The hashtag #MayorCheat trended Tuesday on Twitter after reports that former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign paid tens of thousands of dollars to the company that developed the app that was supposed to streamline the reporting of Iowa caucus results but instead failed, throwing the results of the caucus into question.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records showed that Pete for America Inc. paid at least $21,250.00 to Shadow Inc. on July 23, 2019, for “software rights and subscriptions.”
A few months after that, in November and December 2019, the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) paid tech company Shadow Inc. more than $60,000 to develop the app that Iowa Democrat caucus leaders were supposed to use to upload their results, according to HuffPost.
The app’s failure caused a massive delay in reporting the final results of the Iowa Democrat caucus, in which 2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was expected to do well, according to polls and preliminary results.
Precinct chairs reportedly could not log into the app, or after logging in, received errors when trying to report results. The technical problems led some chairs to call in results and in some cases, be placed on hold for more than an hour waiting for an IDP official to answer.
Despite the delay in reporting results, Buttigieg delivered a speech around 11:30 p.m. in which he seemed to declare victory.
“Iowa, you have shocked the nation,” he began. “With hope in our hearts and fire in our bellies, we’re going on to New Hampshire … to chart a new course for our country.”
Sanders supporters directed their anger towards Buttigieg after reports and tweets emerged that showed his campaign had paid tens of thousands of dollars to Shadow Inc.
According to those reports, the company is run by a number of former Hillary Clinton campaign staff members. The chief executive officer is Gerard Niemira, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, according to his LinkedIn page.
The caucus app blamed for the Iowa vote count chaos was created by tech firm Shadow, Inc.
Shadow’s CEO Gerard Niemira, product manager Ahna Rao, CTO Krista Davis, and COO James Hickey all worked on the Hillary for America campaign. pic.twitter.com/hA0JPYX5Ig
— Michael Coudrey (@MichaelCoudrey) February 4, 2020
Update: While they may not list themselves on their own website, staff profiles can be found on LinkedIn.
I’ll share some details on a few of them.
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) February 4, 2020
Shadow Inc. is funded by ACRONYM, a Democrat digital non-profit group, according to HuffPost. Niemira previously served as the chief technology officer and chief operating officer of ACRONYM.
David Plouffe, an architect of former President Barack Obama’s campaigns, joined the board of advisers for ACRONYM in 2019, according to Politico. ACRONYM launched a super PAC, PACRONYM, this year to mount a digital effort to attack President Trump.
One of the major donors to PACRONYM is Seth Klarman, a billionaire and hedge fund CEO, who is also a backer of Buttigieg, according to Forbes.
The app was reportedly also vetted by former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. Mook and former Mitt Romney campaign strategist Matthew Rhoades launched a project, called Defending Digital Democracy (DDD), that tested the app used during the Iowa caucus, according to the New York Times.
Mook denied any involvement with the app in a tweet:
Sorry, folks. I did NOT have anythjng to do with building the Iowa caucus app. I dont know anything about it, had no role in it, and dont own a company that makes mobile appa. Please contact @iowademocrats with questions about it.
— Robby Mook (@RobbyMook) February 4, 2020
An ACRONYM spokesman confirmed that the group has invested in Shadow Inc., but tried to distance itself from the company:
— Kyle Tharp (@kylewilsontharp) February 4, 2020
However, ACRONYM’s founder Tara McGowan tweeted on July 18, 2019 — just days before Buttigieg’s campaign donated at least $21,250 to them — that it had acquired a tech company called Groundbase run by Niemira, and formally launched it as Shadow Inc.:
Last year, @anotheracronym acquired a small +mighty tech co, Groundbase, run by the brilliant @gjniemira. Today we are stoked to formally launch its nonprofit-owned reincarnation as @ShadowIncHQ to fill gaps +drive innovation in empowering tech for the progressive movement⚡️✊🏼☄️ https://t.co/xYZ3FrNlel
— Tara McGowan (@taraemcg) July 18, 2019
McGowan also tweeted on January 23, 2019, in all caps, “MAYOR PETE IS RUNNING,” with heart-eye emojis:
— Trevor Reese🌹🏴 (@RealTrevorReese) February 4, 2020
While first denying that the app failed on Monday evening, the IDP issued a statement Tuesday morning acknowledging “a coding issue.”
“While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data,” the IDP stated. “We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system. This issue was identified and fixed. The application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately.”
The Nevada Democratic Party has also paid Shadow Inc. $58,000 for website development, also throwing into question whether its caucus on February 22 will suffer from similar results.