US Election: What is the Iowa caucus?

Iowa caucus: Former Hillary Clinton staff revealed to be behind ‘Shadow’ app that caused chaos

A similar app will be used in Nevada caucuses

Andrew Griffin@_andrew_griffin
Tuesday 04 February 2020 18:35
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The team behind the disastrous app used in the Iowa election app has been revealed.

The app, created by a startup named Shadow, was supposed to be used to co-ordinate information from the caucuses and allow organisers to send results back to the party. But it crashed repeatedly through the night, and has led to a failure to declare any kind of result.

The party said the problems had been caused by a “coding issue in the reporting system” that has since been fixed but meant it was still unable to declare any results.

Now focus has turned onto the company behind the app, Shadow, and the confusion surrounding how it managed to be created and used in one of the most important parts of the lead-up to the presidential election later this year.

Shadow’s website describes the team behind the app as “campaign and technology veterans who have built and implemented technology at Hillary for America, Obama for America, Google, Kiva, Apple, the AFL-CIO, and the DNC”.

Explaining the name of the company, it claims to be a “building a long-term, side-by-side “Shadow” of tech infrastructure to the Democratic Party and the progressive community at large”.

The history of Shadow is unclear and somewhat obscure.

A since-deleted post on the website of nonprofit Acronym, apparently written by CEO Gerard Niemira, announced “the launch of Shadow, a new technology company that will exist under the ACRONYM umbrella and build accessible technological infrastructure and tools to enable campaigns to better harness, integrate and manage data across the platforms and technologies they all use”.

But in a statement last night, as the chaos in Iowa continued, Acronym distanced itself from the app. A spokesperson said it had “not provided any technology” for the causes, and suggested that Acronym was only an “investor”.

Shadow appears to have begun life as an app called GroundGame, and then Groundbase, which was first founded in 2017. It appears to have been re-branded in the intervening period, before being launched under its current name in 2017.

Niemira said in the same post that he had created the app with “a few of my colleagues from the Hillary for America campaign where we built tools for [the campaign’s] field team”. Many of the people involved in the creation of what is now called Shadow worked on the Clinton campaign, as well as at technology firms, according to LinkedIn profiles.

The app will also be used in the Nevada caucus, due to happen on 22 February. The local Democratic parties in each state paid $60,000 to Shadow for their services, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures.

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