The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce sent 50 folks to Capitol Hill this week to buttonhole members of Congress to return California's "fair share" of the revenue it sends to Washington.

George Kieffer, chairman of the chamber, said that California gets about 84 cents out of every dollar it sends to Washington and that it should get more to help deal with illegal immigration, crowded port issues and other needs.

"We've got some national problems but not enough support," Kieffer said.

Unfortunately, while the Californians were in town seeking federal money, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a news release about his success in reaching agreements with the Bush administration in social services areas that will save the state $455 million.

Kieffer seemed a bit chagrined, but explained that Schwarzenegger has "done a good job getting some of the money, but we've got a long way to go." Kieffer, a Democrat, was part of the Republican governor's transition team. A few years back, Kieffer, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, had become Maria Shriver's lawyer -- Shriver, of course, is the governor's wife.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson also said the release was meant to convey that although there is some good news, "more work remains to be done."

Before the Californians left the Hill yesterday, they also made sure their congressional delegation -- Republicans and Democrats -- administration officials and others know that they are also united behind the planned Eastside extension of the light-rail transit system to some of the most transit-dependent communities in East Los Angeles.

"We see these issues profoundly affecting business. It's critical socially and economically to the well-being of the county," Kieffer said. The project, he said, has been 15 years in development and would create 45,000 short-term jobs and more than 1,000 long-term jobs.

But there's a major roadblock.

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has asked Congress to commit to paying nearly $500 million, about half of the cost of the extension. But Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee, wrote Tuesday to Jennifer L. Dorn, head of the Federal Transit Administration, saying that his panel "will not commit at this time" to the project's funding. He expressed concern about the project's finances and said there's just not enough money for everything.

Kieffer is hoping Istook will change his mind after meeting with the Californians out West next week.

Tobacco Growers Make the 'Big Leagues'

A group of tobacco farmers have spent their way into the top 50 of lobbying groups.

PoliticalMoneyLine, which follows lobbying and political money, noted on its Web site that the law firm Howrey Simon Arnold & White spent more than $2.6 million during the last six months of 2003 for lobbying on behalf of the Domestic Tobacco Growers Class. Tony Raymond of PoliticalMoneyLine said that put the growers at No. 49.

The group is in the "temporary big leagues," cracked Howrey's Alan M. Wiseman.

The money is part of $5 million paid by Philip Morris last year to settle an antitrust case against the largest U.S. tobacco companies. The farmers are to use the money to lobby Congress for legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco and provide for a buyout to tobacco farmers who want to change to other crops.

Although it has no control over the $5 million fund, Philip Morris supports the legislation -- which is opposed by competitors R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Lorillard.

"It's the first time the tobacco farmers have money to push their own interests," Wiseman said. "The farmers have embraced FDA regulation as the price to get buyout legislation."

The Howrey team represented the growers in the antitrust litigation. On the lobby filing: Wiseman; Karen M. Lockwood, who's heading up the group; Robert L. Green Jr.; Kenneth C. Anderson and Rachel A. Adams. Howrey has hired the Dutko Group and Ogilvie Public Relations to push the farmers' agenda on the Hill.

Daub Will Head Health Care Group

Former congressman Harold J. Daub Jr. (R-Neb.), will take over the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living as the new president and chief executive of AHCA/NCAL, effective July 19.

Daub, chairman of the Social Security Advisory Board and a partner at Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin, a law firm based in Kansas City, Mo., succeeds Charles H. Roadman II.

Also on the Move

John A. Schmidt, a former aide to the late Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater, has left Edelman Public Relations, where he was a senior vice president, to set up his own shop, Schmidt Public Affairs. He will specialize in "strategic public affairs management" of health care and reimbursement issues regarding Medicare and Medicaid.

Amy Weiss has signed on with the United Nations Foundation as vice president of public affairs, responsible for directing advocacy and communications work. She was senior vice president of communications for the Recording Industry Association of America, and earlier was deputy press secretary to President Bill Clinton.

Susan Lusi, formerly chief of staff for the Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island, has joined the Alliance for Excellent Education as vice president for public policy.