NADER KHOURI / MCT

As the goliath of the U.S. public safety radio market, Motorola wields a playbook full of tactics for fending off challenges to its estimated 80 percent share of a multibillion-dollar-a-year market. But a McClatchy investigation found that those tools often aren't needed. Some of the different radio systems available to public safety agencies on November 30, 2013. At front center is the Motorola APX 6000.

Motorola spreads its money and influence far and wide

Published: Saturday, Mar. 29, 2014 - 9:00 pm
Last Modified: Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014 - 8:17 am

Motorola executives don’t talk much about their efforts to win friends in high places, but a trail of public records provides the outlines of the company’s attempts to cultivate loyalty and befriend key government decision makers.

The firm has recruited law enforcement and national intelligence chiefs to its corporate board.

Its foundations donated or pledged to donate more than $26 million over the six years ending Dec. 31, 2011, to nonprofits formed by law enforcement and firefighting interests, a McClatchy analysis found.

It has contributed nearly $2 million over the last decade to the Republican and Democratic governors associations, which in turn helped foot the re-election costs of governors whose administrations awarded Motorola big contracts.

Motorola, which now operates independently as Motorola Solutions Inc., has spent upward of $60 million on federal lobbying over the last decade and untold sums lobbying states.

Motorola and its foundations have been major benefactors of police chief associations. They’ve also bankrolled a leading emergency communications advocacy coalition.

No evidence has surfaced that any of the donations by Motorola’s foundations were made as part of explicit exchanges for support in winning business. However, such donations are unusual for a radio company and they create an appearance of cozy relationships with people who can influence contract awards.

A prime example of how Motorola enlarges its presence is the way the company’s foundation leaped to the fore in supporting a new National Law Enforcement Museum, due to open in the nation’s capital in 2016.

With a $3 million check, the Motorola Solutions Foundation became the museum’s first donor. Last year, the company and its foundation earned elite status by pledging to lift the total to $15 million in cash and equipment, far surpassing any other backer.

In return, a sign on the museum facade will state that it is located “at the Motorola Solutions Foundation Building,” said Craig Floyd, the museum’s top officer and head of the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Motorola Solutions’ logo will be on display at an exhibit of a 911 call center featuring its two-way radios, he said.

Executives of the museum’s three biggest donors – Motorola, the DuPont Corp. and Target Corp. – hold seats on the fund’s board, where they can hobnob with officials of national police groups. Motorola’s representative on the board: Senior Vice President Karen Tandy, who is the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Floyd said he sees no problems with the arrangement because “it makes perfect sense” for companies such as Motorola to “view themselves as partners with the law enforcement community in providing public safety to this nation.”

A spokesman for Motorola Solutions would neither comment on the company’s largesse nor on its hefty lobbying expenditures.

Museum contributions are hardly the only instance in which money from the company has flowed to groups whose members have much to say about their agencies’ choices of emergency radio equipment.

Some of its donations to foundations for major police and fire departments have coincided with looming contract awards.

For example, from 2008 to 2011, heading into the start of the procurement of two major emergency communications networks covering Los Angeles County and more than 80 cities in the county, including Los Angeles, Motorola Solutions and its foundation donated $168,000 to the Los Angeles Police Foundation.

On its website, the police foundation describes itself as “the major source of private financial support” for the Los Angeles Police Department, providing “urgently needed equipment and technology.”

Motorola Solutions has since won the countywide contract for a new radio network and is expected to win another contract for a broadband data-delivery network.

In Chicago, whose police and fire departments have relied on Motorola’s two-way radios since 1956, the Motorola and Motorola Solutions foundations donated $847,000 to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation from 2006 through 2011, according to nonprofit tax returns filed by the Motorola Foundation and Motorola Solutions Foundation.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police Foundation got $1.03 million during that period. The company usually delivers a six-figure check at the association’s annual banquet, said an official who has attended. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid harming relationships.

The Motorola foundations’ donations totaling $1.6 million to one group, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, raise other delicate issues. Failures of Motorola radios have been blamed for contributing to some of the 343 firefighter deaths at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and for the deaths of five firefighters in recent years. Officials of the firefighters foundation, designated by Congress in 1981 as the official U.S. monument to fallen firefighters, did not respond to phone messages.

Several years ago at an annual dinner of the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association, composed of police chiefs and sheriffs from the nation’s 70 largest law enforcement agencies, a Motorola representative sat at every table, said a former police officer familiar with the event. When an association official inquired about inviting other sponsors to sit at the tables, Motorola threatened to withdraw its financial support, said the ex-officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid harming relationships.

The major chiefs association website now lists multiple industry sponsors.

Former top law enforcement officials, who also declined to be identified to preserve their relationships, say that Motorola has for years been the main financial backer of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.

Not only has the association lobbied Congress on public safety communications issues, but it was the chief sponsor of an industry-government effort that set uniform design standards for public safety radios – a process that drew harsh criticism for taking nearly 20 years. Motorola representatives were the most active participants of the effort, according to minutes of the meetings.

Among the luminaries on the boards of Motorola and Motorola Solutions have been former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden and William Bratton, the so-called “super cop” who headed the Los Angeles, New York and Boston police departments. Bratton was recently rehired to a return engagement as New York City police chief and will have to quit the board, a post that has earned him about $250,000 annually in cash and stock.


Mulvany is a McClatchy special correspondent. Email: ggordon@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @GregGordon2



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