The New Face of Koch Industries

Lombardo: "Reintroducing" the Koch empire.
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
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Christopher Snow Hopkins
March 31, 2014, 5:40 p.m.

For some Demo­crat­ic politi­cians, the Koch broth­ers are syn­onym­ous with the cor­ros­ive in­flu­ence of money in polit­ics. Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id has waged an all-out war on the Wichita, Kan.-based in­dus­tri­al ti­tans, lam­bast­ing Charles and Dav­id Koch on the Sen­ate floor and ac­cus­ing them of “ter­rible dis­hon­esty” as they bank­roll anti-Obama­care ads.

Yet, for all the cri­ti­cism dir­ec­ted to­ward the Koch broth­ers, little at­ten­tion is paid to the source of their riches: a $115 bil­lion em­pire with 100,000 em­ploy­ees and a pres­ence in 60 coun­tries. To tell the story of Koch In­dus­tries, the com­pany has hired Steve Lom­bardo, a well-known PR ex­ec­ut­ive with ex­per­i­ence rep­res­ent­ing phar­ma­ceut­ic­als and oth­er in­dus­tries un­der fire.

“This is the first time I’ve gone in-house,” said Lom­bardo, who was most re­cently chair­man of the U.S. pub­lic af­fairs and crisis prac­tice at Burson-Marsteller. “My mis­sion is to re­in­tro­duce one of the largest cor­por­a­tions in the world, a com­pany that pro­duces everything from pa­per tow­els to elec­tric­al con­nect­ors to Stain­mas­ter car­pets. We are go­ing to try to tell the story in a hol­ist­ic way that’s rep­res­ent­at­ive of the Koch vis­ion of Amer­ica, one that’s about liberty and free­dom and cre­at­ing value to im­prove people’s lives.

“Of course, it’s true that our prin­cip­al share­hold­ers, Charles and Dav­id Koch, are in­volved in polit­ic­al activ­it­ies,” Lom­bardo ad­ded. “They are one among many con­trib­ut­ors to Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity and Free­dom Part­ners. Polit­ic­al is­sues do have an im­pact on the im­age and repu­ta­tion of the com­pany — every­one here is cog­niz­ant of that. Be­cause of polit­ics, the story of Koch In­dus­tries gets a little warped and mis­un­der­stood. As com­mu­nic­at­ors, we need to do a bet­ter job.”

In his new po­s­i­tion, Lom­bardo will over­see Koch Cre­at­ive Ser­vices, an in-house ad­vert­ising and mar­ket­ing group with 30 em­ploy­ees in Wichita. Since tak­ing over in Feb­ru­ary, Lom­bardo has been shut­tling between Wash­ing­ton and Wichita, with peri­od­ic trips to At­lanta. “For those of us who spend a lot of time on the East Coast, we for­get some­times that there are a num­ber of states in the middle sec­tion of the coun­try that do a good deal of the pro­duc­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing in this coun­try,” he said.

Lom­bardo’s title is chief com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing of­ficer, a new role at Koch In­dus­tries. He re­ports to pres­id­ent and Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­ficer Dave Robertson.

Koch In­dus­tries, which began in 1940 as Wood River Oil and Re­fin­ing, is a con­stel­la­tion of com­pan­ies such as Geor­gia-Pa­cific, Molex, and Flint Hills Re­sources, which is a re­fin­ing, chem­ic­als, and bio­fuels com­pany. The privately held con­glom­er­ate is in­volved in everything from fer­til­izers and min­er­als to ranch­ing and com­mod­ity trad­ing, with a sig­ni­fic­ant role in en­ergy. One Koch sub­si­di­ary has 4,000 miles of pipelines that carry oil, li­que­fied nat­ur­al gas, eth­an­ol, and oth­er pet­ro­leum products.

Lom­bardo, 53, was raised in Manchester, N.H., and at­ten­ded Saint An­selm Col­lege. After re­ceiv­ing a mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic policy from St. Louis Uni­versity, he worked as a poll­ster on the statewide cam­paigns of then-Gov. John Ash­croft and former Sen. Kit Bond, both Mis­souri Re­pub­lic­ans. More re­cently, Lom­bardo served as a re­search con­sult­ant on Mitt Rom­ney’s 2008 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign.

In the early 1990s, Lom­bardo was hired by the phar­ma­ceut­ic­al in­dustry to re­pair its im­age after its repu­ta­tion took a hit over ex­or­bit­ant drug prices. Lom­bardo pro­posed a rebrand­ing, giv­ing rise to one of the best-known ac­ronyms on K Street: PhRMA, short for Phar­ma­ceut­ic­al Re­search and Man­u­fac­tur­ers of Amer­ica.

Earli­er in his ca­reer, Lom­bardo headed his own con­sultancy and was glob­al CEO of Strategy­One. He has rep­res­en­ted a di­verse ar­ray of cli­ents, from cor­por­a­tions and in­dustry groups to trade as­so­ci­ations and polit­ic­al can­did­ates.

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