One popular perversion of the Count Galeazzo Ciano goes like this: “Success has many fathers, but failure is a lonely orphan child.” That appears to apply well to the app meltdown that tanked the timely reporting of the Iowa caucus results last night. (The results will supposedly be made public at 5 p.m. today.)
The Iowa Democratic Party, or IDP, chose to use an untested app made by a small developer named Shadow Inc. to report precinct results to the Democratic state committee. But when it came time to report, the app sent in only partial information, the IDP said today, which tanked the whole digital reporting process.
The “Democratic digital group” ACRONYM put out a statement last night saying that it was just an investor in Shadow.
— Kyle Tharp (@kylewilsontharp) February 4, 2020
But I watched in real time as people soon began unearthing tweets and other documents showing clearly that ACRONYM acquired Shadow in early 2019. ACRONYM still had tweets up about its acquisition of Shadow Inc.
???? Some news this morning ???? We've acquired SMS tool Groundbase & are launching Shadow, a company focused on building the technology infrastructure needed to enable Democrats to run better, more efficient campaigns. Learn more in @politico's Morning Score: https://t.co/wwibAvwgCw pic.twitter.com/gLGj63gAFE
— ACRONYM (@anotheracronym) January 17, 2019
Attempts to reach Kyle Tharp, ACRONYM’s VP of comms, by phone this morning resulted in a message saying the mailbox is full. Emails have not been returned. Tharp has no doubt been popular with journalists over the past 12 hours.
If you look at Acronym's "About" page today it says "we invested in Shadow" but if you look at the Wayback Machine from last month it's "we launched Shadow" pic.twitter.com/FM5XVddclh
— Kate Knibbs ????????♀️ (@Knibbs) February 4, 2020
NPR’s Kate Payne and Miles Parks had the first real story about the Shadow app, which was reportedly developed in only two months. The January 14 story reported that election security people were already concerned about the app because it was brand new and untested, and because any time a voting technology is connected to the internet, it becomes a potential target for interception by bad actors.
Subsequent reports said that election volunteers in Iowa were already reporting problems with the Shadow app last week, but that the Iowa Democratic party failed to address the problem. The New York Times reported early today that the app was showing up on volunteers’ phones as something that looked like malware, and many just ignored it, planning instead on calling their precinct’s results in by phone.
HuffPost, meanwhile, found financial records showing that the Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow $60,000 to develop the app during the months before the caucuses.
UPDATE: Shadow, Inc. has now made a public apology via Twitter:
We sincerely regret the delay in the reporting of the results of last night’s Iowa caucuses and the uncertainty it has caused to the candidates, their campaigns, and Democratic caucus-goers.
— Shadow, Inc. (@ShadowIncHQ) February 4, 2020