Nine Things to Know About the App at the Center of Iowa Caucus Fiasco

Nine Things to Know About the App at the Center of Iowa Caucus Fiasco

Nine Things to Know About the App at the Center of Iowa Caucus Fiasco

The Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses are being called a disaster, a nightmare, and an epic fail. In the subsequent round of finger-pointing, a consensus scapegoat has emerged — a mobile app paid for by the Iowa Democratic Party that was supposed to collect and report the results of Monday night’s vote.

The app was reportedly developed in secret by a for-profit technology firm with the too-good-to-be-true name of Shadow, Inc. While little was previously known about the app, new revelations are quickly emerging, including the firm’s ties to Hillary Clinton.

Iowa Democratic officials are denying that the app is to blame for the chaotic outcome of Monday’s caucuses. The results of the Democratic caucuses are likely to be delayed significantly, which has sent party leaders into damage control mode.

As the caucus debacle continues to unravel, several key players have emerged in the blame game that has swept up key members of the Democratic party establishment.

What is Shadow?

Shadow, Inc. is the Democratic firm that reportedly built the app, according to the Huffington Post. The firm says on its official site that its mission is “to build political power for the progressive movement by developing affordable and easy-to-use tools.”

The company was launched in 2019 by ACRONYM, a Democratic non-profit group whose affiliated political action committee has supported progressive candidates across the country.

Who funds ACRONYM and how is it reacting?

ACRONYM is a Democratic operation that has received significant funding from left-leaning Silicon Valley investors. Recode recently reported that the organization has been advised by former Uber executive and Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. It also got a $1 million check from Sequoia Capital’s former leader, Michael Moritz.

Following Monday’s debacle, ACRONYM has been distancing itself from Shadow, saying in a statement that was only an “investor” in the firm. On its official site, ACRONYM says that it “launched” Shadow in 2019.

Just in — a statement from ACRONYM.

“We, like everyone else, are eagerly awaiting more information from the Iowa Democratic Party.”

— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) February 4, 2020

Shadow’s Ties to Hillary Clinton

Shadow, Inc’s CEO Gerard Niemira worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, as did three other high-ranking company officers. Niemira’s LinkedIn profile shows that he worked for Hillary for America for a little more than a year in various capacities, including product director.

Niemira subsequently worked for ACRONYM before joining Shadow in 2019.

Shadow’s product manager Ahna Rao, chief technology officer Krista Davis, and chief operating officer James Hickey also worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Robby Mook distanced himself from the app

Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, has denied involvement in developing the software, saying on Twitter that he didn’t “have anything to do with building the Iowa caucus app.”

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

However, the New York Times reported that he and Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager, worked together on a project that tested the app.

Ties to Pete Buttigieg, #MayorCheat?

Buttigieg’s campaign reportedly paid Shadow more than $42,000 last year for software, though it remains unclear if Shadow showed favoritism to his campaign in any way.

Huffington Post’s @Robillard is confirming that it was Shadow that created the app.

— Lee Fang (@lhfang) February 4, 2020

On Monday night, Buttigieg declared himself the victor of the state’s caucuses before any official results had been released, prompting the hashtag #MayorCheat to trend on Twitter.

How much did the Iowa Democratic Party pay Shadow for the app?

State records indicate that the Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow a little more than $63,000 in two installments in November and December, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Nevada State Democratic Party paid $58,000 to Shadow in August, though it remains unclear if the state was planning to use the same app for its upcoming caucus.

A CNN report Tuesday claims that the same app is due to be used in the Nevada Democratic caucuses later this month.

How fast was the app developed?

The app was “quickly put together in just the past two months,” and didn’t receive the kind of scrutiny that is normally afforded an important piece of software to be used by the public, according to a report in the New York Times, which cited anonymous sources.

The Journal reported separately that the Iowa Democratic Party refused an offer from the Department of Homeland Security to conduct some security testing on the app.

Iowa Democrats in damage control mode

Party officials in Iowas are denying that the app is to blame for Monday’s fiasco. “This is simply a reporting issue,” Mandy McClure, communications director of the Iowa Democratic Party, said in a statement. “The app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.”

But chair Troy Price told NPR that though the app was recording data accurately, “it was reporting out only partial data” because of a “coding issue in the reporting system.”

Tom Perez feeling the heat

Some prominent Democrats were calling on DNC chair Tom Perez to take responsibility for Monday’s disaster, prompting the hashtag #TomPerezResign to trend on Twitter.

Former Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson wrote on Twitter: “In a healthy democracy, Tom Perez would resign today. (As it is the results will probably never be fully determined, the DNC attitude will be ‘They’ll get over it,’ and the entire incident will hang like a cloud of uncertainty over the entire campaign.)”

Follow David Ng on Twitter @HeyItsDavidNg. Have a tip? Contact me at

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