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HOOLEY, Darlene

HOOLEY, Darlene
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives


A former Oregon public schoolteacher, Darlene Hooley began a long climb in state politics in the 1970s, inspired initially by defective equipment at a local playground. Hooley served in city, county, and state government for 20 years before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996. During her tenure in Congress, Hooley focused on identity theft and data security, education funding, affordable health care and prescription drug coverage, the National Guard, and veterans’ health care.

Darlene Hooley was born Darlene Olson on April 4, 1939, on a homesteaded farm near Williston, North Dakota, to Clarence Alvin and Alyce Rogers Olson. The farm lacked running water and electricity, and when the local school closed, her parents sent Hooley to live with an aunt in order to receive an education.1 When Hooley was eight years old, her family moved to Salem, Oregon; her father, Clarence, divided his time between his family in Oregon and the family farm in North Dakota. She would later remark on her father’s perseverance and her mother’s optimism.2 From an early age, Hooley was determined to go to college, and she followed an older sister to California’s Pasadena Nazarene College in 1957. Two years later, Hooley transferred to Oregon State University in Corvallis where she graduated in 1961. She began teaching high-school reading, music, and physical education in Oregon. Later she pursued postgraduate work at Oregon State University and Portland State University. In June 1965, she married John Hooley, a fellow teacher, and they raised two children: Chad and Erin. The marriage ended in divorce in 1997.3

Hooley became involved in politics when her son fell off a swing in a public park and landed on hard asphalt. The lack of a response by city authorities to her concerns over the playground equipment inspired Hooley to manage a friend’s successful mayoral campaign. The new mayor, in turn, appointed Hooley to the city board that controlled parks and recreation.4 In 1976 Hooley was the first woman elected to the West Linn city council. “Things don’t happen easily,” she said about the process of affecting change. “It is your willingness to just keep pushing, and working on it, and working on it.”5 Hooley won a seat in the state house of representatives in 1980, where she served until 1987. In the legislature, she chaired the energy and environment committee where she helped pass energy conservation measures, recycling legislation, and a rewrite of land-use laws. She focused on establishing public kindergarten, passing pay equity laws, and reforming the state’s welfare system.6 By the late 1980s, Hooley was ready to retire from public service when she was presented with the opportunity to become a Clackamas County commissioner. She accepted an appointment in 1987, becoming the first woman member of the Clackamas County commission—which, unlike her spot in the state legislature, was a paid full-time position.7

In 1996 Hooley received a phone call from Vice President Albert Arnold Gore Jr. who said that she should challenge the incumbent first-term congressman, Jim Bunn.8 The district covered much of the northern Willamette Valley from West Linn in the north to the state capital, Salem, and the university town of Corvallis to the south. With backing from major women’s political action committees such as EMILY’s List, Hooley prevailed in the Democratic primary with 51 percent of the vote.9 In the general election, she decided to link Bunn closely to Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and the House GOP’s ambitious agenda called the “Contract with America” in order to paint Bunn as too conservative for the district.10 On Election Day, Hooley defeated Bunn by a 51-to-46 percent margin in a race with two independent candidates. In her subsequent five re-elections, Hooley won by margins of between 53 and 57 percent of the vote.11

During orientation for newly elected House Members in December 1996, Hooley was elected Democratic freshman class president.12 As class president, Hooley had a direct line to party leadership and helped communicate the needs and goals of the new lawmakers—a media and public-facing responsibility, and a unique role for Hooley who at first worked without a press secretary on her staff.13

She received seats on the Banking and Financial Services Committee (later renamed Financial Services) and the Science Committee (later renamed Science and Technology). In the 106th Congress (1999–2001), Hooley transferred from the Science Committee to serve a rotation on the influential Budget Committee; after being term limited in the 109th Congress (2005–2007) Hooley returned to the Science Committee. She also served two terms on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee before receiving a coveted position on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the 110th Congress (2007–2009).14 During the 110th Congress, she also returned to the Budget Committee.15

Hooley’s legislative agenda developed from her constituent services. She heard the story of a man whose credit card had been stolen and the complications that arose after the thief ran up significant debt on his account. Her constituent could not rent an apartment, buy a car, or further his education. Hooley was appalled, “his whole life, a young man’s life, was impacted by somebody stealing his credit card, his identity.”16 She introduced her first bill, the Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2000, during the 106th Congress.17 Hooley introduced similar measures over the next two Congresses, and her bill was enacted as part of a large financial services package in 2003.18 The legislation allowed credit card holders to see their credit reports from all of the major credit bureaus annually at no cost.19

In 2002 Hooley voted against the authorization of the use of military force in Iraq.20 During the occupation of Iraq, she was a vocal advocate for the proper training and equipping of troops serving overseas and worked to correct inequities between the active duty and National Guard. As the Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Hooley began looking for ways to better protect members of the armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Brain injury was the number one injury of this war,” she recalled. “And we had better helmets they could have had instead of the helmets they wore.”21

On February 7, 2008, Hooley announced her retirement from the House, capping 32 years of public service. “At some point in everybody’s life you have to decide, how much longer do I want to do this?” she said. “It’s time to move on.”22 Despite the demanding pace in Congress, her long trips back home every weekend, and the constant demand to raise campaign funding, “I loved my time here,” Hooley said of Congress. “I love serving the people of Oregon.”23 Hooley’s term expired at the conclusion of the 110th Congress on January 3, 2009.


1Politics in America, 1998 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1997): 1209; “Darlene Hooley Oral History Interview,” 3 February 2014, Oregon State University Project,; Politics in America, 2008 (Washington, DC, Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2007): 844.

2Ellyn Ferguson, “Hooley Takes Her Legislative Cues from Constituents,” 16 October 2004, Gannett News Services.

3Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project; “Rep. Hooley’s Husband Files for Divorce,” 16 July 1997, Associated Press; Almanac of American Politics, 1998 (Washington, DC: National Journal Inc., 1997): 1192; Politics in America, 1998: 1209.

4Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project; Laura Fosmire, “Somebody Asked Me To,” 12 October 2014, Statesman Journal (Salem, OR): 1.

5Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project.

6Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project; Almanac of American Politics, 1998: 1192; Politics in America, 1998: 1209.

7Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project; Politics in America, 2004 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2003): 847–848; Almanac of American Politics, 2004 (Washington, DC: National Journal Group, 2003): 1344–1345; “About Darlene,” official website of Representative Darlene Hooley, 24 December 2004,

8Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project; Politics in America, 2008: 844. Representative Bunn, who was part of the 1994 wave of House Republicans, was considered vulnerable after divorcing his wife and marrying his chief of staff who he continued to keep on staff with a considerable pay raise. Press attention eventually led his second wife to resign. Politics in America, 1998: 1192–1193.

9Almanac of American Politics, 1998: 1192; Politics in America, 1998: 1209.

10Politics in America, 1998: 1209.

11Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

12Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project.

13Almanac of American Politics, 1998: 1371.

14Politics in America, 1998: 843.

15Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project.

16Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project.

17Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2000, H.R. 4311, 106th Cong. (2000); Congressional Record, Extension of Remarks, 106th Cong., 2nd sess. (13 April 2000): E587.

18Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2001, H.R. 3053, 107th Cong. (2001); Secure Identity Protection Act, H.R. 5284, 108th Cong. (2004); Identity Theft and Financial Privacy Protection Act of 2003, H.R. 2035, 108th Cong. (2003); Secure Identity Protection Act, H.R. 2757, 108th Cong. (2003). Provisions from H.R. 2035 were incorporated into the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, PL 108-159, 117 Stat. 1952 (2003). See “FCRA—Landmark Consumer Protection Law,” official website of Representative Darlene Hooley, press release, 26 September 2007,

19Fosmire, “Somebody Asked Me To”; Almanac of American Politics, 2008 (Washington, DC: National Journal Group, 2007): 1370.

20Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project; Fosmire, “Somebody Asked Me To”; Almanac of American Politics, 2008: 1371.

21Hooley Oral History Interview, Oregon State University Project.

22“After 6 Terms, Hooley Stepping Aside,” 8 February 2008, The Oregonian: A1.

23Tracey Loew, “Q & A with Rep. Darlene Hooley,” 3 Mar 2008, Statesman Journal: A4; Dennis Camire, “Hooley ‘Bittersweet’ About Leaving Congress but Feels It’s Time,” 26 December 2008, Gannett News Service: n.p.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Oregon State University
Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Corvallis, OR
Oral History: 2014, 18 pages. In the interview, Darlene Hooley discusses her early life in North Dakota and Salem, Oregon, including her experiences working in a cannery and attending high school and Pasadena Nazarene College. A significant portion of the session is devoted to Hooley's recollections of her two year undergraduate experience at Oregon State. Her decision to transfer to OSC is recounted, as are her living arrangements in Corvallis, her participation in choir and field hockey groups, her academic load and campus social life. The remainder of the interview focuses primarily on Hooley's entry into the political realm and the gradual evolution of her political career. Hooley notes the playground injury suffered by her son that first spurred her interest in political action. She also discusses her involvement with the West Linn city council before detailing her experiences as a member of the Oregon legislature and the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. Hooley's session concludes with a detailed reminiscence on her years as a Congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives. She speaks to her early experiences as a House Whip and remarks on her involvement with veterans affairs, including a trip that she took to Iraq in 2003. She also recounts her work advocating financial privacy and individual access to their own financial information. The session ends with Hooley's general thoughts on her time in Washington and some advice that she would give to students today. The interview transcript and video are available online.

Willamette University
Archives and Special Collections, Mark O. Hatfield Library

Salem, OR
Papers: 1980-2009, 60 linear feet. The Darlene Hooley papers are organized into three series: I) Campaign records, II) State of Oregon records, and III) United States Representative records. The Campaign records series documents Hooley's opponents and contains information and memorabilia from various campaigns throughout her political career. The State of Oregon records series consists of papers generated and received by Hooley's office during her two terms representing the Twenty-seventh District in the Oregon House of Representatives and during her time serving on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. The third series contains materials generated by her office during her six terms representing Oregon's Fifth District in the United States Congress from January 3, 1997 through January 3, 2009. She served on the Science and Technology, Energy and Commerce, and Budget committees. She was a House Senior Whip for the Democratic Party and a member of the New Democrat Coalition. Of particular note is the Legislative subseries, which contains appropriations requests for science, technology, energy, and commerce, along with other funding, and is organized by Funding Year (FY), then session of Congress. Many of these requests are for Oregon projects centering on public transportation, i.e. the Light Rail project in the Portland Area, and technology programs such as the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute at Oregon State University. Hooley was successful in securing public investments in Oregon's Fifth District, which is evident in the materials relating to legislative work on bills concerning Mount Hood, forestry issues, and the Port of Portland. She also obtained millions of dollars in county timber payments in lieu of taxes on federal lands for local schools and roads, federal funding for transportation, port and infrastructure needs, as well as agricultural research and biomedical research funding. This series also contains material on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (HR 2622). Other highlights of the collection include constituent letters from grade school students, photographs of Hooley at work in Congress, and copies of speeches she made on subjects such as women's rights, science, and trade. A finding aid is available in the repository and online.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

"Darlene Kay Hooley" in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2006.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Banking and Financial Services
  • House Committee - Budget
  • House Committee - Energy and Commerce
  • House Committee - Financial Services
  • House Committee - Science
  • House Committee - Veterans' Affairs
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