Louis Budenz, Informant

Louis Budenz, March 1956.

Uncover a red doing his stuff on a college faculty and a hue and cry is raised over ‘academic freedom,’ as though these people had a God-given right to infect our children with their made-in-Moscow virus….We should understand that this ’cause of peace’ as peddled by the reds is the destruction of the government of the United States.

-Louis Budenz, November 1951.

Louis F. Budenz (1891-1972), a former Communist Party member, became an FBI informant in the late 1940s. Before starting what was effectively a career as a professional informant, he had been managing director of the Daily Worker, a nationally distributed socialist news outlet. Budenz began consultation with the FBI after submitting to an inquiry by the House Un-American Activities Committee. He became a staff-member at Fordham University shortly thereafter, at which point began writing books about his former association with the Communist Party. He made his living lecturing, writing, and testifying, claiming in 1953 to have earned $70,000 as a witness.

In one of his books, Men Without Faces, Budenz claimed to know the names of 400 concealed communists currently employed in positions of influence across the United States.  Predictably, a government panel in Washington, D.C. wanted the names of them all. Budenz dutifully sat before the panel and listed all of the names that he could think of, eventually issuing that of Linus Pauling.

The denunciation resulted in an investigation by the FBI, and Pauling was put under increased surveillance. The investigation concluded that, even in light of his activities with questionable organizations, no evidence could be found that Pauling was involved with the Communist Party. Nonetheless, Pauling was still put onFBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s Security Index, a list of high profile citizens that were considered a threat to American security.

Using the Security Index as his platform, Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that communists had infiltrated America’s atom projects. In the sweep of these claims, Pauling’s name was pulled from the Budenz testimony and mistakenly added to a list of researchers that had worked on atomic science research. (Though Pauling conducted a great deal of research on behalf of his country during World War II, he was not involved with the Manhattan Project or any affiliated projects.)

Though backed by no tangible evidence, this torrent of accusations significantly damaged Pauling’s reputation. The claims were subsequently magnified by coinciding events, including his support of Sidney Weinbaum and his continued political activism.

Pauling’s reputation was not the only thing damaged as a consequence – the allegations and denunciations were hurting his pocket book too. The Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, to name one example, discontinued Pauling’s $4,800 a year consulting position – a contract that had been renewed less than a year earlier.

Invitations from a number of organizations previously extended to Pauling were rescinded as well.  Shortly before Budenz’s denunciation, Pauling had been invited to keynote the dedication ceremony for a new chemistry laboratory at the University of Hawaii. A month after extending the invitation, the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii canceled the offer that had previously been unanimously approved. Pauling suspected that the accusations made by Budenz were chiefly responsible for the rescinded invitation.  In short order, Pauling was subsequently invited to lecture by a number of other university departments and societies, and wound up speaking several times in Hawaii, though not as originally planned.

Meanwhile, the attacks continued with Budenz openly criticizing Pauling’s decision to lecture in Hawaii in a 1951 American Legion Magazine article.

American Legion Magazine, November 1951.

Pauling’s record being disclosed, the invitation was withdrawn by the University; but he went out there anyway to spread Stalin’s views of ‘peace’ among the students of that institution. He deserves the laurels he has received from the communists, and the fact that he is an atomic physicist in one of our leading universities on the west coast is something to think over seriously. The recent condemnation by Moscow of Dr. Pauling’s celebrated ‘resonance theory’ in chemistry does not seem to have dimmed his ardor on behalf of Stalinite causes.

– Louis Budenz, “Do Colleges Have to Hire Red Professors?”, American Legion Magazine, November 1951.

The article contained a number of other statements about Pauling, all of which were refuted in a letter that Pauling wrote to the editor of the magazine.

Though Pauling did his best to reply to his critics, he was granted little respite.  In 1952 a House special committee was formed to investigate charitable foundations for the presence of communist influence on aid distribution. Budenz testified and once again denounced Pauling, who was at that time a member of the Guggenheim Foundation advisory board. Though Budenz was the accuser, it was members of the committee that brought up Pauling’s name to begin with, allowing the witness to validate their own suspicions.

Mr. Keele: I just want to say this. I believe that Dr. Linus Pauling was on the advisory boards which chose, or is yet perhaps on the advisory boards which chose, fellows for the Guggenheim Fund. What do you know about Linus Pauling?

Mr. Budenz: In connection with Dr. Pauling’s many memberships on Communist fronts, I was officially advised a number of times in the late-, that is, in the middle-Forties, that he was a member of the Communist Party under discipline. The Communist leaders expressed the highest admiration and confidence in Dr. Pauling.

– Testimony transcript, Select Committee on Foundations, 1952.

Though Pauling had been trying to diminish his presence in political affairs, he felt strongly inclined to defend himself publicly against the new accusations. Just one of a growing chorus denouncing Budenz as a professional liar, Pauling vehemently denied the allegations and suggested that Budenz be prosecuted for perjury, a fate suffered by his Caltech associate Sidney Weinbaum. However, unlike Weinbaum, Budenz was not liable for perjury, because his testimony was protected by congressional privilege. Pauling was angered by the whole affair, and particularly disturbed by the fact that Budenz’s behavior was aided by a committee of the United States Congress.

Though Pauling did his best to put these events behind him, the allegations would not be so easily discarded. Even as Budenz’s influence began to diminish, the claims that he made against Pauling hovered over subsequent investigations of Pauling’s activity. Two years after Budenz’s charges against Pauling, and despite the lack of any new evidence, the suspicion that Pauling was a concealed communist topped a list of allegations that held up Pauling’s multiple passport requests.

The whispers resurfaced again in 1953 when Pauling – his passport finally restored – made a visit to Europe, where he attended a dinner held by a world government sympathizer and a number of Russian delegates. The visit prompted J. Edgar Hoover to file a report to the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney General’s office, a copy of Budenz’s statement attached.

The pattern was established. Though Pauling would persevere and continue to achieve at an historic level, the stigma thrust upon him as a result of the actions of Louis Budenz would, in the minds of many, color his persona for the remainder of his life.

4 Responses

  1. This blog really helps to put many things into their proper perspective both then, & now.

    Blatant ad hominem attacks only stick when rabid nationalistic fervor supplants critical thinking.

    A message from the past that *always* applies.

    The correct path in life is often a solitary one, especially when it is walked by someone who is ahead of their time.

    We owe debts to people who have opened up such swaths, so that others can eventually follow.

    LP = Indefatigable Courage.

  2. […] While Pauling’s long history with the FBI is wrought with both peculiar observations and fastidious documentation of his political activities, the most influential and frequently referenced item in his case file undoubtedly is the 1950 accusation made against him by Louis Budenz. […]

  3. […] participated in communist activities and in 1955 declarations were made against him, especially by Louis F. Budenz, that he was a concealed communist. This charge in particular bolstered his FBI file, causing him […]

  4. […] In one instance, W. H. Eberhardt of the Georgia Institute of Technology asked Pauling about Louis Budenz, a former Communist Party member turned informant, who had testified before a government panel in […]

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