What happens when you use an app developed by Democrats (many of them Hillary Clinton campaign veterans), not vetted and not tested? The Iowa caucus fiasco, of course. Talk about a cluster the magnitude of a 10.0 earthquake! Dem presidential candidates were running around claiming victory without any results. Precincts trying to report in were on hold for hours – if they were even able to get through. The whole disaster is so sad it’s almost funny.
So, what happened?
No one really knows for sure, not even the app’s developers. At 10:26 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, the Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement:
“We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results. 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.”
In other words, a complete fail from the onset?
There were reservations about the software even before the event. Sean Bagniewski, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County – which happens to be the most populous – decided not to use the app and instructed his precinct chairs to report results by phone as they had done in the past. Good plan, but then no one could get through. Bagniewski, surely frustrated, had his executive director snap photos from her cell phone of the results and then drive them to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in person. Still no luck, as the director was turned away without an explanation.
“I don’t even know if they know what they don’t know,” Bagniewski said.
The problems were not just calculation errors. There were neither test runs nor training beforehand, and people either couldn’t get the darned thing downloaded or, if they were able to, they couldn’t report the information needed. “When you have an app that you’re sending out to 1,700 people and many of them might be newer to apps and that kind of stuff, it might have been worth doing a couple months’ worth of testing,” Bagniewski said.
I Won! No, I Did!
If the chaotic confusion of the failed app wasn’t enough, each Democratic candidate was quick to declare victory. From Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, IN, they couldn’t wait to let everyone know that they had come out the winner, despite the absence of results.
Buttigieg’s response was bold. “Tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality,” he boasted while a campaign spokesperson posted screenshots of precincts where he reportedly had won.
Ben Halle jumped on board, tweeting out the supposed victory. “UPDATE: @PeteButtigieg won West Des Moines precinct 115. This is a rare flip from Romney to Clinton. Pete is winning in pivot counties and counties that are becoming more blue. #IACaucus.”
Not to be outdone, the Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) campaign released a set of “internal caucus numbers” that it claimed accounted for 40% of the state’s precincts. Jeff Weaver, a senior campaign adviser, said, “We believe firmly that our supporters worked too hard for too long to have the results of that work delayed.”
Joe Rospars, chief strategist for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined in the fray, admonishing candidates for jumping to conclusions. In a tweet, he said, “Any campaign saying they won or putting out incomplete numbers is contributing to the chaos and misinformation.” However, one minute before that post, he had written, “It’s a very close race among the top three candidates (Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg) and Biden came in a distant fourth.”
Even President Trump joined the victory dance, tweeting: “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.’”
The Dems Behind the App
The app was developed by a tech firm called Shadow, which touts that it creates “a permanent advantage for progressive campaigns and causes through technology.” It is associated with ACRONYM, a Democratic digital non-profit organization, which advances “progressive causes through innovative communications, advertising, and organizing programs.” Last year, ACRONYM acquired Groundbase, an SMS tool, and from there launched “Shadow, a company focused on building the technology infrastructure needed to enable Democrats to run better, more efficient campaigns.”
Who’s Who Behind the Scenes:
- Groundbase co-founder and Shadow CTO Krista Davis held a senior position with the Hillary Clinton campaign.
- Shadow CEO Gerard Niemira held a senior position with the Clinton campaign.
- Founder and CEO of ACRONYM Tara McGowan was part of Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and previously worked for NexGen America, founded by presidential hopeful Tom Steyer.
- Buttigieg’s campaign paid more than $40,000 last year to Shadow.
McGowan wanted it known that ACRONYM, despite the connection, had nothing to do with Shadow’s app failure. In a statement from spokesman Kyle Tharp, the company took strides to make sure it did not share in the blame:
“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. 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 wor[k] 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.”
Apparently, Shadow doesn’t follow the Boy Scout motto of “be prepared.” Its users were not given training, and it seems there wasn’t enough testing, either. Chad Wolf, acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary, said that DHS had even offered to test the security of the app, but Iowa Democratic Party leaders declined. Although they insist the system was not hacked, they still do not know what went wrong. An epic failure all around that might have been prevented had they just taken the time to test and train. However, as we’ve seen with California Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff and the impeachment circus, patience and making sure all ducks are in a row are not top Dem priorities.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.