Few Americans had heard of Shadow Inc. before the Iowa caucus, but Monday’s disaster at the polls is bringing scrutiny on the company, even as Democratic insiders work to distance themselves from it.
Shadow’s pitch to Iowa Democrats was an app that would simplify recording and tallying votes from the state’s 1,700 precincts. The Iowa Democratic Party paid more than $60,000 for Shadow’s services, but when the day came, the app didn’t perform and party officials were left scrambling to report votes on clogged hotlines. In the end full results still hadn’t been made public more than 24 hours after voting ended.
Shadow is just one piece of a burgeoning conglomerate of tech and news firms many Democrats have turned to in hopes of winning in 2020. These firms are of, by, and for Democratic insiders; Shadow itself is composed of former campaign staffers from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run. (RELATED: Dem Operatives Who Were Partially Responsible For Iowa Caucus Chaos Are Bailing On Shadow Company)
From the Daily Caller News Foundation:
The CEO of Shadow Inc., Gerard Niemira, was the director of product on Clinton’s campaign, his LinkedIn profile says.
Ahna Rao, the product manager for Shadow Inc., was the special assistant to the chief technology officer on Clinton’s campaign, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Krista Davis, the chief technology officer at Shadow, was a software engineer on Clinton’s campaign, according to her LinkedIn profile.
But if Shadow is a branch of this Democratic tech tree, the investing firm ACRONYM is the trunk. Founder Tara McGowan, an Obama fan with a “yes we can” tattoo on her arm, says the purpose of the firm is to compete with supposed conservative mastery over social media.
She raised more than $25 million to create another media start-up aimed at blasting pro-Democrat news into the country’s newsfeeds. (RELATED: ‘What An F-ing Disaster’: NBC Hotmic Moment Appears To Catch Panelist Blasting Iowa Caucus)
“A lot of people I respect will see this media company as an affront to journalistic integrity because it won’t, in their eyes, be balanced,” McGowan told Bloomberg in November. “What I say to them is, balance does not exist anymore, unfortunately.”
The former journalist has also raised $75 million to spend on anti-Trump ads before the 2020 election.
McGowan’s firm is one of Shadow’s major investors, and ACRONYM’s website boasted as recently as Sunday that it had “launched” Shadow, according to the Daily Beast. Shadow’s website similarly said it existed “under the ACRONYM umbrella.”
But by Tuesday, these references were gone from both sites. Instead, both companies simultaneously adopted language emphasizing Shadow’s independence.
Here are the facts about @anotheracronym’s relationship to @ShadowIncHQ, an independent company ACRONYM invested in. We don’t have any information beyond the public statements the IDP has put out + like all of you, eagerly await learning what happened and who won the IA caucus. https://t.co/sWohZqZkPe
— Tara McGowan (@taraemcg) February 4, 2020
Shadow is an independent, for-profit technology company that contracted with the Iowa Democratic Party to build a caucus reporting mobile app, which was optional for local officials to use. The goal of the app was to ensure accuracy in a complex reporting process.
— Shadow, Inc. (@ShadowIncHQ) February 4, 2020
With McGowan’s and Shadow’s deep ties to the Democratic Party, they were able to secure a contract for tabulating votes in not just Iowa, but also Nevada. What many criticized, however, is that Shadow had received payments from the very candidates whose votes they were to be counting.
Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign paid the firm more than $40,000 for software rights, and Buttigieg himself was widely criticized on the night of the caucus for declaring himself victorious despite a near-total lack of official results.
Iowa, you have shocked the nation.
By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious. #IowaCaucuses
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 4, 2020
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign also forked over tens of thousands of dollars for Shadow’s services.
The Nevada Democratic Party was headed for the same disaster Iowa experienced, having already paid Shadow nearly $60,000 to use its app in its state primary on February 22. Within 24 hours of the Iowa caucus, however, Nevada officials confirmed they had severed their relationship with Shadow.
BREAKING: The Nevada State Democratic Party says that it can “confidently say” what happened in Iowa will not happen in Nevada. They say that they will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus and have backups/redundancies built in. pic.twitter.com/2En16VlCAH
— Megan Messerly (@meganmesserly) February 4, 2020
“It is a pattern of fake it till you make it,” one top Democrative operative said of McGowan and ACRONYM to the Daily Beast. “You talk a big game and then sort of hope it becomes true.”