For-profit

Shadow Inc.

Website:

shadowinc.io

Shadow Inc. is a technology and software development company that aims to “build political power for the progressive movement.” [1] Its technology has been used by Google, Kiva, Apple, the AFL-CIO, the DNC, and the campaigns of former presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. [2] According to a report by Sludge, the company is owned by ACRONYM, a left-of-center political and advocacy organization. [3]

2020 Iowa Presidential Caucuses

Shadow had been commissioned by the Iowa Democratic Party to help them tabulate the results on the night of the Democratic Party presidential caucuses, February 3, 2020. According to a report by the New York Times, the app that Shadow made for the party was hastily created two months prior. Shadow was contacted after the party discarded the previous plan, which was to tabulate the caucuses by having the precincts call in over the phone. Officials from the Democratic National Committee “advised” party officials to cancel these plans and recommended they use Shadow. [4] The Iowa Democratic Party paid about $63,000 for Shadow’s services. [5]

The app ran into significant issues. After it was clear the results were going to be delayed, a spokesperson for the Iowa Democratic Party denied the problem was with the app and claimed that it was a matter of human error in reporting the results. However, multiple county chairs said they had problems with the app itself, such as slow load times, inability to login, and in cases where precinct chairs were able to send the results, the results were incomplete. [6][7][8] ““While the app was recording data accurately, it was reporting out only partial data. We have determined that this was due to a coding issue in the reporting system,” Iowa Democratic Party chair Troy Price said. [9]

According to the Times, Shadow’s involvement with the party was kept secret from lower-level staffers and from those involved in the caucuses. An anonymous staffer of the Iowa Democratic Party contacted the Times to confess that there had been internal fears the app would not work in areas with poor internet connectivity and that the app’s stability might get overwhelmed by high traffic. After the issues occurred, ACRONYM was contacted by journalists. It jumped to the defense by deflecting responsibility, protesting that Shadow was a separate group, and stating that it did not know what happened. [10] [11] Shadow spokesperson Kyle Tharp released a statement regarding the company’s relationship with ACRONYM, stating that the nonprofit was merely an investor; ACRONYM founder Tara McGowan took to Twitter to reiterate the message. [12]

ACRONYM, however, had announced that it was launching Shadow Inc. in January 2019. [13][14]

In addition, Shadow’s current chief executive officer Gerard Niemira published a blog post on ACRONYM’s website in January of 2019 stating that newly-created Shadow would “exist under the ACRONYM umbrella.” [15] The Daily Beast pointed out that ACRONYM’s website stated that it had “launched” Shadow until the caucus debacle occurred, after which “launched” was replaced with “invested in.” Shadow’s official incorporation papers listed its mailing address as ACRONYM’s. [16]

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Homeland Security had offered to run security tests for Shadow’s app, but the Iowa Democratic Party turned down their help. [17]

The Nevada Democratic Party had paid Shadow $58,000 in August and was set to use a similar app for their caucuses later that month. [18] However, in the wake of the Iowa caucuses the Nevada party announced that it would abandon the app and revert to back-up plans for processing the results. [19] It was later revealed that the app Shadow created for the Nevada caucus was also defective. [20]

In July 2019, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg‘s campaign had paid Shadow $21,250 for “software rights and subscriptions” according to FEC records. [21] A little after midnight after the day of the Iowa caucus, before any results came in, Buttigieg claimed victory on Twitter. He fell under criticism for this, leading to speculation on Twitter, particularly among Bernie Sanders supporters, about the role his campaign payments played in the failures on Shadow’s part. [22] Suspicions intensified when it was discovered that McGowan’s husband, Michael Halle, had been hired by Buttigieg’s campaign as a senior strategist in July 2019. [23] (Halle had also worked as a major organizer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in Iowa. [24][25]) In addition, Halle’s brother Ben Halle was working for Buttigieg as his Iowa communications director. [26] A spokesperson for Buttigieg’s campaign later said the payments were for text message outreach to voters. [27]

Several days after the Iowa caucuses, Troy Price announced that he was stepping down from his role as chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. “The fact is that Democrats deserved better than what happened on caucus night. As chair of this party, I am deeply sorry for what happened and bear the responsibility for any failures on behalf of the Iowa Democratic Party,” he said in his letter announcing his resignation. [28]

Leadership

During the lead up to the 2020 Iowa caucuses, Shadow’s chief executive officer was Gerard Niemira, its chief operating officer was James Hickey, its chief technology officer was Krista Davis, and its senior project manager was Ahna Rao, all of whom had previously worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. [29] [30] [31] [32]

References

  1. “Shadow.” Shadow. Accessed November 13, 2019. https://shadowinc.io/. ^
  2. “Shadow.” Shadow. Accessed November 13, 2019. https://shadowinc.io/about/ ^
  3. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. Accessed November 13, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/. ^
  4. Corasaniti, Nick, Sheera Frenkel, and Nicole Perlroth. “App Used to Tabulate Votes Is Said to Have Been Inadequately Tested.” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 4, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/us/politics/iowa-caucus-app.html ^
  5. Seetharaman, Deepa, Alexa Corse, and Emily Glazer. “Iowa’s Tally-by-App Experiment Fails.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, February 4, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/iowa-caucus-results-delayed-by-apparent-app-issue-11580801699  ^
  6. Corasaniti, Nick, Sheera Frenkel, and Nicole Perlroth. “App Used to Tabulate Votes Is Said to Have Been Inadequately Tested.” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 4, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/us/politics/iowa-caucus-app.html ^
  7. Koebler, Jason, and Emanuel Maiberg. “Here’s the Shadow Inc. App That Failed in Iowa Last Night.” Vice, February 4, 2020. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/y3m33x/heres-the-shadow-inc-app-that-failed-in-iowa-last-night. ^
  8. Madrigal, Alexis C. “The Company That Botched the Iowa Caucus Was Formed Only Months Ago.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, February 5, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/02/iowa-caucus-app-tech/606094/. ^
  9. “Latest Statement from Iowa Democratic Party Chair on Caucus Results Tabulation.” whotv.com, February 4, 2020. https://whotv.com/2020/02/04/latest-statement-from-iowa-democratic-party-chair-on-caucus-results-tabulation/. ^
  10. Corasaniti, Nick, Sheera Frenkel, and Nicole Perlroth. “App Used to Tabulate Votes Is Said to Have Been Inadequately Tested.” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 4, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/us/politics/iowa-caucus-app.html ^
  11. Fang, Lee. “New Details Show How Deeply Iowa Caucus App Developer Was Embedded in Democratic Establishment.” The Intercept, February 4, 2020. https://theintercept.com/2020/02/04/iowa-caucus-app-shadow-acronym/. ^
  12. Lachlan Markay, Sam Stein. “Investors Rush to Scrub Ties to Firm Behind Iowa Clusterf*Ck.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, February 4, 2020. https://www.thedailybeast.com/investors-rush-to-downplay-ties-to-shadow-the-firm-behind-iowa-caucus-clusterfuck. ^
  13. Acronym. “Some News This Morning We’ve Acquired SMS Tool Groundbase & Are Launching Shadow, a Company Focused on Building the Technology Infrastructure Needed to Enable Democrats to Run Better, More Efficient Campaigns. Learn More in @Politico’s Morning Score: Https://T.co/WwibAvwgCw Pic.twitter.com/gLGj63gAFE.” Twitter. Twitter, January 17, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20200204200037/https:/twitter.com/anotheracronym/status/1085934845942026241. ^
  14. Montellaro, Zach. “Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Cast off PACs.” POLITICO, January 17, 2019. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-score/2019/01/17/democratic-presidential-hopefuls-cast-off-pacs-482469. ^
  15. “Shadow.” Shadow. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://web.archive.org/web/20190921140218/https://www.anotheracronym.org/introducing-shadow/. ^
  16. Lachlan Markay, Sam Stein. “Investors Rush to Scrub Ties to Firm Behind Iowa Clusterf*Ck.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, February 4, 2020. https://www.thedailybeast.com/investors-rush-to-downplay-ties-to-shadow-the-firm-behind-iowa-caucus-clusterfuck. ^
  17. Seetharaman, Deepa, Alexa Corse, and Emily Glazer. “Iowa’s Tally-by-App Experiment Fails.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, February 4, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/iowa-caucus-results-delayed-by-apparent-app-issue-11580801699 ^
  18. Seetharaman, Deepa, Alexa Corse, and Emily Glazer. “Iowa’s Tally-by-App Experiment Fails.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, February 4, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/iowa-caucus-results-delayed-by-apparent-app-issue-11580801699 ^
  19. Fung, Brian, and Donie O’Sullivan. “Problematic App Used in Iowa Caucuses Also Set to Be Used in Nevada, Sources Tell CNN.” CNN. Cable News Network, February 4, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/04/politics/iowa-caucus-app-issues/index.html. ^
  20. Evans, Zachary. “App That Shadow Inc. Designed for Nevada Caucus Is Also Flawed: Report.” National Review. National Review, February 7, 2020. https://www.nationalreview.com/news/app-that-shadow-inc-designed-for-nevada-caucus-is-also-flawed/. ^
  21. “Browse Disbursements.” FEC.gov. Accessed February 5, 2020. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/?data_type=processed&committee_id=C00697441&recipient_name=Shadow&two_year_transaction_period=2020. ^
  22. “Iowans See Their Shadow.” Spectator USA, February 4, 2020. https://spectator.us/iowans-see-shadow-acronym/. ^
  23. Treene, Alayna. “Scoop: Buttigieg Hires McAuliffe Adviser Michael Halle to Senior Staff.” Axios, July 29, 2019. https://www.axios.com/pete-buttigieg-michael-halle-senior-staff-36f664e9-0099-4eb1-a01b-1f07cc488709.html. ^
  24. Madrigal, Alexis C. “The Company That Botched the Iowa Caucus Was Formed Only Months Ago.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, February 5, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/02/iowa-caucus-app-tech/606094/. ^
  25. Martin, Jonathan. “Clinton Team Nabs McAuliffe Adviser to Focus on Iowa.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 31, 2015. https://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/03/31/clinton-team-nabs-mcauliffe-adviser-to-focus-on-iowa/. ^
  26. Madrigal, Alexis C. “The Company That Botched the Iowa Caucus Was Formed Only Months Ago.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, February 5, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/02/iowa-caucus-app-tech/606094/. ^
  27. Lachlan Markay, Sam Stein. “Investors Rush to Scrub Ties to Firm Behind Iowa Clusterf*Ck.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, February 4, 2020. https://www.thedailybeast.com/investors-rush-to-downplay-ties-to-shadow-the-firm-behind-iowa-caucus-clusterfuck. ^
  28. Levy, Adam. “Chairman of Iowa Democratic Party Resigns after Caucus Catastrophe.” CNN, Cable News Network, 12 Feb. 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/02/12/politics/troy-price-iowa-resigns/index.html. ^
  29. “Gerard Niemira.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/gerard-niemira-aaa9b73/ ^
  30. Olson, Tyler. “App Used in Iowa Democratic Caucus Fiasco Linked to Ex-Clinton Campaign Staffers.” Fox News. FOX News Network, February 4, 2020. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/app-used-in-iowa-democratic-caucus-fiasco-linked-to-former-clinton-campaign. ^
  31. “Krista Davis.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krista-davis-aa2016b6/ ^
  32. “Ahna Rao.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/ahnarao/ ^

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Associated Organizations

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