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Everything We Know About The Shadow-y Company That Botched The Iowa Caucus

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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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.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former First Lady, U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of State speaks onstage at 2019 New York Times Dealbook on November 06, 2019 in New York City. (Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times)

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former First Lady, U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of State speaks onstage at 2019 New York Times Dealbook on November 06, 2019 in New York City. (Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times)

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.

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.

DENISON, IOWA - NOVEMBER 26: Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to guests during a campaign stop at Cronk's restaurant on November 26, 2019 in Denison, Iowa. The 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses will take place on February 3, 2020, making it the first nominating contest for the Democratic Party in choosing their presidential candidate to face Donald Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

DENISON, IOWA –  Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to guests during a campaign stop at Cronk’s restaurant in Denison, Iowa. The 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses took place on February 3, 2020, it was largely a disaster. Critics pointed to the failure of anew voting app the Democratic Party tried to use to record votes. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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.

“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.”