App used in Iowa Democratic caucus fiasco linked to ex-Clinton campaign staffers

The app that was supposed to help the Iowa Democratic Party quickly report Monday's caucus results – but contributed to confusion and a muddled result as campaigns were in an uproar – is linked to Hillary Clinton campaign veterans.

Shadow, a tech firm that describes itself as a group that creates "a permanent advantage for progressive campaigns and causes through technology," is the company that created the Iowa Democratic Party's app, according to The New York Times. At least the COO, CEO, CTO and a senior product manager at Shadow all worked for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, according to LinkedIn profiles.

Shadow is associated with ACRONYM, a nonprofit dedicated to "advancing progressive causes through innovative communications, advertising and organizing programs." Early last year, ACRONYM announced that it was acquiring an SMS tool called Groundbase and, out of Groundbase, "launching Shadow, a company focused on building the technology infrastructure needed to enable Democrats to run better, more efficient campaigns."

Jeff Lopez holds his son, Tristan, 4, as they and Jeff's wife, Jessika, sit in an area for Bernie Sanders supporters during the Woodbury County Third Precinct Democratic caucus, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, at West High School in Sioux City, Iowa. Iowans across the state attended Democratic and Republican caucuses Monday. (Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal via AP)

Jeff Lopez holds his son, Tristan, 4, as they and Jeff's wife, Jessika, sit in an area for Bernie Sanders supporters during the Woodbury County Third Precinct Democratic caucus, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, at West High School in Sioux City, Iowa. Iowans across the state attended Democratic and Republican caucuses Monday. (Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal via AP)

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Groundbase co-founders Krista Davis, who is the current Shadow CTO, and Gerard Niemira, who is the current Shadow CEO, both held senior positions with the Clinton campaign.

Tara McGowan, the founder and CEO of ACRONYM, posted a statement from an ACRONYM spokesman early Tuesday morning distancing the nonprofit from Shadow, which is a for-profit company.

"ACRONYM is a nonprofit organization and not a technology company. As such, we have not provided any technology to the Iowa Democratic Party, Presidential campaigns, or the Democratic National Committee," spokesman Kyle Tharp said in the statement. "ACRONYM is an investor in several for-profit companies across the progressive media and technology sectors. One of those independent, for-profit companies is Shadow, Inc, which also has other private investors. We are reading confirmed reports of Shadow's word with the Iowa Democratic Party on Twitter, and we, like everyone else, are eagerly awaiting more information from the Iowa Democratic Party with respect to what happened."

McGowan is an alumna of Barack Obama's 2012 campaign and previously worked as a digital director for NexGen America, a progressive organization founded by presidential candidate Tom Steyer.

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ACRONYM also has picked up funding from at least one dark money group. The New Venture Fund gave ACRONYM $250,000 in 2018 and is one of a number of nonprofit groups controlled by Arabella Advisors -- a Washington-based philanthropy company. Both Araballa and New Venture Fund were founded by Eric Kessler, who worked in President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Arabella has been alleged to be behind a “hydra-like” network that blurs the line between philanthropy and political advocacy on hot-button issues, and has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars to advance left-wing causes. A report last year by the conservative watchdog Capital Research Center said that due to financial arrangements and lack of donor disclosure “it is impossible to know which organizations subsidize the various campaigns and political movements spawned by Arabella’s funds.”

Some on Twitter noted that according to FEC records, Pete Buttigieg's campaign also paid Shadow over $40,000 last year for software. However, there is no indication of impropriety from the Buttigieg campaign or bias toward Buttigieg from Shadow, as independent consultants and contractors like Shadow often work with several different political organizations to provide technology or other services.

Shadow issued an apology Tuesday for the technical difficulties that delayed results in Iowa.

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News Tuesday morning that the DHS had offered to test the app's security to ensure that it could not be hacked, but the IDP declined. Wolf, however, made clear that there was no indication that the app was hacked, but rather that the issue was the app's ability to handle a high load of users at the same time.

The IDP said late Monday that there was no evidence of hacking or other attacks on the election, but rather delays in reporting the results from individual caucus locations. The party says it will have results later today.

"We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results," IDP Communications Director Mandy McClure. "In addition to the tech systems being used to tabulate results, we are also using photos of results and a paper trail to validate that all results match and ensure that we have confidence and accuracy in the numbers we report. This is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results."

President Trump used the caucus confusion as an opportunity to bash Democrats, claiming that he is the only candidate who left Iowa with a win.

"The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster," he tweeted Tuesday morning, "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'." [sic]

Meanwhile, the Pete Buttigieg campaign seemed to declare victory even though there are no reported results from the IDP.

“So we don't know the results. But we know, by the time it's all said and done, you have shocked the nation,” the former South Bend, Indiana mayor told his supporters. “Because by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.”

His campaign cited data that indicated it was doing well across the state and, "overperforming our projections by 5 % [sic] - (combined) in [counties that were won by Obama and Trump]."

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Other candidates and campaign staffers steamed over the delay in the results, including the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden, which wrote a harsh letter to leaders of the IDP.

"I write on behalf of the Biden for President Campaign regarding the considerable flaws in tonight’s Iowa Caucus reporting system. The app that was intended to relay Caucus results to the Party failed; the Party’s back-up telephonic reporting system likewise has failed. Now, we understand that Caucus Chairs are attempting to — and, in many cases, failing to — report results telephonically to the Party," the letter, from Biden for President General Counsel Dana Remus, read. "These acute failures are occurring statewide. We appreciate that you plan to brief the campaigns momentarily on these issues, and we plan to participate. However, we believe that the campaigns deserve full explanations and relevant information regarding the methods of quality control you are employing, and an opportunity to respond, before any official results are released."

The Nevada Democratic Party also paid Shadow approximately $60,000 in August. The state holds its caucuses on Feb. 22.

Fox News' Paul Steinhauser, Adam Shaw, Andres del Aguila, Gillian Turner and Allie Raffa contributed to this report.