A vote-tracking app that contributed to meltdown of the Iowa caucuses in Iowa on Monday was created by a technology firm run by former staffers of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential election campaign.
The Iowa Democratic Party had planned to use the app to reports the results of its caucus, the first voting test for the 2020 Democratic primary field. But people struggled to log into the app or even download it, contributing to a “systemwide disaster,” in the words of Derek Eadon, a former Iowa Democratic Party chairman.
As of Tuesday morning, the state party had released zero results from the caucus, saying without elaborating that it was performing “quality checks” after finding “inconsistencies” in the initial count.
The Iowa Democratic Party had refused to reveal details about the app, including the company behind it and what security measures were being taken to safeguard the results, arguing that it made the technology more vulnerable to hackers.
However, HuffPost reported Monday night that the app was built by Shadow, Inc., a technology firm that was acquired last December by ACRONYM, a Democratic digital nonprofit group. The Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow more than $60,000 for “website development” last year, HuffPost said, citing state campaign finance records and a Democratic source.
Are ex-Hillary Clinton campaign staffers to blame for the failure of the Iowa caucus?
Shadow’s CEO Gerard Niemira, product manager Ahna Rao and COO James Hickey all worked on the Hillary for America campaign, which was defeated by Republican Donald Trump in 2016.
Other staff include alumni of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, as well as Google, Apple and former Democratic National Committee staffers.
Shadow’s website describes the company as “building political power for the progressive movement by developing affordable and easy-to-use tools’ for campaign teams and political organizations.” The site highlights a data management product and an email service for communicating with likely voters. It does not mention the app.
ACRONYM sought to distance itself from Shadow in a late-night statement, saying that it is merely an investor in the company.
Just in — a statement from ACRONYM.
"We, like everyone else, are eagerly awaiting more information from the Iowa Democratic Party." pic.twitter.com/cBy2ZNwsPz
— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) February 4, 2020
The app was supposed to make reporting the Democratic Iowa caucus results easier. But many Democrats in the state struggled to use the app, and precinct chairs received no training on the matter.
Last Thursday, Sean Bagniewski, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County, Iowa’s most populous, decided to scrap the app entirely and told his precinct chairs to simply call in the caucus results as they had always done, The New York Times reported.
But, on Monday, they and other Democrats were unable to reach party leaders by phone. Bagniewski told the Times that he instructed his executive director to deliver smartphone photos of the results directly to the party headquarters in Des Moines, but she was turned away without explanation.
Amid the chaos, several Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Michigan, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — delivered versions of victory speeches. A number of campaigns said that former Vice President Joe Biden appeared to have made a disappointing showing and expressed hope that the confusion would not benefit him.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s campaign seized on the Democrats’ issues to question the validity of the results.
“Quality control = rigged?” Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said on Twitter Monday.
Quality control = rigged? ? https://t.co/rJY3gdRccE
— Brad Parscale – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@parscale) February 4, 2020
On Tuesday, the celebrated his resounding victory in the Republican Iowa caucus on Twitter while mocking the Democrats’ “unmitigated” in the state.
The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the Country. Remember the 5 Billion Dollar Obamacare Website, that should have cost 2% of that. The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is “Trump”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2020
According to HuffPost, the Nevada Democratic Party, which is scheduled to hold the next Democratic caucus on Feb. 22, has also paid Shadow for website development.