Born in New York City on March 8, 1941, Alan Lowenthal earned a bachelor’s degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1962, a master's degree from Ohio State University in 1965, and a Ph.D. from Ohio State in 1967. He subsequently became a practicing psychologist who also taught community psychology at California State University, Long Beach from 1969-98. A lifelong Democrat, Lowenthal launched a political career in 1992. He served in the Long Beach City Council from 1992-98, the California State Assembly from 1998-2004, and the California State Senate from 2004-12. Since 2013 he has represented California's 47th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In February 2008, then-state senator Lowenthal proposed altering the California Educational Code with an amendment that would delete, from existing law: (a) provisions barring a person from using school property on behalf of “a Communist action organization or Communist front organization” that “advocate[s] the overthrow of the government of the United States or of the State of California by force, violence, or other unlawful means”; (b) “provisions that a permanent or classified school employee ... may be dismissed from employment if he or she is a knowing member of the Communist Party”; (c) “provisions that prohibit a teacher giving instruction in a school, or on property belonging to an agency included in the public school system, from teaching communism with the intent to indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism”; and (d) “provisions that a teacher may be dismissed from employment if he or she teaches communism in that way.” According to Holly Swanson, director of the Operation Green Out! campaign, Lowenthal's bill was intended to facilitate the statewide implementation of the Education for Sustainability movement, which aimed to “use education as a tool to change our entire culture by manipulating the curriculum and teaching our children new cultural beliefs” that “mirro[r] Green Party goals and communism.”
In June 2013 Lowenthal objected to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down, as anachronistic, a Voting Rights Act (VRA) provision requiring mainly Southern states to undergo—based on the presumption of their continuing racist tendencies—special federal scrutiny before they could be permitted to change their election laws in any way (e.g., by instituting Voter ID requirements or reconfiguring their voting districts). Lowenthal lamented that the Court's decision: “eviscerate[d] the VRA and open[ed] the door for voter discrimination and suppression on an unprecedented level”; represented “a sizable step backwards in our collective national journey toward social justice and civil rights”; and threatened to obliterate “vital protections for minority voters.”
In September 2014 Lowenthal stated that “raising the minimum wage” should be “a critical component” of any effort to “rebuild the middle class.” “By raising it from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour,” he explained, “we would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty.” Such an increase, added Lowenthal, would serve merely as “the first step” and “a minimum step” toward the eventual creation of a more equitable economy.
Lowenthal strongly opposed calls for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have carried some 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in the American Gulf Coast each day. But while he was disparaging the Keystone plan, Lowenthal held significant financial investments in a number of its major competitors (who stood to benefit if Keystone were to be derailed). These investments included: $1,000 to $15,000 in Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, which aspired to build a pipeline of its own that, according to Fox News, “would directly compete with Keystone”; another $15,000 to $50,000 in Kinder Morgan Management, overseer of the Energy Partners subsidiary; and $15,000 to $50,000 in Enbridge Energy Management, the largest crude oil transporter in Canada. Ron Arnold of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise said that because of this “bald-faced conflict of interest,” Lowenthal should “divest [himself] of the tainted investments and recuse [himself] from remarks and votes on the issue.”
Claiming that “the American people are tired of living under a broken immigration system and seeing families broken apart,” Lowenthal advocates “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation that “provides an earned pathway to citizenship” for those who currently reside in the United States illegally. He was “pleased” with President Obama’s November 2014 executive action on immigration, known as Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), which authorized the granting of work permits, tax rebates, Social Security cards, and protection from deportation, to millions of illegal aliens.
Lowenthal favors the implementation of cap-and-trade proposals to limit carbon emissions from human industrial activity, which he identifies as a major contributor to potentially catastrophic global warming. “Unfortunately, but not unpredictably,” he laments, “these proposals are coming under fire by fossil fuel interests and climate change deniers.” In June 2015, Lowenthal praised Pope Francis's newly released encyclical on climate change and the environment. “I thank the Pope for his continued leadership in bringing global attention to the plight of the world’s poor and most vulnerable because of environmental impacts nations like ours have inflicted,” said the congressman. “I applaud the Pontiff’s recognition that when it comes to climate change, the science is settled and ... [we must] take action.”
In 2015 as well, Lowenthal supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement between the P5+1 nations and Iran, calling it “the best chance we have at preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.” He conceded, however, that “it is not a perfect agreement,” given that, as a result of the deal, “Iran in 15 years will be in a stronger position to build a nuclear weapon and now has greater financial resources to engage in terrorist activities.” (For details of the agreement's provisions, click here.)
In September 2015, Lowenthal was one of 72 House Democrats who signed a letter urging President Obama to increase State Department quotas so that the U.S. could admit at least 100,000 refugees from the war- and terrorism-ravaged nation of Syria.
For an overview of Lowenthal's voting record on a range of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Lowenthal, click here.