James H. Harless, also known as James "Buck" Harless (born in Logan County, West Virginia on October 14, 1919) is a main operator in the coal and timber businesses.
After graduation from high school, he worked as a miner for several years at Red Jacket Coal Co. In 1947 he gave up mining to become a part-owner and manager of a Gilbert saw-mill.
He grew the Gilbert Lumber Company  into the International Industries Inc. conglomerate, founded in 1947, where he served as President and CEO. Company revenues repeatedly exceeded $700 million a year. International Industries, Inc. included coal mining and timber, as well as manufacturing, hotel, and real estate operations. It conducted business from three divisions: International Resources, Inc. (coal mining and marketing company L&K Coal), Gilco Lumber, Inc. (lumber production and distribution), and Benson International, Inc. (manufacturing of trailers and truck bodies), and had operations in five states serving domestic and international customers.
In 1986 Harless's International Industries purchased Logan & Kanawha Coal Company (L&K). L&K operates the Camden complex (Mingo County, West Virginia) and the Rockhouse mine (Mingo and Logan counties, West Virginia).
In May 2007, CNN reported that two companies, International Resources Inc. and the Kanawha Eagle mine have a contract to supply a combined 40,000 tons of coal to the Capitol Power Plant in Washington, D.C., over the next two years. Senators from coal mining states blocked a proposal in 2000 to use cleaner fuel for the plant. Senators Mitch McConnell (Republican, Kentucky) and Robert Byrd (Democrat, West Virginia), both from coal mining states, used their influence as two of the Senate's most senior members to block this proposal. The companies have given a combined $26,300 to the McConnell and Byrd campaigns for the 2006 election. 
In 2007, Harless sold his International Resources, Inc. to International Resource Partners LP, a partnership owned by Lightfoot Capital Partners. He retained a 25% share in the new business.
Harless was also involved in the coal industry through his position as a director of Massey Energy from 2001 to 2005. On the Massey board, he served as Chairman of the Public and Environmental Policy Committee.
Harless has been a major contributor to West Virginia’s coal mining industry and was inducted into the West Virginia Coal Hall of Fame. The West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association named him Coal Man of the Year in 1976.
Harless made contributions to West Virginia State Senate candidates.
Harless was one of Governor Cecil Underwood’s biggest financial contributors. Underwood, who got 12 percent of his war chest from coal interests, borrowed a Harless executive to head his transition team in 1996. The ex-coal executive that Underwood named as Employment Programs Commissioner decided to halt any new suits against deadbeat coal interests in 1997.
In 2000, Harless was a member of the Bush pioneers, a group of individuals credited with each raising at least $100,000 for the Bush campaign, and was West Virginia State Finance Chair of the President George W. Bush Campaign Organization. Harless gave $5,000 to support the Bush campaign's expenses during the 2000 Florida recount fight, and contributed $100,000 to Bush’s inaugural fund. He organized other coal interests to help make Bush the first Republican since 1928 to win West Virginia’s electoral votes (the votes were crucial to Bush’s hair-thin victory).
Six months later, West Virginia Coal Association Director William Raney praised members for their efforts and said, “You did everything you could to elect a Republican president. You are already seeing in his actions the payback, if you will, his gratitude for what we did.” Bush nicknamed Harless “Big Buck” and invited James Harless´s grandson to join the Bush Transition Energy Advisory Team, which shaped the administration’s supply-side energy policy administration and was a precursor to Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force.
According to the Charleston Gazette, Harless played a role in the appointment of Michael Castle to a position created specially for him in the Philadelphia office of the Environmental Protection Agency. The territory of that regional office includes West Virginia. In 2002, the EPA adopted a rule promoting mountaintop removal mining by changing clean water rules to allow the dumping of millions of tons of mining waste in Appalachian valleys and streams.
The Bush administration also reversed its campaign promise to reduce global warming by cutting carbon-dioxide emissions. "We were looking for friends, and we found one in George W. Bush,” Harless told the Wall Street Journal.
Harless was appointed by President Bush to the United States Air Force Academy Board of Visitors.
- Biographies, Harless Geneology, accessed December 2008.
- James "Buck" Harless, West Virginia Executive, accessed December 2008.
- "Energy Companies Support Environmental Geosciences Program at Concord," Concord University, March 10, 2005.
- Logan & Kanawha Coal Company website, accessed December 2008
- Jim Spellman and Andrea Koppel, "Effort to 'green' U.S. Capitol complicated by coal," CNN.com, May 11, 2007
- Lightfoot Capital Partners, LP Announces the Acquisition ofInternational Resources, LLC, press release, June 12, 2007
- Tortoise Capital Advisors fact sheets, accessed December 2008
- "Kayne Anderson Energy Development Company, Lightfoot Capital Partners, LP and Tortoise Capital Resources Corporation announce formation of International Resource Partners LP," press release, June 12, 2007
- "Outrageous! A CEO’s attempted hostile takeover of WV," Appalachian Voices, October 12, 2006.
- "Coal companies are big political donors," Citizens for Clean Elections, January 9, 2006.
- "The ties that bind part 2: Bush and "Buck" Harless," No More Apples, June 13, 2004.
- "Brent Benjamin raking in heaviest contributions," Citizens for Clean Elections, October 15, 2004.
- "Byrd Still in GOP Crosshairs for 2006," Associated Press, 2006.
- President George W. Bush-Campaign Organization, West Virginia, George Washington University, April 2004.
- "Bundler: James Harless," White House for Sale, accessed December 2008.
- "Energy bill a special-interests triumph," Boston Globe, October 4, 2004.
- "Bought and Paid For," AlterNet, March 30, 2004.
- "Bush’s Fundraising Juggernaut Adds 42 New Contributors to List of Rangers and Pioneers for 2004," Public Citizen, December 19, 2003.
- "President Addresses West Virginia Coal Association," State Journal, August 7, 2008.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Capitol Power Plant
- International Industries
- Massey Energy
- Mountaintop removal
- Shelley Moore Capito
- International Industries, Inc.
- Benson International, Inc. Announces New Facility in Cadiz
- Logan & Kanawha Coal Company, LLC.
- President Addresses West Virginia Coal Association.
- Valley fills
- Mountaintop Removal Fact Sheet, (Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition)
- Lightfoot Capital Partners Announces the Acquisition from International Industries
- Big Buck Awards
- Buck: A Life Sketch of James H. Harless by Ruel E. Foster (Author), Robert B. Conner (Author), ISBN-13: 9780937058305, Publisher: West Virginia University Press - 1992-06, 166 Pages.
- Thomas B. Edsall, Sarah Cohen and James V. Grimaldi, "Pioneers fill war chests, then capitalize," Washington Post, May 16, 2004