John 'Jay' Davison Rockefeller IV

Contact Information

Telephone:202-224-6472 (Main phone number)
Campaign finance

Candidate Background

Birth place:New York, NY
Residence:Charleston, WV
First Elected:1984


Next Election:2014

Undergraduate education: Harvard University


Jay Rockefeller was born in New York City and currently resides in Charleston, W.Va. He received a bachelor's degree in 1961 in Far Eastern languages and history from Harvard University. He studied Japanese in Tokyo and Chinese at Yale University.

Rockefeller was special assistant to the director of the Peace Corps. In 1964 he moved to Emmons as a VISTA anti-poverty volunteer.

He served in the West Virginia House from 1967 to 1969 and as West Virginia secretary of state from 1969 to 1973.

Rockefeller served as president of West Virginia Wesleyan College from 1973 to 1976. He was elected governor in 1976, serving until 1984.

He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984.

Rockefeller and his wife, Sharon, have four children.


Jay Rockefeller has included cybersecurity, the future of coal and the 2010 health care reform bill among the top issues of his fifth term in the U.S. Senate.

Rockefeller applauded the June 2012 Supreme Court decision upholding the 2010 health care reform bill.

"Today, the Supreme Court confirmed what Congress knew to be true when we wrote the health reform law — that it is constitutional. Health care reform is the law of the land and, given the court's decisive ruling, I am hopeful that we will move forward with its implementation in earnest," he said.

The Democrat and former governor has sought an alternative to various legislative responses to climate change that was more amenable to West Virginia, which is the nation's second-biggest producer of coal.

Citing concerns over his state's economic future, Rockefeller sided in June 2010 with an unsuccessful GOP-sponsored resolution that opposed a bid by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases.

As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, in 2010, Rockefeller co-sponsored cybersecurity legislation that would give businesses more flexibility in complying with future federal performance standards.

Rockefeller is a multimillionaire senator and great-grandson of oil baron and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller. But in recent campaigns, he has downplayed his personal wealth in one of the nation's poorest states, focusing instead on issues such as health care and commerce.

Rockefeller chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee until 2009 and has said he regrets his vote in 2002 to authorize war against Iraq.

"The decision got made before there was a whole bunch of intelligence," Rockefeller said. "I think the intelligence was shaped. And I think the interpretation of the intelligence was shaped."

Rockefeller also questioned New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg's decision to accept, then reject, President Barack Obama's appointment of him as commerce secretary. Rockefeller said he wished Gregg "had thought through the implications of his nomination more thoroughly before accepting this post."

Rockefeller moved to Emmons in 1964 and became a VISTA anti-poverty volunteer.

"No doctor had been there in five years. Kids didn't brush their teeth. There was no running water. The school was 45 minutes away," Rockefeller said.

He meant to stay in West Virginia a year, but he didn't leave. Within two years, Rockefeller had abandoned his family's Republican politics and won election to the state Legislature as a Democrat.

Rockefeller was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, spending $12 million of his own money and winning by just 30,000 votes.

After moving to Washington, he focused on his adopted state's poor, elderly and veterans. He won a fight in 1992 to protect health care benefits for retired coal miners, calling the victory the proudest moment of his career. He worked to pass a law in 1996 that prohibited companies from denying insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions. In 2001, he secured a three-year deal to prevent cuts in miners' health benefits.

He co-authored legislation in 1997 creating the Children's Health Insurance Program, which has provided health care coverage to uninsured children.

Rockefeller and Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe sponsored an amendment to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that helped schools and libraries connect to the Internet. He continues to push for high-speed Internet access for rural areas, saying it should become a national priority.

Rockefeller used his familiarity with the Far East to attract Toyota Motor Manufacturing to West Virginia. Toyota initially invested $400 million in the Putnam County factory and employed 300 people. It has since expanded several times, bringing the total investment to $1 billion and creating 1,000 jobs.

Rockefeller has led several trade missions, introducing West Virginia businesses to Japan and Taiwan and attempting to open markets for West Virginia products.

Committee Assignments: Commerce, Science, and Transportation(Chair); Finance; Select Intelligence; Veterans' Affairs; Joint Taxation

American Conservative Union Rating: 0

Americans for Democratic Action Rating: 100


Jay Rockefeller is not seeking re-election in 2014.

(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 9, 2014.)

Last updated 3:16pm March 1, 2018