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Feinstein’s Spy: Russell Lowe and San Francisco’s Pro-China Left

Recent revelations that a long-term staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was an alleged Chinese spy are gravely concerning but unsurprising, considering that staffer’s history. Even more concerning is the political environment in San Francisco of which that former staffer is a part.

Longtime Bay Area activist Russell Lowe has a deep and ongoing involvement with pro-China communist activists and organizations. Lowe was not a “driver,” as was widely reported, but served officially as “office director” and importantly, as Feinstein’s California liaison to the Asian-American community. Lowe, it is now known, even attended events at the Chinese Consulate on behalf of the senator.

In March 2013, not long before he was fired, Lowe was a guest at the farewell party for China’s consul general in San Francisco, Gao Zhansheng. Lowe was described on the invitation list as “office director of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein” and was one of the guests who “awarded proclamations in recognition of Consul General Gao’s contributions to the friendly cooperation between China and Bay area cities,” according to an account of the event posted on the website of the consulate general.

Other attendees included the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, and Supervisor (city council member) Eric Mar.

In 1997, The New York Times reported that Feinstein was one of six members of Congress specifically warned about being vulnerable targets for influence operations from China. So why would Feinstein employ known activist Lowe, particularly after she was appointed to the Senate intelligence committee?

Militant Activist

Lowe’s background should have raised red flags. As has been reported, Lowe’s father and several relatives came to San Francisco in the 1930s, traveling on false papers. But what has not been reported was Lowe’s militant activism, which continues to this day.

In the late 1960s, Lowe was a member of the Chinese Student Association at Cal Poly–San Luis Obispo with activist Bill Jeong. The two would later work together in Chinese For Affirmative Action (CAA), a Maoist-leaning organization that is still very much part of San Francisco’s political power structure.

CAA worked with other Maoist-influenced groups such as the Chinese Progressive Association to push the Beijing line in Chinatown. Together, they helped to marginalize Chinatown’s once-dominant anti-communist leadership to the point that San Francisco’s Chinese community is now reliably pro-China, along with much of San Francisco’s non-Chinese political leadership, including Feinstein.

One of America’s largest communist groups, the Maoist-leaning Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), is very influential in Bay Area politics. CAA has several FRSO affiliates on its staff, including Jeff Chang, a trustee of CAA’s Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality network, and Wai Yee Poon, CAA’s community engagement coordinator.

Notably, in 1976, Lowe served as a consultant to the far-left Association of Chinese Teachers.

Clearly, Lowe was active in the pro-China San Francisco left, but Feinstein hired him anyway. Perhaps the senator hired Lowe not in spite of his radical background, but because of it.

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