congress, corporate sector executives and members of the working press," the company said.

Among other things, the new pact calls for PACE to assist with the Assembly's annual trip -- or any visits by Assembly leaders -- to the nation's capital; provide key contacts in federal executive agencies and congressional offices; identify key issues for advocacy; and report to the Assembly on major federal issues.

As an example of the kind of strategic assistance that PACE can provide, the firm noted that the U.S. House of Representatives has adopted a rule that limits appropriations earmarks to government or nonprofit organizations, which could negatively affect California defense, technology and other businesses that bolster the state's economy.

"In order to adapt to this action, the state of California could establish a public institution that could act as a clearinghouse to submit requests and accept earmarks to be distributed to California businesses engaged in valuable work that provides economic benefit for the state," PACE said.

"This would allow the state of California to comply with House rules and yet still provide the targeted federal financial resources that will benefit California."

* Updated at 1:25 p.m. to say that Gov. Jerry Brown's office does not employ a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.



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