Mary Rose Oakar (Born March 5, 1940) is an American Democratic politician and former member of the United States House of Representatives.
Oakar, who graduated with a B.A. from Ursuline College in 1962 and an M.A. from John Carroll University in 1966, taught at Lourdes Academy, a Catholic high school for women, directed plays, taught at Cuyahoga Community College from 1968-1975 and served on the City Council of Cleveland, Ohio from 1973-1976 before winning election to the House from the 20th District of Ohio in Cleveland's West Side and the surrounding suburbs. She took office in 1977, succeeding James V. Stanton.
Oakar, one of only a handful of Arab-American members of the House, became regarded as an increasingly powerful member of the House. She was a high ranking member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service and the House Administration Committee. Oakar's high placement on these committees allowed her to bring home to Cleveland, Ohio large sums of money for urban renewal. Despite her Arab heritage, Oakar forged strong relationships with Jewish groups in Cleveland. In the late 1980s, Oakar was elected the Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus.
Notwithstanding her achievements, her career was increasingly surrounded by scandal over time. In 1991, it became clear that she had written numerous overdraft checks at the House Bank. Though four-fifths of all members of Congress had at least one overdraft, she had over 200, more than all but a few members. This was due to the fact that the House Bank was not a financial institution in the legal sense, and it permitted its members to do this without penalty.
In 1992, her district was renumbered the 10th and redrawn to include more Republicans, though it was still heavily Democratic. Oakar withstood a challenge from Tim Hagan in the Democratic primary - Hagan had been endorsed by Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White - but lost to Martin Hoke in the general election.
Oakar was charged in 1993 with making false financial disclosures in a case related to the House banking scandal. The case dragged on for years, and she finally pled guilty to violating campaign finance laws, a misdemeanor. She did, however, win a 1999 settlement against The Plain Dealer for libel.
Though often mentioned as a possible candidate for Mayor of Cleveland - in no small part due to her rivalry with White - Oakar was deterred by her continuing legal difficulties. She did serve a single term in the Ohio House of Representatives from 2000-2002.