Non-profit

ACRONYM

Website:

www.anotheracronym.org

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax ID:

82-1630469

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Formation:

March, 2017

President and CEO:

Tara McGowan

CEO's Compensation:

$160,968 (2018) [59]

Director:

Mike Durbin

Latest Tax Filing:

2018 Form 990

ACRONYM is a left-of-center political and advocacy organization designed to launch voter mobilization and digital advertising programs while also working on communications for left-progressive causes. [1] ACRONYM advances a left-of-center agenda at the local, state, and national levels. [2]

Though ACRONYM is a 501(c)(4) organization whose funds are required to be used for social welfare causes, ACRONYM has been described as the umbrella organization for numerous for-profit, left-wing organizations and has participated in numerous initiatives with the Democratic Party.

The organization grew rapidly from 2017 to 2018. According to its 2018 Form 990 (available here), covering May 2018 through April 2019, its total revenues grew from close to $1.3 million in 2017 to nearly $9.5 million, all of which came from grants (save for roughly $2,500 from investment revenues). Its total expenditures rose from $1.3 million in 2017 to $7.3 million in 2018. [3]

History

Tara McGowan, a Democratic political strategist, founded ACRONYM in 2017. [4] [5] As of 2018, ACRONYM had raised more than $18 million and registered 60,000 people to vote. [6] The organization has run 105 targeted ad campaigns covering 15 states, helping to elect 63 left-of-center candidates and winning 61 percent of all races in which they were involved. [7]

ACRONYM has been consistently linked to the Democratic Party and its initiatives. [8] ACRONYM controls a number of for-profit companies that are major players in Democratic Party politics, including campaign consulting firm Lockwood Strategy, a peer-to-peer political technology company known as Shadow, and a media company that invests in local left-leaning news outlets called FWIW Media. [9]

Activity

ACRONYM serves as a full-service digital campaign service, working with various interest groups and campaigns from across the country, including the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. [10] As of 2017, the group spent most of its resources on advertising and promotion, spending $846,431 on advertising in 2017 alone. [11]

ACRONYM has been tied to numerous organizations on the political left, running campaigns for left-of-center groups including Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, and Everytown for Gun Safety. [12] ACRONYM is also listed as a member of the America Votes national coalition, a left-of-center lobbying and advocacy organization that is primarily concerned with expanding voter access. [13]

In 2017, ACRONYM paid GMMB Inc $457,646 to run media campaigns. [14] GMMB is an influential left-wing media firm with ties to both the Obama and Clinton presidential campaigns, with director Jim Margolis serving as top media advisor to both Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. [15]

In 2018, ACRONYM launched its controversial “Knock the Vote” project to target young voters to push for progressive policies and candidates. [16] Even though McGowan claimed that the voting campaign was designed to get young people to vote without influencing who they vote for, the campaign logo was a drawing of President Donald Trump being punched in the face. [17] [18] [19] ACRONYM spent over $3 million on the campaign, covering 36 states which have online voter registration. [20] The campaign specifically targeted Arizona, Florida, and Georgia, swing states with large unregistered populations who could be expected to vote in line with the political left. [21]

Just two weeks before launching Knock the Vote, ACRONYM announced a collaboration with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in a $10 million campaign to back 75 Democrats for state legislative seats. [22]

In 2019, ACRONYM pledged $1 million to the Dogwood, a left-wing local media outlet in Virginia, as the beginning of a nationwide initiative to invest in local media. [23] This prompted questions of potential conflicts of interest in July 2019 when the Daily Beast reported that the Dogwood had been providing favorable coverage to the very same candidates in which ACRONYM was heavily invested. [24]

In 2019, as the Democratic primaries take shape, ACRONYM has focused on registering left-leaning swing state voters and targeting state legislative seats in important primary states. [25] In August of 2019, Politico reported that ACRONYM launched a $10,000,000 online campaign to encourage young people in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and Florida to register to vote. ACRONYM also announced the launch of its new software tool “Formation” which allows people to look up their friends’ voter registration data, apparently to peer pressure impressionable younger voters. [26]

In October of 2019, ACRONYM began releasing ads on YouTube about president Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. The group has spent $100,000 on YouTube ads since 2018, and has spent around $1,500 on Twitter political ads. [27]

Shadow Inc. and the 2020 Iowa Presidential Caucuses

ACRONYM launched Shadow Inc. in 2019, a technology and software development company that aims to “build political power for the progressive movement.” [28] [29] [30]

In February 2020, an app that Shadow created for the Iowa Democratic Party to process caucus results malfunctioned the night of the presidential caucuses. 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. [31] ACRONYM, however, had announced that it was launching Shadow Inc. in January 2019. [32][33]

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.” [34] 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. [35]

In July 2019, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg‘s campaign had paid Shadow $21,250 for “software rights and subscriptions” according to FEC records. [36] A little after midnight after the day of the Iowa caucuses, 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. [37] 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. [38] (Halle had also worked as a major organizer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in Iowa. [39][40]) In addition, Halle’s brother Ben Halle was working for Buttigieg as his Iowa communications director. [41] A spokesperson for Buttigieg’s campaign later said the payments were for text message outreach to voters. [42]

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. [43]

2020 Election Cycle

In the 2020 election cycle, ACRONYM funneled $1.4 million into its former media organization Courier Newsroom. The funds were spent on Facebook ads that promoted Democratic members of the House whose seats were being challenged. Despite self-identifying as “progressive,” Courier has propped-up several news outlets in swing states such as Up North News in Wisconsin which pose as neutral media sources.  [44]

People and Funding

ACRONYM, though an ostensibly “social welfare” organization, has donated to numerous causes and organizations affiliated with the Democratic Party, including a $150,000 donation to the Virginia Democratic Party in 2019. [45]

ACRONYM has also provided funding to a related super PAC, PACRONYM. [46] In 2018, ACRONYM put $300,000 into the super PAC. [47] PACRONYM has received funding from numerous Democratic Party-affiliated organizations, receiving $2 million from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee from 2018. [48]

ACRONYM’s primary staff members also have close ties to left-of-center politics. Co-founder and president Tara McGowan worked on Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, and has further experience running the largest ever ad campaign for super PAC Priorities USA Action in 2016. [49] Michael Dubin, co-founder and current director of ACRONYM, has donated to several Democratic candidates and causes, in addition to giving a $50,000 donation to PACRONYM in 2016. [50] [51]

David Plouffe, former Uber executive and campaign manager for President Barack Obama, advised ACRONYM on development matters and fundraising. With his help, ACRONYM was able to large donations from prominent Democratic donors, including $1 million from Michael Moritz, former leader of Sequoia Capital. [52] Plouffe also sits on the board of ACRONYM. [53] LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman was one of ACRONYM’s first donors, having financed them through his political fund group Investing in US. [54] [55] [56]

Donors to ACRONYM

According to its 2018 IRS Form 990, ACRONYM received donations from unnamed donors in the following amounts (the organization isn’t required to disclose its donors’ names): [57]

  • $2,021,500
  • $1,632,500
  • $1,250,000
  • $500,000
  • $420,000
  • $357,000
  • $300,000
  • $250,000
  • $250,000
  • $250,000
  • $250,000
  • $250,000
  • $200,000
  • $200,000
  • $175,000
  • $143,000
  • $135,000
  • $120,000
  • $101,328
  • $100,000
  • $100,000
  • $100,000
  • $82,712
  • $73,562
  • $50,000
  • $25,000
  • $25,000
  • $25,000
  • $15,000
  • $12,000
  • $10,000
  • $10,000
  • $8,744 (a gift of stock)
  • $5,000

Consulting Fees Paid

In 2018, ACRONYM paid Facebook $1.37 million and Google $388,000 in advertising fees. It also paid the consultancy firm Lockwood Strategy Lab $393,000 in “digital consulting” fees, $280,000 to the San Diego-based company Pier Media for unspecified “media services,” and $164,000 to the left-leaning law firm Perkins Coie for legal services. [58]

Financial Documents

ACRONYM’s IRS Form 990 filings for 2017 and 2018 are available here:

References

  1. ACRONYM. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax. Form 990, 2017. Section 4a. ^
  2. ACRONYM. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax. Form 990, 2017. Schedule O. Part One, Line 1. ^
  3. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). ACRONYM. Part I. Lines 8, 12, 18. Archived: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/05/ACRONYM-2018-Form-990.pdf ^
  4. Fouriezos, Nick. “Meet the Democrats’ Most Dangerous Digital Strategist.” OZY, September 5, 2019. https://www.ozy.com/politics-and-power/meet-the-democrats-most-dangerous-digital-strategist/95569. ^
  5. “Tara McGowan.” LinkedIn 2020, Accessed September 10, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/taramcgowan. ^
  6. Fouriezos, Nick. “Meet the Democrats’ Most Dangerous Digital Strategist.” OZY, September 5, 2019. https://www.ozy.com/politics-and-power/meet-the-democrats-most-dangerous-digital-strategist/95569. ^
  7. Fouriezos, Nick. “Meet the Democrats’ Most Dangerous Digital Strategist.” OZY, September 5, 2019. https://www.ozy.com/politics-and-power/meet-the-democrats-most-dangerous-digital-strategist/95569. ^
  8. Fouriezos, Nick. “Meet the Democrats’ Most Dangerous Digital Strategist.” OZY, September 5, 2019. https://www.ozy.com/politics-and-power/meet-the-democrats-most-dangerous-digital-strategist/95569. ^
  9. Fouriezos, Nick. “Meet the Democrats’ Most Dangerous Digital Strategist.” OZY, September 5, 2019. https://www.ozy.com/politics-and-power/meet-the-democrats-most-dangerous-digital-strategist/95569. ^
  10. Fouriezos, Nick. “Meet the Democrats’ Most Dangerous Digital Strategist.” OZY, September 5, 2019. https://www.ozy.com/politics-and-power/meet-the-democrats-most-dangerous-digital-strategist/95569. ^
  11. ACRONYM. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax. Form 990, 2017. Part Nine, Line 12. ^
  12. Fouriezos, Nick. “Meet the Democrats’ Most Dangerous Digital Strategist.” OZY, September 5, 2019. https://www.ozy.com/politics-and-power/meet-the-democrats-most-dangerous-digital-strategist/95569. ^
  13. “Our Partners.” America Votes. Accessed February 5, 2020. https://americavotes.org/our-partners/. ^
  14. ACRONYM. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax. Form 990, 2017. Section B, Part 1. ^
  15. “Clinton Recruiting Obama Veterans for Expected 2016 Campaign.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, January 14, 2015. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-2910571/amp/Clinton-recruiting-Obama-veterans-expected-campaign.html. ^
  16. Bates, Karen Grigsby. “Getting Out The Youth Vote With A Dash Of Snark.” NPR. NPR, October 24, 2018. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/10/24/660059052/getting-out-the-youth-vote-with-a-dash-of-snark. ^
  17. Bradner, Eric. “Democratic Group Launches Trump-Bashing $3 Million Online Voter Registration Campaign.” CNN. Cable News Network, September 24, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/24/politics/acronym-democratic-voter-registration-digital-push/index.html. ^
  18. Bates, Karen Grigsby. “Getting Out The Youth Vote With A Dash Of Snark.” NPR. NPR, October 24, 2018. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/10/24/660059052/getting-out-the-youth-vote-with-a-dash-of-snark. ^
  19. “REDGE.” ACRONYM, web.archive.org/web/20200204071416/www.anotheracronym.org/registration/. ^
  20. Bradner, Eric. “Democratic Group Launches Trump-Bashing $3 Million Online Voter Registration Campaign.” CNN. Cable News Network, September 24, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/24/politics/acronym-democratic-voter-registration-digital-push/index.html. ^
  21. Bradner, Eric. “Democratic Group Launches Trump-Bashing $3 Million Online Voter Registration Campaign.” CNN. Cable News Network, September 24, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/24/politics/acronym-democratic-voter-registration-digital-push/index.html ^
  22. Bradner, Eric. “Democratic Group Launches Trump-Bashing $3 Million Online Voter Registration Campaign.” CNN. Cable News Network, September 24, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/24/politics/acronym-democratic-voter-registration-digital-push/index.html. ^
  23. Guaglione, Sarah. “Nonprofit Acronym Invests Over $1 Million In ‘The Dogwood’ Site, Shores Up Local News.” MediaPost, July 10, 2019. https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/338002/nonprofit-acronym-invests-over-1-million-in-the.html. ^
  24. Markay, Lachlan. “How Progressive Consultants Are Paying to Shape News Coverage in Virginia.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, July 12, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-democratic-consultants-are-paying-to-shape-news-coverage-in-virginia. ^
  25. Fouriezos, Nick. “Meet the Democrats’ Most Dangerous Digital Strategist.” OZY, September 5, 2019. https://www.ozy.com/politics-and-power/meet-the-democrats-most-dangerous-digital-strategist/95569. ^
  26. Severns, Maggie. “Progressive Group Launches $10 Million Online Voter Registration Drive.” POLITICO, August 14, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/14/progressive-online-voter-registration-drive-1461912. ^
  27. “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/. ^
  28. 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. ^
  29. “Shadow.” Shadow. Accessed November 13, 2019. https://shadowinc.io/. ^
  30. “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/. ^
  31. 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 ^
  32. 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. ^
  33. 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. ^
  34. “Shadow.” Shadow. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://web.archive.org/web/20190921140218/https://www.anotheracronym.org/introducing-shadow/. ^
  35. 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. ^
  36. “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. ^
  37. “Iowans See Their Shadow.” Spectator USA, February 4, 2020. https://spectator.us/iowans-see-shadow-acronym/. ^
  38. 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. ^
  39. 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/. ^
  40. 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/. ^
  41. 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/. ^
  42. 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. ^
  43. 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. ^
  44. Thompson, Alex. “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars.” Politico. 2020. Accessed July 21, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/14/newsroom-pac-liberal-info-wars-356800 ^
  45. “Democratic Party of Virginia.” The Virginia Public Access Project. Accessed September 24, 2019. https://www.vpap.org/committees/147878/top_donors/?order=amount&start_year=2019&end_year=2019. ^
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  47. “Browse Individual Contributions: PACRONYM.” FEC.gov. Accessed September 24, 2019. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?data_type=processed&committee_id=C00646877&min_date=01%2F01%2F2017&max_date=12%2F31%2F2020 ^
  48. “Browse Individual Contributions: PACRONYM.” FEC.gov. Accessed September 24, 2019. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?data_type=processed&committee_id=C00646877&min_date=01%2F01%2F2017&max_date=12%2F31%2F2020 ^
  49. McCammond, Alexi. “Digital-First Startup Launches to Elect Progressive Dems.” Axios, October 26, 2017. https://www.axios.com/digital-first-startup-launches-to-elect-progressive-dems-1513306464-dc2e8881-2419-44ec-950f-8c5d3ba6e4b6.html. ^
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  51. “Browse Individual Contributions: Michael Dubin.” FEC.gov. Accessed September 24, 2019. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?contributor_name=Michael+Dubin&min_date=01/01/2000&max_date=12/31/2020. ^
  52. Schleifer, Theodore. “Tech Billionaires Are Funding the Democratic Party Whether Democrats like It or Not.” Vox. Vox, February 3, 2020. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/2/3/21121243/silicon-valley-billionaires-reid-hoffman-dustin-moskovitz. ^
  53. Montellaro, Zach. “David Plouffe to Join ACRONYM Board of Directors.” POLITICO, September 5, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/05/david-plouffe-to-join-acronym-board-of-directors-1481734. ^
  54. Twitter. Tara McGowan. December 21, 2018. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://twitter.com/taraemcg/status/1076192544575369221?s=20. ^
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  57. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). ACRONYM. Schedule B. Archived: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/05/ACRONYM-2018-Form-990.pdf ^
  58. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). ACRONYM. Part VI. Section B (Independent Contractors). Archived: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/05/ACRONYM-2018-Form-990.pdf ^
  59. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). ACRONYM. Part VI. Archived: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/05/ACRONYM-2018-Form-990.pdf ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

Child Organizations

  1. Shadow Inc. (For-profit)

Coalition Memberships

  1. America Votes
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ACRONYM

1342 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC