Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) does not have a bank account.
At least, that’s what Johnson reports on years of personal financial disclosures, which date back to 2016 and reveal a financial life that, in the context of his role as a congressman and now speaker, appears extraordinarily precarious.
Over the course of seven years, Johnson has never reported a checking or savings account in his name, nor in the name of his wife or any of his children, disclosures show. In fact, he doesn’t appear to have money stashed in any investments, with his latest filing—covering 2022—showing no assets whatsoever.
Of course, it’s unlikely Johnson doesn’t actually have a bank account. What’s more likely is Johnson lives paycheck to paycheck—so much so that he doesn’t have enough money in his bank account to trigger the checking account disclosure rules for members of Congress.
House Ethics Committee filing guidelines state that members must disclose bank accounts they have at every financial institution, as long as the account holds at least $1,000 and the combined value of all accounts—including those belonging to their spouse and dependent children—exceeds $5,000.
The rules cover all “interest-bearing, cash-deposit accounts at banks, credit unions, and savings and loan associations,” including checking, savings, and money market accounts, along with certificates of deposit and individual retirement funds, or IRAs. (Johnson reported receiving a $10,485.53 distribution from a New York Life IRA in 2017, his first year in office, possibly from a retirement account he had listed the previous year.)
It’s certainly not uncommon for Americans to have less than $5,000 in their bank account. Most Americans—57 percent—couldn’t handle an unexpected $1,000 expense, according to a report earlier this year. And the median amount that Americans keep in their bank account is $5,300. But Johnson’s household income puts him in the top 12 percent of earners in the United States. And it’s extraordinarily rare for members of Congress to not list a qualifying bank account—let alone zero assets whatsoever.
The Daily Beast reached out to Johnson’s office for comment but did not receive a reply.
Brett Kappel, a government ethics expert at Harmon Curran, told The Daily Beast it would be “very unusual for a Member not to have to disclose at least one bank account.”
Jordan Libowitz, communications director for watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, offered a more blunt assessment, saying that if Johnson truly doesn’t have any assets, it “raises questions about his personal financial wellbeing.”
"It’s strange to see Speaker Johnson disclose no assets,” Libowitz told The Daily Beast. “He made over $200,000 last year, and his wife took home salary from two employers as well, so why isn’t there a bank account or any form of savings listed?”
Johnson has also carried debts over for several years, which Libowitz said would sharpen the question.
“He owes hundreds of thousands of dollars between a mortgage, personal loan, and home equity line of credit, so where did that money go?” Libowitz said. “If he truly has no bank account and no assets, it raises questions about his personal financial wellbeing.”
That fact, he said, could be seen as a vulnerability to exploit.
“One of the reasons we have these financial disclosures is to know whether politicians are having financial difficulties—which could make them ripe for influence buying,” Libowitz said.
Johnson’s financial disclosures paint a picture of a man of “modest” means, The Wall Street Journal reported this week. But he doesn’t appear to have a negative net worth, unlike the -$671,000 worth that Roll Call once put on another recent contender in the speakership race, Steve Scalise. Johnson’s Benton, Louisiana, home is valued around $600,000, according to a Zillow estimate. The home’s value, along with his income, would cover his reported liabilities. (Bossier Parish records show he is up to date on his taxes.)
The year before joining Congress, Johnson reported over $200,000 in combined income, a total he and his wife seem to clear annually. He topped that number again last year, reporting his $174,000 federal salary along with roughly $30,000 from his Liberty University online teaching gig—a steady side hustle Johnson first reported in 2019.
His wife also reported income last year from two nonprofit groups, “Onward Christian Education Services, Inc.” and “Louisiana Right To Life Educational Committee.” Members aren’t required to disclose how much money their spouses earn, just the sources. But two of Johnson’s previous reports do provide a dollar amount, showing about $50,000 in those years from various clients. (His latest disclosures just say “N/A.”)
All in all, Johnson and his wife appear to have steadily earned more than $200,000 a year, which will see a nice bump under his $223,500 salary as speaker. However, they do face some steep costs—among them raising four children and a second place for Johnson to crash while he’s in D.C.
While Johnson might not have money in a bank, he does have a relationship with them. That is, he deals with banks on the liability side, with his disclosures revealing three debts at Citizens National Bank: a 2013 home mortgage valued between $250,000 and $500,000; a personal loan from 2016, between $15,000 and $50,000; and a home equity line of credit he took out in 2019, for an additional amount between $15,000 and $50,000.
He also appears to have a relationship with bankers. In 2019, the Louisiana Bankers Association issued a press release showing Johnson meeting with executives from a number of banks—including Citizens National, which owns all of Johnson’s liabilities, including the line of credit that he had taken out earlier that year.
Another one of those liabilities, Johnson’s 2016 personal loan, has been paid down. That loan, which was pegged between $50,000-$100,000 on his first disclosure, went down to between $15,000 and $50,000—the next reporting range—on his second disclosure. Neither that debt nor the others have changed since.
But Johnson’s retirement savings do seem to be dwindling. In his first filing, as a candidate in 2016, Johnson only lists a state government Fidelity retirement account valued between $1,000 and $15,000. That year, Johnson reported earning about $171,000 from legal work at Kitchens Law and his own practice, in addition to his $25,000 salary from the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Johnson appears to have carried that retirement account over to a federal program called a Thrift Savings Plan. He put some money into that account, topping out between $15,000 and $50,000 in 2020. (The previous year, Johnson had taken out the line of credit on his home.) In 2021, he appears to have cashed out that retirement account entirely, and it does not appear at all in his 2022 report.
Johnson also doesn’t list any accounts with the Congressional Federal Credit Union, a frequently used institution among House members following the congressional check-bouncing scandal of the 1990s. Even the notoriously opaque Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has disclosed a CFCU account.
As Johnson takes the speaker reins, his entire life—personal and political—is under new scrutiny. While a low net worth is far from the worst disclosure about Johnson, it’s revealing in several ways. For one, his complete lack of assets shows that, for a conservative, Johnson isn’t as conservative with his own finances as he strives to be with the federal government’s. For another, it could be indicative of his post-Congress plans.
With Johnson appearing to not have even a single dollar in the stock market, a savings account, or a retirement plan, the new speaker may have plans to use his congressional position as a springboard to something more lucrative once he’s done in government. That could happen once he’s done in government, but if the new speaker sees a boon while in office, he certainly wouldn’t be the first member of Congress to do so.