WASHINGTON—When three top aides to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson confirmed last week they are leaving his staff, prominent in the media coverage were descriptions of their departures as signs the Louisiana Republican was “reeling” from an “office exodus.”

An influential congressional newsletter even opened one of its stories with the question: “Will the last one left turn off the lights?”

What such coverage missed, however, was that Mr. Johnson has maintained an unusually low staff turnover rate throughout his nearly eight years in Congress and is known for paying staff well. The median salary for a Johnson staffer is well above the House average.

Mr. Johnson’s record contrasts with the long-established Capitol Hill norm of low wages, long hours, and constant staff turnover. Congressional aides research and draft legislation, plan and schedule committee hearings, meet with their bosses’ constituents, handle correspondence, and deal with journalists on a day-to-day basis.

Data compiled by Legistorm show Mr. Johnson’s overall turnover index at 0.18 for the period 2017–2022, lower than the House average of 0.24 over the same time span.

Legistorm, a subscription-only congressional data and documents analysis service, calculates its turnover index by finding the annualized salary rates of aides who leave a congressional office during a specific time period. That data is then divided by the total paid to all staff during the same period.

As a result, according to Legistorm, the departure of a chief of staff making $150,000 annually has five times greater impact on the turnover index than the loss of a staff assistant who was paid $30,000. A 0.0 index number means nobody left during a specified period, while a 0.5 index means half of the staff has departed.
Turnover Rate

Because he had to reconfigure his personal staff and create a separate speaker staff, Mr. Johnson’s average for the current Congress is 0.4. But Mr. Johnson’s overall average for all eight of his years in Congress is 0.21, still below the House average for the same period.

For comparison, Legistorm’s “Worst Bosses” index for the years 2001 through 2022 shows five House Democrats and five House Republicans constituting the top 10; the worst-performing lawmaker had a turnover rate of 1.08.

On the compensation side, Mr. Johnson’s office median staff salary, according to Legistorm’s calculations, was $64,229 during the previous Congress and $75,464 in the current Congress. The median House staff salary for the current Congress is $73,500.

All three of the aides leaving Mr. Johnson previously worked for his predecessor as speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was ousted in October 2023. Mr. McCarthy was removed in a vote that saw eight conservative Republicans joined by all 212 House Democrats.

The trio includes Brittan Specht, Jason Yaworske, and Preston Hill, all of whom had agreed to help Mr. Johnson transition as Mr. McCarthy’s successor.

Mr. Specht was a counselor for Mr. McCarthy in the speaker’s office and had worked for the California Republican in various capacities since 2017. Mr. Yaworske was a senior policy adviser to both Mr. Johnson and Mr. McCarthy and had worked for the latter since January 2023. Mr. Hill was also a senior policy adviser to both men and had worked for Mr. McCarthy since 2015.

All three men will take jobs in June with Michael Best Strategies, a K-Street lobbying firm. Among the firm’s principals are former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Steve Israel, and George P. Bush, grandson of the late President George H.W. Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

A fourth temporary Johnson staffer, Deputy Chief of Staff Raj Shah, also confirmed last week that he will be leaving soon. Mr. Shah was deputy White House press secretary early in the tenure of former President Donald Trump. Mr. Shah left Fox News where he was a vice president to help Mr. Johnson’s transition to speaker. He hasn’t said where he will be working next.

Joining the speaker’s staff in the wake of the departing trio’s announcement is Dan Zeigler as policy adviser, replacing Mr. Specht. Mr. Zeigler was formerly a principal of Williams and Jensen PLLC. He also served as executive director of the Republican Study Committee when Mr. Johnson was the group’s Chairman.

Also joining the speaker’s staff is Meredith Schellin as digital director. Ms. Schellin is former digital director for House Republican Conference Chairman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

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