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 introduced S.B. 1372, which 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.”
In early 2013, Alan Lowenthal and a number of fellow elected officials and activists—most of whom were aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America—drafted a proposal urging President Barack Obama to award a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Fred Ross Sr., a radical who had been trained by Saul Alinsky and had served as a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.
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. 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.
In September 2014, Lowenthal praised the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), saying: “I continue to be inspired by CAIR’s critical work in not only furthering the civil rights of the American Muslim community but all communities throughout our nation.” In October 2017, he similarly lauded CAIR “for its efforts to support the principles of civic engagement on which our nation was founded.”
Lowenthal has strongly opposed calls for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would carry 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 included investments in: (a) Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, which aspired to build a pipeline of its own that would directly compete with Keystone; (b) Kinder Morgan Management, overseer of the Energy Partners subsidiary; and (c) Enbridge Energy Management, the largest crude oil transporter in Canada. In 2014, 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 supported with President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action of 2012, which granted 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 lamented in April 2015, “these proposals are coming under fire by fossil fuel interests and climate change deniers.” Two months later, 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 August 2015, Lowenthal supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement which the Obama administration had negotiated with 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.”
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.
In 2015 as well, Lowenthal, characterizing “plastic pollution” as “one of the most visible environmental impacts of our consumer age,” co-sponsored legislation that would charge consumers 10 cents for each plastic bag they used when shopping.
On December 16, 2021, Lowenthal announced that he would not seek reelection in 2022.
For an overview of Lowenthal’s voting record on a range of key issues, click here.
Further Reading: “Alan Lowenthal” (Ballotpedia.org, Keywiki.org); “Democrats Who Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline Own Shares in Competing Companies” (by Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon, 2-12-2014); “Rep. Lowenthal Applauds Pope Francis Encyclical On Climate Change” (6-18-2015); “Congressman Lowenthal Announces Support For Agreement to Prevent Nuclear-Armed Iran” (8-26-2015); “72 House Dems: U.S. Should Take in At Least 100,000 Syrian Refugees” (Daily Kos, 9-11-2015).