By Danielle Ryan
An app supposedly meant to ensure quick reporting of the Iowa caucus results was developed by a firm deeply tied to the Democratic establishment and went kaputt at the crucial moment. What are the chances?
It may sound like a conspiracy theory, but Americans can be excused for their distrust of the system after what happened in 2016 – and the facts that have been dug up on the group behind the failed Iowa app won’t do much to quell their suspicions.
The firm in question, rather ironically, is called Shadow Inc. — and, according to Federal Election Commission filings, it was paid thousands of dollars by Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for “software rights and subscriptions” in July 2019.
Fast-forward to February 2020, and the app has failed to deliver any reliable results in Iowa, Buttigieg has prematurely declared himself the winner — and #MayorCheat is trending on Twitter.
Adding to the suspicions surrounding the Iowa debacle is the fact that the company’s CEO, CTO and COO, among others, all previously worked for Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign, according to their LinkedIn profiles. For supporters of Sanders, convinced the DNC is attempting to rig the primary process against him for a second time, the conspiracy theory writes itself.
Shadow Inc was launched in 2019 by ACRONYM, a digital non-profit founded by one Tara McGowan, who happens to be a huge fan of Buttigieg, tweeting her excitement over his candidacy back in January 2019.
Despite declaring that it“launched” Shadow last year, ACRONYM has suddenly tried to distance itself from the company in the midst of the Iowa debacle. Yet, only a couple of weeks before the caucus disaster, McGowan herself was tweeting proudly about what ACRONYM was “building” together with Shadow. McGowan, by the way, is married to a top Buttigieg advisor.
Raising even more questions, there are rumors that Clinton’s former 2016 campaign manager, Robby Mook, was indirectly involved with the Shadow app. While Mook himself says he doesn’t “know anything” about it and there is no indication that he was involved in its actual development, investigative journalist Lee Fang tweeted that it was Mook’s security company, Defending Digital Democracy, which “vetted” the Iowa caucus app for “integrity.” The New York Times also reported that Mook’s company was involved in testing the app.
It’s not like Sanders supporters haven’t been burned by this sort of thing before. It is now widely accepted that the DNC was secretly working to thwart Sanders’ campaign in 2016, in an effort to ensure establishment favorite Hillary Clinton would face off against Trump. It is perfectly plausible to assume the party apparatus might try to do the same again in 2020, albeit with different tactics.
The utter contempt for Sanders among the establishment ranks of the DNC should not be underestimated. Despite the fact that Sanders ultimately supported Clinton in 2016, Clinton herself initially refused to say she would back Sanders if he became the party’s nominee in 2020 — and declared that “nobody likes” the Democratic socialist, who consistently ranks as the most popular politician in the country, but whose socialist-style politics are anathema to corporate centrists.
The Iowa drama is reminiscent of the controversy surrounding the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC in 2016. The determination that Moscow hacked the organization to harm Clinton’s campaign was made almost instantly by Crowdstrike, a private Democratic party contractor with links to an arms manufacturer-funded think tank. You couldn’t even make it up.
For progressive Democrats expecting a Sanders win in Iowa (that prediction based on recent polls in which he enjoyed significant leads), this all looks like blatant, bare-faced corruption. Or, as journalist Kyle Kulinski put it: “This is either record breaking incompetence or it’s an attempt to game the results. Those are the only two options.”
As of the time of writing, it has been 14 hours since the Iowa polls closed, there are still no official results available and Shadow Inc has assured everyone that it sincerely regrets the delay. While Buttigieg has declared victory based on limited data covering only his own campaign, Sanders’ camp has released data covering all candidates, indicating that he won the night.
With such a mess made of the Iowa caucus, and suspicions swirling about Shadow’s mysterious app, whether Sanders won or he didn’t, the DNC has once again ignited a rage in his supporters that it may come to regret.
Progressive Democrats were expecting yesterday’s caucus to potentially get messy, but “Shady app crashes and Pete Buttigieg declares victory before the result” probably wasn’t on anyone’s Iowa bingo card.