U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), the latest House Republican nominee for House Speaker, talks to reporters prior to another round of voting for Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 25, 2023.
Nathan Howard | Reuters
Newly minted Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has quietly assembled a group of wealthy Louisiana political backers who could become key players in GOP fundraising under Johnson’s speakership.
“I’m sure if you are major donor and figure in Louisiana, you’re now feeling as if you have major influence,” a lobbyist close to Johnson told CNBC. The person was granted anonymity to speak freely about private donor matters.
Johnson’s election last week has reportedly already provided a boost to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the official campaign arm for House Republicans. On Oct. 27, Johnson’s first full day as speaker, the NRCC raised $175,000, according to Politico. It was the group’s best online fundraising day in more than a year and a half.
Along with the speakership, Johnson also assumed the role of fundraiser-in-chief for House Republicans. But filling the shoes of former speaker Kevin McCarthy, a prolific fundraiser, will not be easy.
During the 2022 midterm cycle, a super PAC aligned with McCarthy, Congressional Leadership Fund, raised $350 million.
During that same period, Johnson’s campaign and leadership political action committee combined to raise just over $1.5 million. That total is far less than many other House members, who raised on average $3.51 million that cycle, according to OpenSecrets.
With Johnson under pressure to raise millions of dollars for the 2024 House races, his circle of Louisiana’s top Republican donors could be asked to step up.
One of them is shipyard magnate Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, a longtime supporter of Johnson and to the Republican party.
Bollinger is widely viewed as one of the most influential Republican political donors in Louisiana. He was a state finance chairman for the presidential campaigns of Presidents Donald Trump, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and former Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) speaks to reporters as he arrives for a vote in the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 10, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
Johnson’s campagin reported a donation of $6,600 from Bollinger in February, according to Federal Election Commission records. Bollinger gave the campaign $4,800 in 2022, according to the records.
Bollinger did not return a request for comment. He’s already given over $47,000 to the NRCC so far this cycle, with a February check coming into the committee through a joint fundraising account run by House Majority Leader Steve Scalie, R-La, according to an FEC record.
A representative for Johnson’s congressional office referred CNBC to the speaker’s campaign. A spokesperson for Johnson’s campaign did not return a request for comment.
Earlier this year, Bollinger reportedly co-hosted a fundraiser to benefit former President Donald Trump’s campaign.
He also served as Trump’s co-finance chair in Louisiana during the 2020 election.
The other co-finance chair was Joseph Canizaro, also a major Republican donor in Louisiana. That same year, federal records show that Canizaro contributed $4,600 to Johnson’s reelection effort.
Canizaro has been a commercial real estate titan in New Orleans for decades.
In 2019, Canizaro and Bollinger reportedly raised $4 million for Trump’s campaign in one night, with a single fundraiser.
US President Donald Trump arrives for a Make America Great Again rally at Fayetteville Regional Airport November 2, 2020, in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Canizaro did not return a request for comment. The real estate executive has contributed over $38,000 to the NRCC so far this cycle, according to to an FEC record.
Many of Johnson’s major donors come from the oil and gas industry, according to data from the nonpartisan OpenSecrets. Individuals working in the industry have donated over $330,000 to Johnson’s campaigns since he first ran for Congress.
Johnson’s joint fundraising committee, the Johnson Leadership Fund, received $25,000 in 2021 from John Atkins, a partner at the Louisiana based Atco Investment Company, according to FEC records.
The firm invests, at least in part, in the oil and gas business, according to Atkins’ website. Atco employees have combined to give just over $40,000 to Johnson’s successful reelection efforts, according to OpenSecrets.
Atkins did not return a request for comment.
Employees at the oil and gas exploration company Will-Drill Resources have also been major givers to Johnson’s campaigns, combining to contribute around $43,000 since his first run for Congress.
Allen Williams, the vice president of Will-Drill, has donated over $8,000 since 2016 to Johnson’s reelection campaign account, according to FEC records. Williams did not return a request for comment.