Mike Johnson worked with a Louisiana college to minimize fallout over his resignation as a law-school dean, The Washington Post reported.
The school, the Judge Paul Pressler School of Law, never opened despite millions in funding.
Johnson stepped down after a feasibility study offered no road map for the school to open.
About 15 years ago, Louisiana College set plans for a private Christian law school in the state in motion, with the college spending about $5 million to purchase and renovate a building to house the institution.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, who in 2010 was a young Louisiana attorney looking to make his mark in his home state, became the "inaugural dean" of the Judge Paul Pressler School of Law. The planned law school's boosters touted it as one that would "unashamedly embrace" a "biblical worldview."
But the law school — which would have been part of Louisiana College, a Southern Baptist institution in Pineville that was renamed Louisiana Christian University in 2021 — never opened its doors, even after racking up multimillion-dollar expenses in preparation for classes.
After stepping down as the law school's dean in 2012, Johnson privately worked with Louisiana College officials to soften any fallout from his departure, The Washington Post reported.
In Johnson's resignation letter, he wrote that "our hands are currently tied" regarding the push to secure funding in support of the law school.
According to an internal memo obtained by The Post, there was guidance from college officials to "minimize publicity on Mike's resignation and keep all necessary messaging brief, positive and consistent." Guidance for officials to say that the law school had been "temporarily delayed" and would be a "scaled-down future project" was also in the memo.
Before Johnson resigned from this position, he was perhaps the law school's biggest booster, remarking on the importance of an institution that would educate Christian lawyers.
But he had also continually asked an aide to find a feasibility study for the law school because he wanted to ensure that there would be sufficient funding in place to open the institution, The Washington Post reported.
When the aide located the study, which was in a filing cabinet, it did not support the law school's feasibility.
Johnson wrote in a 2013 memo obtained by The Washington Post that the feasibility study was a "hodgepodge collection of papers," with "nothing in existence" that identified the necessity of the law school or specific funding sources.
Joe Aguillard, the president of Louisiana College from 2005 to 2014, reportedly pointed to Johnson "for the Law School's present delays in opening its doors," according to a memo that the then-board member Heath Veuleman wrote, which was also obtained by The Washington Post.
But in a statement to Insider in late October, Aguillard praised Johnson's character as the Louisiana lawmaker takes on the highest-profile position of his political career.
"He speaks from an internal moral compass that is true north and everyone should know that 'Mike Johnson cannot be bought,'" Aguillard said. "Mike is sold out to his call by God on his life to continue to lead in a lifelong journey to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
"In short, America is in the best of hands under Speaker Mike Johnson's leadership," he added.
Insider reached out to Johnson's office for comment.
Read the original article on Business Insider