Influence Explored: Google gobbles 7-month-old Motorola spinoff, faces FTC heat

Just 7 months after spinning off from its parent company, Motorola Mobility will be purchased by Google, Inc. for $12.5 billion, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News.

According to the article, Google will gain control of 17,000 patents related to cell phones and mobile devices held by Motorola Mobility. Google CEO Larry Page thinks the acquisition of the patents will guard Google from other companies. The article quotes Page saying, “[the patents will] enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”

Google is reportedly facing an investigation into the possibility that it has taken part in anti-competitive practices. According to stories that ran earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes and the Washington Times, the FTC  has served Google with subpoenas and is probing Google’s practices with its search engine, such as the placement of its own services over competitors’, and its Android operating system to determine whether they hurt competition. Today’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility may also be subject to approval by the FTC before it can go forward.

Both Google and Motorola Mobility have spent money on campaign contributions and lobbyists for issues impacting their legal and regulatory liability. Here’s a sample of where the companies’ money has gone:

  • Google made  $1.42 million in campaign contributions in the last election cycle, including large donations from its PAC to both Republican and Democratic candidates in California’s governor race. The company spent $9.19 million in lobbying in the same period. The House and Senate versions of the Patent Reform Act of 2009 are among the most disclosed bills it lobbied on.
  • Google spent $1.48 million on lobbying so far in 2011. Nearly all of the lobbying registrations and disclosures filed by its lobbying firms list “copyright, privacy, and competition” as Google’s areas of interest.
  • Lobbyists from Akin, Grump et al, registered recently to represent Google and deal with the federal government’s competition concerns with the company.
  • Since January of this year, Motorola Mobility spent $470,000 on lobbying. Disclosure forms list the Patent Reform Act of 2011, a proposed FM radio mandate for cell phones, spectrum policy, and other issues as its main concerns.

‘Influence Explored’ takes an article from the day’s headlines and exposes the influential ways of entities mentioned in the article. Names and corporations are run through Sunlight’s influence tracking tools such as Influence Explorer and Transparency Data to remind readers of the money that powers Washington.