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Jay Rockefeller

Assumed office 
January 15, 1985
Serving with Robert Byrd
Preceded by Jennings Randolph

In office
January 17, 1977 – January 14, 1985
Preceded by Arch A. Moore, Jr.
Succeeded by Arch A. Moore, Jr.

Assumed office 
January 3, 2009
Preceded by Daniel Inouye

In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by Pat Roberts
Succeeded by Dianne Feinstein

In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 1995
January 3, 2001 – January 20, 2001
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Alan Cranston (1993)
Arlen Specter (2001)
Arlen Specter (2001)
Succeeded by Alan Simpson (1995)
Arlen Specter (2001)
Arlen Specter (2003)

In office
Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr.
Preceded by Robert D. Bailey, Jr.
Succeeded by Edgar F. Heiskell, III

In office

Born June 18, 1937 (1937-06-18) (age 72)
New York City, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sharon Percy Rockefeller
Children John D. Rockefeller V
Valerie Rockefeller
Charles Rockefeller
Justin Rockefeller
Residence Charleston, West Virginia
Alma mater Harvard University
Occupation Politician, College Administrator
Religion Presbyterian

John Davison "Jay" Rockefeller IV (born June 18, 1937) is a Democratic U.S. Senator from West Virginia since 1985. He was the 29th Governor of West Virginia from 1977 to 1985. As a great-grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, he is the only current politician of the prominent six-generation Rockefeller family and the only Democrat in what has been a traditionally progressive Republican dynasty.[1]

He is related to several prominent Republican supporters and former officeholders: he is a great-grandson of Rhode Island Senator Nelson W. Aldrich; a nephew of banker David Rockefeller and Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller and of former U.S. Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller; son-in-law of former Senator Charles H. Percy of Illinois; and cousin of Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Winthrop Paul Rockefeller.


Early life

Born on Friday, June 18, 1937, at 9:30 PM at New York Hospital in New York City to John D. Rockefeller III and Blanchette Ferry Hooker just 26 days after the death of his great-grandfather John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Jay Rockefeller graduated from the private school Phillips Exeter Academy in 1954. He graduated from Harvard University in 1961 with a B.A. in Far Eastern Languages and History after having spent three years studying Japanese at the International Christian University in Tokyo.

After college, Rockefeller worked for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., under John F. Kennedy, where he developed a friendship with Robert Kennedy and worked as an assistant to Peace Corps Director Sargent Shriver. He served as the operations director for the Corps' largest overseas program in the Philippines. He continued his public service in 1964–1965 as a VISTA volunteer, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, during which time he moved to Emmons, West Virginia.

Rockefeller—along with his son Charles—is a trustee of New York's Asia Society, established by his father in 1956; he is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He voted against the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, which was heavily backed by his uncle David Rockefeller.

Since 1967, Rockefeller has been married to the former Sharon Percy, the chief executive officer of WETA-TV, the leading PBS station in the Washington, D.C., area, which broadcasts such notable programs as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and Washington Week.

Sharon is the daughter of former U.S. Senator Charles H. Percy of Illinois, who had an association with the Rockefeller family. They have four children: John D. Rockefeller V ("Jamie"), Valerie, Charles, and Justin. Jamie's wife Emily is the daughter of former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

The Rockefellers reside in Charleston, West Virginia. They also, like other members of the family, have a ranch in the Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Bill Clinton (a friend of Rockefeller's) and his family spent their summer vacation in August 1995, at the ranch.[2]

State politics

Governor Rockefeller giving a speech aboard the USS Stump, July 1984

He was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1966, and to the office of West Virginia Secretary of State in 1968. He won the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1972, but was defeated in the general election by the Republican incumbent Governor Arch Moore. Rockefeller then served as president of West Virginia Wesleyan College from 1973 to 1976.

Rockefeller was elected Governor of West Virginia in 1976 and re-elected in 1980. He served as Governor when manufacturing plants and coal mines were closing as the national recession of the early 1980s hit West Virginia particularly hard. Between 1982 and 1984, West Virginia's unemployment rate hovered between 15 and 20 percent.

U.S. Senate


In 1984, he was elected to the United States Senate, narrowly defeating businessman John Raese as Ronald Reagan narrowly carried the state in the presidential election. As in his 1980 gubernatorial campaign against Arch Moore, Rockefeller spent over $12 million to win his Senate seat. To date, this has been the last competitive Senate race in West Virginia. Rockefeller was re-elected in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008 by substantial margins. He was chair of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs (1993–1995; January 3 to January 20, 2001; and June 6, 2001–January 3, 2003).

In April 1992, he was the Democratic Party's finance chairman and considered running for the presidency, but pulled out after consulting with friends and advisers. He went on to strongly endorse Clinton as the Democratic candidate.[3]

He was the Chairman of the prominent Senate Intelligence Committee (retiring in January 2009), from which he commented frequently on the war in Iraq. He now serves as a member of the Committee, taking on the role of Chairmanship at the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

In 1993 Rockefeller became the principal Senate supporter, with Ted Kennedy, behind Bill and Hillary Clinton's sweeping health-care reform package, liaising closely with the First Lady, even opening up his mansion in Rock Creek Park for its first strategy meeting. The reform was subsequently defeated by an alliance between the Business Roundtable and a small-business coalition. [4]

In 2002, Rockefeller made an official visit to several Middle Eastern countries, during which he discussed his personal views regarding United States military intentions with the leaders of those countries. In October of that year, Rockefeller strongly expressed his concern for Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction program while addressing the U.S. Senate,

"There has been some debate over how 'imminent' a threat Iraq poses. I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated. It is in the nature of these weapons, and the way they are targeted against civilian populations, that documented capability and demonstrated intent may be the only warning we get. To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? We cannot!" [5]

In November 2005 during a TV interview, Rockefeller stated: "I took a January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq, that that was a predetermined set course that had taken shape shortly after 9/11."

Rockefeller noted that this was his personal opinion, and that he was not privy to any confidential information indicating that such action was planned.[6] On October 11 of that year, he was one of 77 Senators who voted for the Iraq Resolution authorizing the Iraq invasion.

In February 2010, regarding President Obama, Rockefeller said: "He says 'I'm for clean coal,' and then he says it in his speeches, but he doesn't say it in here,..."And he doesn't say it in the minds of my own people. And he's beginning to not be believable to me."


Rockefeller serves on the following committees in the 111th Congress:

Political positions

Iraq War

Rockefeller was an outspoken critic of President Bush and the Iraq war in the past years, especially starting in late 2003. As chair of the Intelligence committee, he indicted the President for his handling of intelligence and war operations. The previous year, however, Rockefeller was very much in line with Bush and those pushing for strong action – military, if necessary – against Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

On October 10, 2002, he said, "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years... The global community – in the form of the United Nations – has declared repeatedly, through multiple resolutions, that the frightening prospect of a nuclear-armed Saddam cannot come to pass. But the U.N. has been unable to enforce those resolutions. We must eliminate that threat now, before it is too late... Saddam Hussein represents a grave threat to the United States, and I have concluded we must use force to deal with him if all other means fail."[5]

Rockefeller and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the final two pieces of the Phase II report on Iraq war intelliegence on June 5, 2008.[7] Senator Rockefeller said, "The president and his advisers undertook a relentless public campaign in the aftermath of the attacks to use the war against Al Qaeda as a justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein."[8]

Television violence

In July 2007, Senator Rockefeller announced that he planned to introduce legislation before the August Congressional recess that would give the FCC the power to regulate TV violence. According to the July 16, 2007 edition of Broadcasting & Cable, the new law would apply to both broadcast as well as cable and satellite programming. This would mark the first time that the FCC would be given power to regulate such a vast spectrum of content, which would include almost everything except material produced strictly for direct internet use. An aide to the senator said that his staff had also been carefully formulating the bill in such a way that it would be able to pass constitutional scrutiny by the courts.

Telecommunications companies

In 2007, Senator Rockefeller began steering the Senate Intelligence Committee to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who were accused of unlawfully assisting the National Security Agency (NSA) in monitoring the communications of American citizens (see Hepting v. AT&T).[9]

This was an about-face of sorts for Senator Rockefeller, who had hand-written a letter to Vice President Cheney in 2003 expressing his concerns about the legality of NSA's warrantless wire-tapping program. Some have attributed this change of heart to the spike in contributions from telecommunications companies to the senator just as these companies began lobbying Congress to protect them from lawsuits regarding their cooperation with the NSA[10].

Between 2001 and the start of this lobbying effort, AT&T employees had contributed $300 to the senator.[10]. After the lobbying effort began, AT&T employees and executives donated $19,350 in 3 months[10]. The senator has pledged not to rely on his vast fortune to fund his campaigns[11], and the AT&T contributions represent about 2% of the money he raised during the previous year[10].


Though publicly deploring torture, Rockefeller was one of two Congressional Democrats briefed on waterboarding and other secret CIA practices in the early years of the Bush Administration, as well as the existence of taped evidence of such interrogations (later destroyed).[12] In December 2007, Rockefeller opposed a special counsel or commission inquiry into the destruction of the tapes, stating "it is the job of the intelligence committees to do that."[13]

On September 28, 2006, Rockefeller voted with a largely Republican majority to suspend habeas corpus provisions for anyone deemed by the Executive Branch an "unlawful combatant," barring them from challenging their detentions in court. Rockefeller's vote gave a retroactive, nine-year immunity to U.S. officials who authorized, ordered, or committed acts of torture and abuse, permitting the use of statements obtained through torture to be used in military tribunals so long as the abuse took place by December 30, 2005.[14] Rockefeller's vote authorized the President to establish permissible interrogation techniques and to "interpret the meaning and application" of international Geneva Convention standards, so long as the coercion fell short of "serious" bodily or psychological injury.[15][16] The bill became law on October 17, 2006.

2008 presidential election

On February 29, 2008, he endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States, citing Obama's judgment on the Iraq war and national security issues, and calling him the right candidate to lead America during a time of instability at home and abroad. This endorsement stood in stark contrast to the results of the state primary that was easily won by Hillary Clinton.

On April 7, 2008 in an interview for The Charleston Gazette, Rockefeller criticized John McCain's Vietnam experience:

“McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit. What happened when they get to the ground? He doesn’t know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues.”[17]

The McCain campaign called for an apology from Senator Rockefeller and for Barack Obama, whom Rockefeller has endorsed, to denounce the comment. Rockefeller later apologized for the comment[18] and the Obama campaign issued a statement expressing Obama's disagreement with the comment. Senator Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina noted that "John didn't drop bombs from 35,000 feet....the bombs were not laser guided (in the 1960 and 1970s)".[19]


On April 1, 2009, Rockefeller introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773). Citing the vulnerability of the Internet to cyber-attacks, the bill makes provisions to turn the Department of Commerce into a public-private clearing house to share potential threat information with the owners of large private networks. It authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to sequester any information he deems necessary, without regard to any law.[20]

It also authorizes the president to declare an undefined "cyber-emergency" which allows him to shut down any and all traffic to what he considers to be a compromised server.[21]

Health care reform

Rockefeller has been a proponent of a public option, fighting with some Democrats on the finance committee, in particular Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee, who contended that there was not enough support for a public option to gather the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster. Baucus asked repeatedly for Rockefeller to stop speaking on the issue.[22]

On September 29, 2009 Rockefeller offered an amendment to the Baucus Health Bill in the Senate Finance Committee to add a public option. The amendment was rejected 15 to 8, with five Democrats (Baucus, Kent Conrad, Blanche Lincoln, Tom Carper, Bill Nelson) and all Republicans voting no.[23]

Electoral history

United States Senate election in West Virginia, 2008
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Democratic Jay Rockefeller 447,985 63.71%
Republican Jay Wolfe 255,074 36.27%
United States Senate election in West Virginia, 2002
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Democratic Jay Rockefeller 275,281 63.11%
Republican Jay Wolfe 160,902 36.89%
United States Senate election in West Virginia, 1996
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Democratic Jay Rockefeller 456,526 76.65%
Republican Betty Burkes 139,088 23.35%
United States Senate election in West Virginia, 1990
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Democratic Jay Rockefeller 276,234 68.32%
Republican John Yoder 128,071 31.68%
United States Senate election in West Virginia, 1984
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Democratic Jay Rockefeller ' 51.8%
Republican John Raese 47.7%

See also


  1. ^ Only Democrat in a staunchly Republican dynasty – see John Ensor Harr and Peter J. Johnson, The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988. (p.394)
  2. ^ CHRONICLE - New York Times
  3. ^ THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: The Front-Runner; Like Voters, Superdelegates Have Doubts About Clinton - New York Times
  4. ^ The Clintons and health care reform – see Haynes Johnson & David S. Broder, The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1996. (pp.32–34,50,227)
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ - Transcript: Sens. Roberts, Rockefeller on 'FNS' - FOX News Sunday | Chris Wallace
  7. ^ Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
  8. ^ Bush Overstated Iraq Evidence, Senators Report -
  9. ^ Senate panel OKs spy measure - Los Angeles Times
  10. ^ a b c d Democratic Lawmaker Pushing Immunity Is Newly Flush With Telco Cash | Threat Level from
  11. ^ Election 2008
  12. ^ "Chairman Rockefeller Statement on the CIA Decision to Destroy Tapes of Early Detainee Interrogations". U.S. Senate website. 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  13. ^ Calvin Woodward (2007-12-10). "White House Stays Quiet on CIA Tapes". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  14. ^ William Neikirk, Andrew Zajac, Mark Silva (2006-09-29). "Tribunal bill OKd by Senate". Chicago Tribute.,1,1387725.story. Retrieved 2006-09-29. 
  15. ^ "Senate Passes Broad New Detainee Rules". New York Times. 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  16. ^ Anne Plummer Flaherty (2006-09-28). "Senate OKs detainee interrogation bill". Associated Press. Retrieved 2006-09-29. 
  17. ^ West Virginia Senator Apologizes for Comments on McCain
  18. ^ The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia - Rockefeller apologizes to McCain over Vietnam service comment
  19. ^ After Rockefeller Insult, McCain Camp Claims Obama Won’t Shut Down Campaign Smears - America’s Election HQ
  20. ^ Senator John D. Rockefeller (2009-04-01). "Cybersecurity Act of 2009 Sec. 14". Library of congress. Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  21. ^ Senator John D. Rockefeller (2009-04-01). "Cybersecurity Act of 2009 Sec. 18". Library of congress. Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  22. ^ Dana Milbank (2009-09-30). "Washington Sketch: Democratic Fratricide Begins". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  23. ^ Pear, Robert; Jackie Calmes (2009-09-29). "Senators Reject Pair of Public Option Proposals". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 

Further reading

  • Jay Rockefeller: Old Money, New Politics, Richard Grimes, Parsons, West Virginia: McClain Printing Company, 1984.
  • The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point, Haynes Johnson and David S. Broder, Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1996. (Significant mention)

External links


Political offices
Preceded by
Robert D. Bailey, Jr.
West Virginia Secretary of State
1968 – 1972
Succeeded by
Edgar F. Heiskell, III
Preceded by
Arch A. Moore, Jr.
Governor of West Virginia
1977 – 1985
Succeeded by
Arch A. Moore, Jr.
Preceded by
Alan Cranston
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
1993 – 1995
Succeeded by
Alan K. Simpson
Preceded by
Arlen Specter
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
2001 – 2003
Succeeded by
Arlen Specter
Preceded by
Pat Roberts
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
2007 – 2009
Succeeded by
Dianne Feinstein
Preceded by
Daniel Inouye
Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
2009 – present
United States Senate
Preceded by
Jennings Randolph
United States Senator (Class 2) from West Virginia
1985 – present
Served alongside: Robert Byrd
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Mitch McConnell
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Barbara Mikulski

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