This report was published in July 2000. It should be considered outdated and is kept online for historical purposes only.

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Pioneer Profiles: George W. Bush's $100,000 Club
Name: James H. Harless
Occupation: Owner, International Industries, Inc.
Industry: Energy & Natural Resources
Home: Gilbert, West Virginia


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Campaign money from James “Buck” Harless and others in the coal and timber industries casts a huge shadow over West Virginia government. Gov. Cecil Underwood’s predecessor filed lawsuits to collect $12 million that coal companies and their contractors owed the state Workers’ Compensation Fund. Gov. Underwood, who got 12 percent of his war chest from coal interests, borrowed a Harless executive to head his transition team. The ex-coal executive that Underwood named as Employment Programs Commissioner decided to halt any new suits against deadbeat coal interests in ’97. At the time, labor contractors that Harless hired to mine his coal owed the state fund at least $2.6 million. That year, when the state Division of Natural Resources (DNR) sought to assemble a state task force to find a way to acquire spectacular Blackwater Canyon, legislators financed by the timber industry killed the measure before it could even be debated. “Timber baron Buck Harless was one of Governor Underwood’s biggest financial contributors,” noted WV Citizens Action Director Norm Steenstra. “It appears the Senate is unwilling to take any kind of leadership position on this issue for fear of losing Buck Harless’ campaign money.” A West Virginia University (WVU) trustee complained in 2000 that a contractor hired to remove cancer-causing asbestos from a UWV arena had received up to 29 OSHA safety violations since ’94, including “serious” ones such as failing to give workers equipment to prevent asbestos inhalation. “As someone who has a lot of experience with OSHA, that’s not an undue number of violations,” Trustee Harless said. In the same period, Harless’ lumber company settled 24 violations, including 13 “serious” ones. 

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